Micro-entrepreneurship challenge in Africa

How can traditional employment offer professional opportunities to young people? Is the only option for young people to migrate and build their future elsewhere? These are just some of the questions facing young people in African countries today.

West African Jesuits, and MAGIS (Movement and Action of Italian Jesuit for Development) want to work together to give credit to micro-entrepreneurship: small business projects that can stimulate young people’s creativity and lead them towards a brighter future.

An example of this at work is in Cameroon. A Jesuit project aims to teach young people how to breed fish and sell them on the market. In 2017, on a seven-hectare site owned by the Society of Jesus, the necessary structures were installed: water basins, solar panels to produce electricity, and a water purifier. One hundred and sixty-five unemployed young men and women, belonging to the poorest communities, were selected to take up the training scheme. They were trained in fish farming and also taught to deal with the sale and market challenges which may arise.

Learning to breed fish

Earlier this year the first production phase began, students put their teaching into practice and by the end of February the first batch of freshwater fish was available for market.

This project aims to offer young people an opportunity to escape the youth unemployment which is very high across the country.

In Togo, there has been a similar project developed with youth attending Loyola Cultural Centre. Jesuits have trained young people to cultivate Pleurotus Ostreatus, a fungus growing in Western Africa. The enterprise has had its challenges; the first attempts failed, but neither the Jesuits, nor MAGIS supporting them, nor the youth gave up, and this year the yield has been good, allowing the sale on the local market.

“The General objective, is to develop young people’s entrepreneurial and associative spirit through this agricultural Project. We anticipated that the mushrooms could become a good resource, so we decided to develop this project further. After some initial difficulties, the Project is set to produce some good results” Explain Jesuits in Lomé, the capital of Togo.

Pleurotus Ostreatus grows naturally in Africa, but its harvest is limited to during the rainy season. There is great demand all year round meaning people are led to buy frozen products, which do not have the same nutritional properties as the fresh ones. This cultivation project overcomes the seasonal limit and is able to provide consumers with an excellent product all year round.

The local Jesuits say that, “The first steps have been achieved, but the journey is still long. The production is not everything, the young people must also organize themselves in in order to better manage their activities and, to promote their product and create a clientele.”

Header Photo: Young people proudly showing off their mushrooms at the Loyola Cultural Centre in Togo.

This article was produced by Magis Italy.