Empowering youth in Eswatini through entrepreneurship

Youth unemployment is one of the major challenges faced by Eswatini. The problem is exacerbated by limited alternate opportunities to earn decent livelihoods. Since the youth form the backbone of the Eswatini population – over 60% – the country’s sustainable development hinges on harnessing the demographic dividend. That entails going beyond the limited formal employment opportunities for youth and creating and availing opportunities to make a decent living and contribute to the realization of the agenda of the country. Acknowledging the importance of investing in and creating space and opportunities for young people for them to realize their full potential, All Out Africa has pioneered entrepreneurship training that will be geared toward youth empowerment.

In my short time so far in Eswatini, I have been first-hand able to experience some of the bottom-up initiatives aimed at elevating future economic enterprises in the country, with a considerable emphasis on youth empowerment. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to contribute to entrepreneurship classes aimed at building the skills that many of the youth currently regrettably lack, but yet need in order to succeed in building their own profitable start-ups. In present-day Eswatini among the youth, there is an unemployment rate ranging from 40%-70% throughout the kingdom, something that has only been exacerbated by the covid pandemic. Through my research, as well as when chatting to students in the class I have come across a recurring theme where young adults have been forced to abandon their livelihood during the pandemic and now find it increasingly hard to regain their previous source of income.

Alexander presenting his findings.

Alexander presents his findings.

In response to this, classes such as the one I’ve been part of have sprung up across the country, aiming to help young adults provide for themselves rather than have to face the limited other opportunities around. During these classes, I have been able to hear some of the business ideas and plans that different individuals have put forward, and what has struck me the most is the range of ideas coming from such a small group. Plans ranged from selling electrical services to exporting poultry abroad as far as the UAE as well as developing a mobile system where patients are more easily able to track their daily symptoms; thus grossly helping medical professionals in diagnosing ailments quicker and supplying cures more efficiently. What has become clear in my short stint so far is that this is a deeply resourceful group of young adults who definitely want to ameliorate their future, and I have felt fortunate to learn from them and try to help them in any way can. Lessons, despite the vast amount of content covered, are light-hearted and I believe that they are taking in what is being said and doing their best to try to gain the skills that will help them a great deal in the future.

During my time here in Eswatini, working days have followed a familiar recurring schedule. Around 8:30 every morning I would start off with the research portion of my day, which would normally take me through towards lunch which I would prepare for myself. This would be followed by a short trip downtown towards the local NCP for a 13:30 start which would last through to 15:30, with me presenting my findings to the group as well as answering questions. After returning back to the lodge preparation would begin for research the following day as well as personal work and leisure.

Enterprise development coordinator Mfanukhona facilitating a class.

Enterprise development coordinator Mfanukhona facilitating a class.

So far, my research has stemmed from factors affecting entrepreneurship development and the processes needed to create a successful and profitable micro-enterprise. I have taken a deeper look at the importance of an effective business plan, as well as what it should contain, marketing; the debate of online vs traditional methods, and the significance of primary and secondary research in performing a SWOT analysis. All of the above processes help in identifying your competitors and target market. When identifying the factors that affect entrepreneurship development I did my best to keep it relevant to Eswatini so that it would best engage my audience when presenting. This was most easily done when trying to find Business Development Services in the kingdom for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). An extract of my research from this section can be seen below.

‘When you start a business it is important to look for potential investors. They can be useful for a number of reasons. Firstly, they will provide seed capital to start the business. Secondly, they assist in business planning for a startup. Thirdly, they are profit oriented hence they will ensure that capital is invested in the correct way and can be consulted with. There are a number of investors in Eswatini who offer such services. The Small Enterprises Development Company (SEDCO) is a Government supported organisation established in 1970 with the mandate to create, develop and promote Small, Micro & Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) throughout the Kingdom of Swaziland. This makes it one of the largest and most reputable investors.  The Industrial Development Company Of Eswatini (IDCE) is another example of a well known lender that offers agricultural, corporate and SME loans.

 SME, Small Medium Enterprise, loans are targeted and suitable to every sector of the economy for purposes of funding of goods or services required by the business. An example of the terms for an SME loan from IDCE are:

Minimum: E10 000 (Swazi lilangeni)

Maximum: E1.5 million

Repayment Period: 3 – 5 years

Security: should be able cover 100% of the total debt

Promoter’s Contribution: a minimum of 20% of the total project total cost

What was at the heart of the lessons was an attempt to try to change the mindset of Swazis in order to allow them to think more like entrepreneurs. In order to do this, I tried to include a section in my work on initial ideas that needed to be considered when starting a business as well as considering your ‘why,’ as nine times out of ten a larger goal than simply to make money is what drove the world’s richest individuals when they first started their own businesses. An individual’s why could be to have a positive impact on the environment or to help elevate their local community. Pairing this with an idea that is profitable and that they are talented will more than likely lead to a successful initial business, assuming that external factors remain constant.


Written by Pama Alexander, Microfinance intern 

1 reply
  1. Isaac Onoji
    Isaac Onoji says:

    A brilliant presentation there, like to suggest that trade like motor mechanic, auto electric, plumbing, etc should be part of the training.


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