Is youth entrepreneurship the new face of sustainable international development? (Tanzania)
Cobi-Jane Akinrele (2014, Human, Social & Political Sciences)
Contrary to common belief, the environment in less economically developed countries does not limit innovation, but rather through its challenges it creates a canvas on which creativity, job creation and in turn economic development can occur. If this is so, why is it that many young people in Tanzania, for example, see the conditions of their communities as barriers to realising their entrepreneurial aspirations? Volunteering with the Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania , gave me the opportunity to resolve the questions I hoped to answer.
DARE to Change DAR
CDI’s entrepreneurship project encompassed two interdependent elements: an Entrepreneurship Practical Training Programme and the DARE to Change DAR: Innovation for Change Youth Entrepreneurship Conference, both of which I worked hard to support for two months in the Summer of 2014. The eight week entrepreneurship program is centred upon creating successful entrepreneurs who will be able to create self-employment in the near future. At the heart of the project as a whole the aim was to connect students with an interest in entrepreneurship from University of Dar es Salaam and the University of Cambridge. In unifying the minds of young people from both universities, through innovation they can solve some of the issues that are faced by growing cities like Dar es Salaam, such as insufficient water supply.
Over the summer I acted as conference director for a student-led, student focused entrepreneurship conference entitled DARE to Change DAR: Innovation for Change. In this time of social, economic and political change in Tanzania the conference was intended to explore how one could mobilise the youth in order to participate in changing Tanzania for the better. This year’s conference was centred around the idea that entrepreneurship is a viable medium for change beyond the economic sphere. DARE to Change DAR this year provoked our audience to think of how, collectively, innovation can be utilised to alleviate the challenges faced in a fast-growing city similar to Dar es Salaam. Through our panels, guest speakers and student pitches, we hoped to expose the audience to start-ups, corporate directors and NGO leaders who were already pioneering innovative solutions in a sustainable way.
The student teams
‘DARE to Change DAR’ was the first opportunity for the 10 DAREnterprisers student teams to re-tell their entrepreneurial journey to the wider public, and to pitch their social business ideas to an audience that will include potential mentors and future investors. The Cambridge Development Initiatives DAREnterprisers programme had worked together with 25 students from the University of Dar es Salaam and Ardhi University predominantly, to develop business ideas with the potential to make a large-scale impact on low-income communities. Our DAREnterprisers’ students explored how they too could become key players in these technologies which empower consumers to be independent, and give rise to waves of new, complementary innovation.
Other than the general logistics of the conference, ticketing, securing venues and sponsorship, I was involved primarily with carrying our confidence building workshops and classes around communication and public speaking. The DAREnterprisers students I worked with designed and refined their business pitches in groups offering peer-to-peer support in planning their ten minute business pitches. Not one of our DAREnterprisers students had previously had any experience in addressing a crowd of over 300 people, but this did not prevent anyone from presenting their business ideas convincingly.
It was here that I found the answer to the question posed at the beginning of my trip. Opportunity, something which we often take for granted in Cambridge, had been a central feature of the achievements that many of our students had made on the DAREnterprisers Course, made evident by the DARE to Change DAR Conference. The conference had brought together individuals from varying backgrounds with the common goal of developing Dar es Salaam through business. It was through this medium that the students whom the Cambridge Development Initiative worked with were able to grab the attention of local change makers towards how they can and are already making a difference in their relevant communities. I found that the barrier to innovation in many less economically developed countries was not necessarily the environment, but the lack of awareness of opportunity in that same environment. Not only had I gained new friends during my volunteering experience in Tanzania, I came to realise that the future for us all is bright, as young people become more aware of the opportunities around them; and where the opportunities are not clearly present, they can create them.
Looking to the future
As we look to the future as students (from the University of Dar es Salaam and the Cambridge Development Initiative), we see that we can be instigators of positive change if we choose to overcome the obstacles that may present themselves.
Speaking of opportunity I would like to thank the Trinity Hall Association for their award supporting me on this project. I was able to gain quantifiable skills that not many internships and other volunteering organisations would be able to offer, learning how to plan a large scale event with very little previous experience in a foreign country. In addition, I developed a greater understanding of the importance of cultural sensitivity, especially in realising that the central differing principle is essentially opportunity, contrary to what we assume.