Entrepreneurship as strategic tool towards addressing youth challenges


By Ebenezer Ashley (PhD.)

The financial crisis that commenced in 2007 and erupted into immeasurable proportions in subsequent years impelled many global leaders to identify strategic ways to forestall its future occurrence; minimise the adverse impact, should it reoccur; and to address youth unemployment challenges in the face of current and future exponential increases in the population of young people relative to the population of older people. In the process of brainstorming, entrepreneurship emerged as an important desideratum towards addressing the youth challenges.

Coincidentally, exigencies of the contemporary global labour markets including high youth unemployment rates have compelled many young people to seek financial refuge in entrepreneurship, specifically in youth entrepreneurship in the immediate- and medium-term. This decision brings in its wake multiple benefits.

That is, while taking steps to address personal challenges through investments in entrepreneurships, young people complement efforts of their respective leaders and governments aimed at stemming the tide of high and protracted youth and national unemployment rates; and the attendant challenges. Although the decision to engage in entrepreneurship may extend only up to the medium-term, assisting young people to hone their skills in their respective fields of business endeavours could serve as a morale booster to consider their immediate entrepreneurial business as a long-term career.

Entrepreneurship, and specifically youth entrepreneurship, has gained prominence in many economies in recent years. The socio-economic usefulness of youth entrepreneurial concepts has led to its attraction to educational institutions, academics and international agencies as a major subject worthy of investing and researching into to churn out data, policy approach and other relevant information on young people to aid and facilitate youth development programmes and processes at the national, sub-regional, regional and global levels.

The design of policy framework for development of youth entrepreneurship by many global countries in collaboration with key stakeholders, including youth authorities, other government agencies, ministries of education, employment and labour, and finance is in tandem with the focus; and emphasis on youth entrepreneurship by the International Labour Organisation (ILO); and other significant agencies of the United Nations. The perspective of ILO on youth entrepreneurship is how global countries could formulate the right policies and mobilise resources to effectively address the needs of young people (Juneja, n.d.k).

Generally, definition and development of policies aimed at addressing challenges associated with skills building process; and provision of requisite education and training to equip young people with the right and necessary finance, business, technical and other related skills to adequately compete in industry and life, form the basis of youth entrepreneurship in many economies (Juneja, n.d.k). As of 2017, entrepreneurial programmes introduced in countries such as Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras since 2012 had increased sales revenue of more than one thousand (1,000) businesses by $38 million; and created about one thousand and four hundred (1,400) jobs.

Through partnership among bodies such as TechnoServe, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Partners in Food Solution, the Solutions for African Food Enterprises (SAFE) programme was embarked on in five distinct countries, including Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya. Generally, the SAFE programme seeks to increase the availability of nutritious foods; and to make them affordable to individuals. Further, it seeks to introduce more competition in Africa’s food processing sector. The initiatives are expected to improve quality of food processing, increase production, and present stable market prices to local consumers. The successful implementation of entrepreneurial programmes in countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, India and Mexico cannot be overemphasised.

Youth entrepreneurship as a paradigm helps to shift the focus of employment from elected governments, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and large corporate organisations to include small companies and individuals. Stated in different terms, youth entrepreneurship broadens a nation’s employment horizon beyond elected governments and large corporations to include small corporate bodies and individuals. Youth entrepreneurship ensures positive cultural orientation, higher confidence level and integration of the youth into the broader global business environment.

Entrepreneurship thrives on determination and self-starter leadership. Potential young entrepreneurs identify opportunities to offer solutions couched in the forms of technology, product and provision of other services with the sole aim of fulfilling specific needs. To assure success in the chosen fields of business endeavour, potential entrepreneurs rally all the essential resources at their disposal. These include finance, technology, manpower, infrastructure, and all others. Policies on youth entrepreneurship which are comprehensive in character take cognizance of both technical and soft skills of young people.

Generally, technical skills equip young people with the requisite know-how and increase their chances of competing effectively in the job markets. Soft skills are defined to include ethics, attitude and motivation (Juneja, n.d.j&k; UNESCO, 2016). Thus, comprehensive youth entrepreneurial policy should be tailored to address teething challenges by enhancing the employability of young people in measurable terms.

One way of addressing issues related to preponderance of the population of young people in a given country is by encouraging youth entrepreneurship. The latter brings in its wake some economic advantages to the country, including the introduction of innovative thinking and acceleration of economic growth while addressing unemployment challenges among the youth population (Juneja, n.d.j). At the G-20 Summit in 2014, leaders identified entrepreneurship as strategic to addressing unemployment challenges in various economies. Given the dominant role of the youth in terms of population size, it is critical to consider and encourage entrepreneurship among them in developing and advanced economies.

