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Unlocking opportunities: A case for empowering early-stage entrepreneurs and going beyond

Enviu was founded more than 15 years ago and since the beginning has always been in the space of impact-driven social entrepreneurship. Throughout this time we have learnt a lot about building companies. We truly believe that entrepreneurship can be used as a force for good to drive economic change. This is why we joined forces in 2015 with partners to set up The Next Economy Program. A program set out to empower local hubs that guide young entrepreneurs building early-stage ventures in Mali, Somaliland and Nigeria. To pass on our knowledge and expertise. This year we finished our role in the program, but not without a bang: We recorded our learnings in a report, baring witness to the importance of investing in young entrepreneurs at an early stage to create opportunities in fragile economies.

Download the report here

In Mali, Somaliland and Nigeria a staggering 75% of young people are challenged by a lack of employment opportunities. In addition, employers often experience a gap in the skills they seek, and the skill set of the young people in the job market. As a result, many talented youths are left with no real economic future to look forward to. 

In 2015, Enviu, GoodUp and SOS Kinderdorpen joined forces in The Next Economy program(TNE) funded by the LEAD Program of The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Geared to support young entrepreneurs, The Next Economy aims to increase the employability of youngsters and help existing business to grow and create new jobs in Nigeria, Somalia and Mali. 

Everybody thinks that incubation is only about tech, but with the Next Economy we can show that it is tech and non-tech businesses that need support and can grow our economy. – Eric Nanle, Incubation Manager at nHub in Jos, Nigeria

Investing in young entrepreneurs is rewarding

Three years of TNE program made clear that investing in entrepreneurs at an early stage is rewarding. We witnessed the tremendous impact this training had on their lives and their businesses. Their confidence and business skills boosted: 234 entrepreneurs significantly grew their start-ups. As well as revenue growth, they created a staggering number of 1925 new jobs blowing past the initial target of 300. In addition, TNE empowered 5 local hubs to deliver strong incubator programs, and to strengthen their own organization and team with knowledge and network. Amazing right?!

Delivery Bros was one of the first entrepreneurs in Lagos, Nigeria who took part in The Next Economy. During the program, they worked hard to put their learnings into practice. A key insight was the importance of customer feedback, and the financial system of a start-up in which every penny counts. Starting The Next Economy with 6 bikes, Delivery Bros expanded their business to 70 drivers in 3 months. Now, they employ over 300 drivers and a large management team. They even offer their drivers health insurance and access to affordable pension schemes. And, they’re investigating methods to help the young unemployed fund the purchase of bikes.

A clear illustration of how access to training, continuous mentorship, a community, and funds can unlock the potential of young entrepreneurs, and enable them to create opportunities for others.

Beyond incubation programs: The Ecosystem

Yet, we also learnt that to create long-term, scalable impact, we must go beyond isolated incubation programs. We must  also focus on the ecosystemin which they are situated. We found it is crucial to establish sustainable, self-sufficient hubs and supportive local networks. Enabling continuous access to mentors, peers and several types of funding is vital for each start-up scene to overcome the numerous obstacles on the entrepreneurial journey and to reach their full potential. 

You might ask yourself, what were these numerous obstacles? How can we strengthen this startup ecosystem in a fragile economy? We have good news for you: These are all questions that are answered in our report! Plus it is packed with great stories of young entrepreneurs who are now making a difference! We hope that by sharing our insights with the world, you and others will be inspired to run similar programs, with a focus on achieving sustainability and scale. Together we can help young talents thrive in these fragile economies and create a better future for all! So, without further ado, we want to present to you, the report: