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Young entrepreneurs in Tanzania: Where are they now?

The ILO Kazi Nje Nje BDS apprenticeship programme for young people created 51,489 new businesses and 28,834 jobs in sectors including retail, services, manufacturing and agriculture.

Feature | 12 April 2017
PEMBA, Tanzania (ILO News) – Twenty-four-year-old tailor, Nuru Nassor, struggled to make ends meet. She was one of many underemployed young Tanzanians who wanted to work more hours.

“I used to do some occasional knitting and tailoring before festivals and celebrations. I earned between TZS 30,000 – 50,000 per month, but the income was irregular,” said the mother of three from Chakechake district in Pemba.

Working poverty and underemployment are key challenges facing the Tanzanian economy. Three out of four workers are classified as working poor. The country also has a rapidly growing population, with more than two-thirds under the age of 25. And a quarter of all 15 to 34 year-olds are underemployed.

After hearing about an ILO-led Kazi Nje Nje Business Development Services (BDS) apprenticeship programme aimed at enabling young people to start and expand viable businesses, Nassor decided to take part. The programme also encouraged recent graduates from universities and colleges to reach out to young people with positive messages about entrepreneurship as well as business development support.

Nassor started a business following her nine-month training and mentorship, which included elements of the ILO’s global Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) programme. Then she invited other young women to learn tailoring.

“That was four years ago, and now six women between 20 and 22 have joined me. I’m happy with the way things have gone because my income has increased to TZS 80,000-100,000 per month,” she said.

“Starting a business has made me feel successful because I help to train others who will soon create their own businesses and best of all, now I am able to contribute more to feeding and clothing my children,” Nassor added.

Jobs out there ready to grab

Kazi Nje Nje, which literally means “Jobs out there ready to grab”, was part of a five-year ILO Youth Entrepreneurship Facility (YEF) that ended in 2015. YEF was launched as a regional Africa Commission project in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Its main purpose was to foster entrepreneurship, create decent jobs and provide greater opportunities for young men and women through education, skills development and access to financing. Mass media based social marketing campaigns and business plan competitions were used to identify budding entrepreneurs with innovative ideas.

The Kazi Nje Nje programme led to the creation of 51,489 businesses translating into 28,834 jobs in industries such as retail, services, manufacturing, agriculture and agro-processing. Partnerships with community banks and other micro finance institutions were developed, which resulted in enhanced access to finance for young entrepreneurs.

“Young people in Tanzania work hard as they cannot afford to be idle. Yet their work often remains at a subsistence level,” said Mary Kawar, Director of the ILO Country Office for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. “Our role as the ILO alongside the Government and social partners through this programme was to support them in becoming productive workers who earn a decent wage and can consequently become actors in their communities.”

Our role as the ILO ... through this programme was to support them [young people] in becoming productive workers who earn a decent wage."

Mary Kawar, Director of the ILO Country Office for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi
Like Nassor, former drug addict Saleh Awadhi is a graduate of the training. Now in his late thirties, Awadhi’s ambition is to become an international fashion designer. He has taken part in several fashion shows, including Zanzibar Fashion Week.

“I sell my products at reasonable prices and hence make a good profit. I am happy that I can now take care of my son,” he said.

Further investment in youth employment initiatives

“The Kazi Nje Nje programme raised awareness among young people that jobs are available, and can be created by themselves,” said the ILO’s Employment Specialist based in Dar es Salaam, Jealous Chirove. “A trainers’ study of the programme showed that about 50 per cent of the young people trained started a new business within 12 months of training, and each of those businesses created on average 2.4 jobs per enterprise.”

About 50 per cent of the young people trained started a new business within 12 months of training."

Jealous Chirove, ILO’s Employment Specialist
Yet obstacles remain for young Tanzanians in accessing decent work, including the “relatively weak coordination” between different youth employment programmes.

“The country also needs more robust and multi-faceted public investment in public youth employment programmes, government youth funds and schemes to help young people compete in the labour market, complimented by strong private sector support schemes on access to finance and business support,” Chirove added.

Building on the success of Kazi Nje Nje, the ILO is partnering with the SIYB Association of East Africa to provide training materials and promote BDS skills to young Tanzanian entrepreneurs. It also has a leadership role in coordinating youth employment related projects with the UN, including the UN joint programme on Youth Employment. Other projects include an apprenticeship programme in the tourism industry and an initiative aimed at recognizing skills obtained by youth in the informal sector.

In addition, the ILO is supporting revisions of the National Employment Policy (2008) and the National SME Policy (2003) aimed at further increasing job opportunities for young people.