There are several prerequisites for successful youth entrepreneurship.
The first one is enterprise education. This is vital because there are market failures present and young people have not developed the necessary knowledge, skills or abilities to make judgements about the desirability and feasibility of entrepreneurship.
The aims of enterprise education are to make young people aware of the importance of entrepreneurship. It allows them to investigate if it is a desirable option and equips them with entrepreneurial skills, including opportunity recognition, business planning and running pilot businesses.
This will allow them to develop entrepreneurial competencies which, in turn, might be beneficial for their future business or when they get employed.
Entrepreneurship as an attitude can be nurtured and developed in the youth at early formative stages. Integrating entrepreneurship development as a part of the high school curriculum and expanding the same stream into tertiary education give impetus to the budding entrepreneurial minds and allows them to give shape to their ideas and dreams.
Ministry of Education has to be commended for including entrepreneurship in Life Skills Education for senior secondary school.
Nevertheless, there is little emphasis on the importance of entrepreneurship and students just take this topic like they do others.
Teachers should have been oriented so that they should put emphasis on the importance of entrepreneurship.
The new curriculum puts life skills in the bracket of optional or elective subjects and some schools are not offering the subject in particular at the junior level.
The education system in many African countries is geared to enable the youth to pass examinations and obtain qualifications based on academic knowledge. It prepares them for job-seeking.
The last time I checked entrepreneurship was not part of many courses offered by the University of Malawi. Like Language and Communication, which is compulsory for the bulk of courses at first year, entrepreneurship should have been included in the courses offered in the final year of study.
It is encouraging to note that some private universities have introduced specialised courses and training modules on entrepreneurship.
Nevertheless, the timing and manner in which the course is offered matter.
It is paramount to ensure that interest is generated in students in this important course.
The community colleges President Peter Mutharika launched in March 2015 are a welcome development. They will help address the skills gap that young Malawians had.
The skills will enable many of them to become self-employed. Entrepreneurship ought to be included in the courses offered in these colleges.
Secondly, there is need to provide what is called ‘soft support’ to young prospective or actual entrepreneurs.
This is essential information aimed at guiding them towards specialist sources of support. This may also entail providing them with advice and assistance.
Such assistance may also extend to the provision of particular skills in opportunity recognition, business planning, and financial management, sales and marketing.
This can be delivered either informally using a mentoring scheme or more formally by attending a course.
Thirdly, there has to be in place policy tools that offer micro-finance in the form of loans, grants or funding to young people have to be in place.
This is pretty important because one of the principal limitations faced by young potential or actual entrepreneurs is that they lack the requisite financial capital to develop or sustain their business.
It might be because they have not had sufficient time to build up their financial resources or because they have not been able to access external finances.
Also important is the fact that the government has to ensure that it creates an environment that enables entrepreneurship to thrive.
A diverse use of interventions, which entrepreneurship should be included, will help to develop “secure, valued, and empowered youth who can realise their full potential and contribute to a sustainable socio-economic development of Malawi.