Youth Led Entrepreneurship gets boost
By Elias Pacheso
It is not often that a struggling start-up ecosystem wakes up to positive news from their government, that a USD20m fund is being put in place to support their ventures. Its even more encouraging when the measures are then supported by other unexpected measures meant to shore up support for businesses that support youth led businesses.
Though the policy announcements seem to focus on small to medium enterprises and not start-ups (there is a big difference), it is encouraging to note that that there was a lot of consultation in coming up with these measures and a lot more traction is expected on the local startup scene provided actors work together. The measures announced by government cover many areas as shown below;
- University led innovation (6 innovation hubs created by government)
- Youth led entrepreneurship (National Venture Fund with capitalisation of ZWL500m created)
- Corporate backed innovation (Corporates employing youth to get tax rebates)
- Protection of intellectual property rights (the government to unlock funding to help the enforcement and enhancement of laws protecting innovations)
In the budget statement the word innovation appears 13 times, and the country is building 6 innovation hubs at the country’s universities, something which shows that the government sees the benefit of supporting innovation. The structures are quite imposing and impressive especially the one at the University of Zimbabwe, however there is a risk! Just building these without attracting the skills and implementing programmes will turn them into white elephants.
That the government has singled out innovation is a huge milestone which must be celebrated but quickly built on. Such focus is important but the process must be inclusive and accommodating. Until now a well kitted National Venture Fund was missing. I feel that this fund can unlock further funding if properly structured as there are many organisations that are keen to invest in start-ups that are sufficiently de-risked.
Assuming that funding or mere innovation hubs will be all the country needs to spur innovation and create job creating business ventures will be a big mistake and it is in this area that significant time and effort should be placed to build and support an already vibrant ecosystem that has been long starved of resources.
My experience working with local start-ups has shown me that start-ups or youth led business ventures need more than money to succeed. They need mentorship, they need training and encouragement. In fact in number of events I have participated many young founders complain of being slowed down by legislation and bureaucracy.
A holistic approach is therefore required from all stakeholders to work together in building a conducive environment that encourages and rewards innovation. An approach that says youth led businesses are free to dream big and make mistakes even if it means some money is lost in the process.
Closer ties are needed between University Hubs, Private Hubs, Corporates and innovators. The government must look at the National Venture Fund as a catalyst for the creation of new industries that enhance or recreate new wealth in the future. The Fund must support initiatives that drive innovation and make the ecosystem stronger. I am excited to be witnessing a shift in thinking regarding the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in the economy. This new approach by the government is long overdue. Looking forward to what promises to be an exciting 2020 and beyond!
Tech Hub is home to over 20 young people who are trying their hand at building innovative business supported by technology. We offer them space, mentorship and networking opportunities. We recently launched our android app which can be downloaded her to support local start-up and help them connect to the ecosystem.
- Posted on 14 November, 2019
- by Administrator