COTONOU — At just 25 years of age, Ratoejanahary Mirado runs a micro-enterprise making baskets and other products woven from raffia for sale in Madagascar and overseas. She is among dozens of successful young entrepreneurs involved in the newly-launched Global Youth Innovation Network.
In 2004, Mirado was working for her aunt, weaving raban – a type of raffia. She decided to set up on her own, and with technical and financial assistance from a programme of support run by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, she slowly built up her business until it became autonomous.
“Six years later, my raffia products are sold around the world,” says Mirado, “and I have 3,300 dollars invested in the youth association that I direct, which employs ten young people.”
“Investing in the youth, means they can themselves create their own solutions,” said Pape Samb, director of Programmes for Africa and Freedom Endowment at the Phelps Stokes Foundation, based in the United States. “We say that the youth know their problems, but they don’t have the support needed to realise their projects.”
Speaking at the opening of the Global Youth Innovation Workshop-Fair in Benin’s economic capital, Cotonou, on Oct. 10, Samb said that it is essential to have confidence in youth to choose their own path, and then to support them. The event was jointly sponsored by the Beninois government and IFAD.
For Nardos Békélé-Thomas, the UNDP’s resident represenative in Benin, 40 percent of the potential represented by Africa’s youth is still not being utilised. “Youth getting involved in entrepreneurship calls on their creativity which can be a source of growth for countries. So a failure to invest in youth today leads to a false economy in a state,” she said, calling for urgent interventions towards young people.