Almost half of the 10 million graduates entering the job market annually are unemployed, according to Kelvin Balogun – President of Coca-Cola, Central, East and West Africa. In East Africa, Kenya contributes the largest share of unemployed youth at 17.3% with one in every 5 Kenyan youth of working age being jobless. Whereas these statistics are damning to read, the realities around us only serve to give them more credence. With the formal economy only taking up 2.4 million people in the job market in 2014 in comparison to 11.8 million jobs created by the informal sector during the same year, it becomes crucial for more stakeholders to come on board and support entrepreneurship and particularly among youth with little or no experience in the job market.
In Kenya, a growing number of young people consider entrepreneurship an viable career option. Big companies have also been slowly buying into these fresh ideas to improve their products and in some cases their manpower. Gradually, it is becoming important that companies review their systems, structures and informal processes to enhance entrepreneurship.
What, therefore, is the role of Kenyan companies in developing entrepreneurs?
a) Motivating budding entrepreneurs to dream big
The knowledge that no big company got to where it is without taking the little steps motivates budding entrepreneurs to dream big. Cytonn Investments was once an idea, then from only four partners, it has grown to over 400 staff and counting. Facebook started from a hostel in Harvard yet today serves as one of the biggest brands the world has ever seen.
b) Mentoring and supporting entrepreneurs to realize their potential
Entrepreneurs should be mentored on good business practice, financial literacy and a host of other topics. They should also be given opportunities to pitch their ideas to investors who could buy into their business. KCB Lion’s Den is a great example of this. It provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch ideas to possible investors.
c) Providing an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to grow their business
Nailab is an example of a company whose primary mandate is to provide incubation to startups in the technological field. This cushions startups from administrative costs related to renting and servicing an office.
d) Churning out entrepreneurs from within
Through internships and graduate trainee programs, companies impart skills and knowledge relevant to a work environment. By supporting creativity and innovation from within, companies can communicate the right attitude towards risk and rewards. These insights leave a long-term impression on entrepreneurs and ultimately influence how they run their business when they opt out.
As the saying goes, every master was once a student. It is therefore important that more and more companies get on board to support young entrepreneurs in Kenya, not just to reduce unemployment levels, but also to mentor young Kenyans into injecting fresh products and services into the market in the process.