The African continent contains roughly 200 million youth between the ages of 15-24, a formidable number that can signal strong growth for the future. However, an estimated 90 million of these youth are un- or underemployed, comprising 60% of the continent's total unemployment rate, double the rate of adults. With such daunting numbers, a new collective came together in Summer 2012 to support young entrepreneurs in Africa and create employment opportunities: the African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC).
AEC identifies young entrepreneurs with existing enterprises and supports their growth by providing mentorship, technical support, business education, and access to affordable capital. AEC focuses on employment as the most sustainable way to move African nations out of poverty, and to reverse the daunting figures of youth unemployment.
Supported by The HAND Foundation, AEC provides participants with two-years of training and mentoring. Faced with the unfortunate reality that local employment options are limited and large corporations that work in the global south hire from outside the country, AEC hopes that by supporting small and medium entrepreneurs to grow their enterprises, they will in turn employ others.
With this model, new jobs are driven by local demand, filled by local people, and the local economy is fortified with both economic and human capital. To achieve economic growth on scale with the demand for new jobs, AEC uses a holistic approach that includes: focusing on existing entrepreneurs; developing entrepreneur capacity; and, removing barriers to growth by providing technical assistance and access to capital.
With the support of The HAND Foundation, AEC has chosen the following entrepreneurs:
Co-Founded by Jean D'Amour Mutoni, Acts of Gratitude is a youth-run NGO in Rwanda that promotes community service and paying good deeds forward. Acts of Gratitude offers a variety of services and programs for underserved populations in Rwanda, operating clothing and food drives, a scholarship program for high school students, and a quarterly "TED talk-like" event to raise awareness for community building and service. Acts of Gratitude came to AEC to develop a fundraising plan, a marketing strategy, and to explore earned-income projectsso that they can have more reliable and sustained revenue.
Habona-Gas For Tomorrow co-founded by Jean Bosco Nzeyimana, is an innovative energy company focused on bringing affordable biogas to poor people in rural communities. At present, only 15% of Rwandans have access to the national grid, and those with access tend to be living in large, urban centers. Habona, meaning "illumination" in Kinyarwanda, aims to provide affordable, environmentally friendly energy to those who do not have access to electricity.
Habona will use organic waste from tea plantations to make biogas and bio-fertilizers. The gas will be bottled in canisters, just like propane, and sold to local businesses, restaurants, and households. The bio-fertilizers will be sold to farmers, at a lower cost than chemical fertilizers, that will help replenish the nutrients in the soil.
Jean Bosco came to AEC to support him with his business plan and implementation strategy. AEC has started preparing him to raise grant and investment fundings.
Emerging Leaders and Entrepreneurs Rwanda (ELE) is a business support program that aims to support businesses to create jobs for Rwandan people. ELE Rwanda was founded by Yves Iradukunda, who, like many Rwandans, deeply carries the responsibility of continuing to rebuild the country so that the atrocities of the 1994 genocide never happen again.
Iradukunda was awarded one of Rwanda's prestigious Presidential scholarships to attend university in the US. Upon graduation, he moved back to Rwanda committed to providing opportunities to young Rwandan entrepreneurs and leaders and to support homegrown solutions to his country's greatest problems.
Currently, ELE Rwanda operates a community drinking well program, where they arrange for teams of students to build over 30 wells out in the villages. In addition, ELE Rwanda hosts an annual business plan competition for student entrepreneurs, and a Creativity and Innovation Camp for high school students.
ELE Rwanda has come to AEC for business strategy, fundraising, and implementation support.