Africa is said to be the fastest growing population; and possesses the most youthful population in the world (Worldatlas, 2017; Mercy Corps, 2020). Development of progressive entrepreneurial policy for the youth including description and definition of various entrepreneurial opportunities, identification of key sectors of the economy with potential for youth development through training, counselling and guidance, would contribute immensely to derivation of positive demographic dividends for the implied economies (Juneja, n.d.k; Economic Times, 2014).

Formulated and implementable policies on youth entrepreneurship are considered effective when they include clearly-spelt-out government assistance including defined schemes for young people. Government’s support may include technical assistance in all facets of business operations to inspire and nurture young entrepreneurs. Further, the support may include single window clearance, guidance, mentoring, assistance in finance, sales and marketing, among others (Juneja, n.d.k).

The discussion thus far affirms, successful policy on youth entrepreneurship must be comprehensive, progressive and effective; and the role of governments in the success of youth entrepreneurship cannot be overemphasised. Juneja (n.d.k) argued, creation of employment avenues and opportunities, training and equipping young people to develop strong interest in entrepreneurship are primarily the responsibility of national leaders and their respective governments. Successful entrepreneurial programmes could lead to effective training and development of young people to emerge as visionary future leaders.


Arguably, the first step towards addressing pressing needs and wants of young people in every economy is the formulation of youth policies and programmes that are development-oriented and implementable in character. Although effective development and implementation of youth programmes including youth entrepreneurship remain a challenge to many countries, there is no gain-saying youth policies have been formulated in over one hundred and eighty (180) countries, both developing and developed, across the globe (Commonwealth, 2016a). However, discussion in this section was limited to the National Youth Policy formulated and launched by Ghana in 2010.

The need to address pertinent challenges confronting the youth and to empower them, gained national recognition in Ghana few decades ago. In 1974, the National Youth Council, now called National Youth Authority (NYA), was established as an agency in the Ministry of Youth and Sports to co-ordinate and facilitate activities related to youth development in Ghana. Stated differently, the National Youth Authority has the mandate to ensure the Ghanaian youth is empowered.

Ghana’s Youth Policy

In August 2010, the National Youth Policy of Ghana was officially launched. The theme for the policy is towards an empowered youth, impacting positively on national development (Ministry of Youth and Sports, 2010, p. i). Key stakeholders in the formulation of Ghana’s youth policy included, but not limited to representatives of the elected government, academia, development partners and the media (pp. iv & v). The policy document is categorised into twelve (12) main sections. Section 1 and its attendant Sub-sections (1.1 through 1.5) present the rationale for introduction of the youth policy. Content of Sub-sections 1.1 through 1.5 provides varied reasons for introduction of the youth policy. This section acknowledges the youth as true wealth and hope for the country’s future.

Therefore, formulation and implementation of youth policy at the national level affords the government the opportunity to partner young people and other stakeholders to assure youth empowerment through the development of relevant interventions and provision of meaningful services; and through the transfer of technical and soft skills to same. Sub-section 1.3 emphasises the responsibilities of successive governments and other key stakeholders in the provision of resources required to ensure meaningful contribution of the youth to socio-economic and cultural advancement of young people, their families and the nation as a whole. Development of the youth to become cognitively competent, economically independent and to transition effectively to adulthood is expressed in Sub-section 1.4. Ghana’s resolve to demonstrate her commitment to all international conventions and charters related to youth development is outlined in Sub-section 1.5 (Ministry of Youth and Sports, 2010; ILO, 2010).

An overview of what the youth policy seeks to achieve is contained in Section 2 and its related Sub-sections (2.1 through 2.4). Subsection 2.1 recognises the youth as valuable human capital and major partners in national development, especially in the areas of politics, culture, economy and global technology innovation. Sub-section 2.2 stipulates, providing the youth with opportunities to learn, acquire life-long skills and to become effective decision-makers would assure their effective contribution to the realisation of national goals. Factors inimical to effective development of most young people such as economic marginalisation, poverty and social exclusion are noted in Sub-section 2.3. Government’s promise to marshal the necessary resources to help the youth realise their full potential is expressed in Sub-section 2.4 (Ministry of Youth and Sports, 2010; ILO, 2010).

