Cape Town — “The most important thing we can all do when it comes to very young entrepreneurship is realising that we’re all potential supporters of this work. If you’re a parent you can support a young person or your child in their decision to pursue entrepreneurship, if you’re an investor you can think investing younger than you would currently. If you’re a policy maker, you need to think about youth as subdivided into a bit more differentiated age groups and how you can define policy for very young entrepreneurs.”
These are the words of Josh Adler, executive director of Anzisha Prize, as the Anzisha Prize Very Young African Entrepreneurs and Acceleration Summit ended in Cape Town.
The three-day summit, aimed at exploring and celebrating excellence and new approaches in entrepreneurship education, as well as support for very young entrepreneurs was held from March 3.
It is the first of five Anzisha Prize’s Very Young Entrepreneur Education & Acceleration Summits to be held in 5 African cities in 2020, where investors, policy makers and entrepreneurs discuss opportunities and challenges in investing in very young entrepreneurs. The key goal is to catalyze an ecosystem of partners and build the brand promise of the very youngest entrepreneurs across Africa.
The Anzisha Prize seeks to fundamentally and significantly increase the number of job generative entrepreneurs in Africa, and is a partnership between African Leadership Academy and Mastercard Foundation. Through the summit, they hope to share inspirational and relatable stories of very young (15 to 22-year-old) African entrepreneurs and the people that support them.
Attendees of the summit had a unique opportunity to hear from the continent’s most influential very young entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and educators who work with young entrepreneurs.
With the rise of youth unemployment and job scarcity, Anzisha seeks to explore entrepreneurship as an alternative.
Adler says the organisation is now developing entrepreneurship into a career.
“We have a very simple belief and goal to encourage many more young Africans with leadership potential to pursue and succeed in entrepreneurship. That’s our grounding theory of change,” said Adler.
As most of entrepreneurship conferences are often very technology-focused and focus on older people and investments rather than this particular transition from the the world of school and the world of work and entrepreneurship, Anzisha Prize covers the gap by running workshops where they engage young entrepreneurs themselves, education and policy questions.
The idea of the events is to do three key things, according to Adler. First is to spend time helping people from all sectors and the broader ecosystem understand the challenges and opportunities of very young entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.
Among the speakers was Kolawole Olajide, a 2013 Anzisha fellow who shared his journey and the lessons he learned from pursuing entrepreneurship.
“Be intentional about your self development,” he said during his keynote speech.
The second day of the summit focused on mentorship for the very young entrepreneurs.
Among the mentors at the event was Bulelwa Basse of the Bulelwa Basse Mentorship Programme who mentors Anzisha fellows, Alina Karimamusama, Kondwani Banda and Amanda Jojo. Bulelwa Basse Mentorship Programme’s ethos is founded on a mission to mentor, inspire and empower young Africans, to aspire to become the next generation of world leaders. Through the process of developing an entrepreneurial mindset and behaviour in youth, ongoing practical entrepreneurship activities, it seeks to continue to create thought-leaders from the African continent, who would be ready to offer leadership insights to the private-public sector and civil society alike.
The third and last day of the summit was to inspire young people who are currently studying, both in high school and university through the Anzisha Prize tour where the fellows who are role models in their communities and have build amazing ventures and businesses in all sectors and spheres go and visit campuses to share stories to inspire teenagers.
Anzisha fellows Marvellous Nyongoro, Godiragetse Mogajane and Karidas Tshintsholo shared their stories with students at the University of Western Cape, encouraging them to start their journeys now.
“There’s never a perfect start and don’t compare your start with someone else’s middle. We all have different beginnings. Entrepreneurship is is absolutely rewarding. If you want to create jobs, make an impact, or leave a mark in the world, entrepreneurship is the way to go, ” Mogajane told UWC students.
The summit also marked Anzisha Prize’s 10-year anniversary.
“The past 10 years has been an amazing journey for the Anzisha Prize program. We started with a very simple idea just to recognize amazing teenagers across Africa who are doing innovative things. We wanted to recognize and reward deeply pro-active independent teenagers’ efforts. As it evolved we then realized that we wanted to focus a little more on entrepreneurship as the kind of venture project that needed support.
“And we build a more robust support program, Adler said. “There is a deep need for someone to help guide the conversation about very young entrepreneurship in Africa within the wider conversation of economic development and entrepreneurship.”
Anzisha now sees itself as an umbrella program and brand that recognizes all actors who are supporting very young entrepreneurship. That’s not only the entrepreneurs themselves but also teachers, parents , investors who have made the brave decision to invest younger and policy makers who are championing the cause of very young entrepreneurs.
Adler hopes the Prize will continue and be seen as a movement and champion of all people across the continent who have decided that investing very young is critical to long term economic growth and prosperity for Africa.
The Anzisha Prize is Africa’s biggest award for the continent’s youngest entrepreneurs aged 15 – 22 years, and hands out over U.S. $100,000 every year in prize money to entrepreneurs from all over the continent.
In addition to the cash prize, selected entrepreneurs will join previous winners and become Anzisha Fellows, receiving business consulting support and coaching services by a team of industry experts. They also gain access to the Young Entrepreneurs Fund – designed to strengthen the credibility of very young entrepreneurs through investment.
Anzisha has over 100 fellows from across Africa and invests in their growth. Applications are now open for the 2020 Anzisha Prize and close on April 1.