The official definition of youth from Ghana’s perspective and profile of Ghanaian youth are presented in Section 3 and its ensuing Sub-sections (3.1 through 3.5). In Sub-section 3.1, Ghana defines youth to include the period between childhood and adulthood. It is the period of transition from family-dependent childhood to independent adulthood; and integration in society as responsible citizen. Age category for definition of youth in Ghana (15 to 35 years) is spelt-out in Sub-section 3.2. Definitions by the Commonwealth Secretariat and United Nations informed Ghana’s definition of youth. Sub-section 3.3 presents data on Ghana’s total population (18.9 million), annual youth growth rate (2.7%) and percentage contribution of the youth to total national population (33%) based on the Ghana Housing and Population Census conducted in the year 2000.

For the purposes of programming, policy and planning, Sub-section 3.4 summarises age categories of the youth as extracted from the 2000 population census while Sub-section 3.5 presents categories of Ghanaian youth: rural and urban; male and female; adolescents and adults; physically challenged and able-bodied; educated and uneducated; in-school and out-of-school; organised and unorganised; and skilled and unskilled. The opportunities, needs, constraints, features and aspirations of the foregoing categories of youth are believed to be diverse (Ministry of Youth and Sports, 2010; ILO, 2010).

Major challenges identified as obstacles to effective youth development that the National Youth Policy seeks to address are outlined in Section 4. Some of these challenges include lack of access to quality education, which affects the quality of training and ability to compete effectively in the job market; negative impact of modernisation and urbanisation on effective youth development; high rate of youth involvement in juvenile crime rates and violent conflicts; weakened role of the family in youth development leading to increasing youth delinquency and deviance; increased vulnerability to malnutrition, diseases and hunger; high incidence of drug and substance abuse; inadequate counselling and recreational facilities; limited mentoring opportunities leading to weak religious, cultural, moral and social values in the youth; limited opportunities for participation in decision making; high vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS; limited opportunities for participation in activities related to environmental protection and conservation for sustainable future; peer pressure and streetism; erosion of patriotism and irresponsible parenthood as well as the tendency to develop an attitude to “get rich quick” (Ministry of Youth and Sports, 2010; ILO, 2010).

The framework for Ghana’s youth policy is expressed in Section 5 and the attendant Sub-sections (5.1 and 5.2). A preamble in Section 5 acknowledges how broader social, political and national aspirations founded on meaningful participation; access and equity assured successful development of the policy framework. Sub-section 5.1 outlines the vision of Ghana’s youth policy and objectives to be implemented to realise the vision. Key principles of Ghana’s youth policy are tabulated and summarised in Sub-section 5.2. These principles include patriotism, self-reliance, honesty and integrity, participation, equity, access, leadership, good governance, gender mainstreaming, respect, co-ordination and collaboration (Ministry of Youth and Sports, 2010; ILO, 2010).

Priority areas for the National Youth Policy of Ghana are enumerated in Section 6 and its related Sub-sections (6.1.1 through This section emphasises on education and skills training, and expected outcomes of same; technology, science and research; information and communications technology (ICT); youth and employment; entrepreneurial development including its introduction in academic curricula; youth participation in modern agriculture; gender mainstreaming and environment; networking and partnership; arts and culture; governance, democracy and leadership; sports and recreation; youth in conflict prevention and peace building; national youth week; youth and vulnerability, patriotism and volunteerism; nationalism and conscientisation of the youth (Ministry of Youth and Sports, 2010; ILO, 2010).

Section 7 shares information on various groups identified under Ghana’s youth policy. The categorisation is intended to facilitate government and other stakeholders’ resolve to address specific needs of the youth. Groups identified under the policy include drop-outs from Junior High Schools and Senior High Schools; students in tertiary institutions; out-of-school, unemployed and under-employed youth; female youth, pregnant adolescent youth and education; youth in crime and violence-related problems; youth at risk; youth with disability and health challenges; and youth with special talents. Rights of and respect for the youth as enshrined in the 1992 Republican Constitution of Ghana; and in global youth treaties and conventions to which Ghana is a signatory are stipulated in Section 8 and its Sub-section (8.1) (Ministry of Youth and Sports, 2010; ILO, 2010).

Obligations of key stakeholders to successful implementation of the policy are summarised in Section 9 and its attendant Sub-sections (9.1 through 9.8). The key stakeholders identified in the policy include the State; parents and guardians, youth; private sector, civil society organisations (CSOs) and institutions; religious organisations; traditional authorities and socio-cultural groupings; international organisations, development partners and donor agencies. Implementation mechanisms for the youth policy are outlined in Section 10 and its Sub-sections (10.1 through 10.7). Content of Section 10 affirms role of the National Youth Council (now National Youth Authority) in the facilitation and institution of youth stakeholders’ forum. The Forum would actively partner all identifiable youth groups at the district, regional and national levels to assure smooth implementation of the youth policy. This section stresses on role of the sector-ministry in co-ordination, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and periodic review of the National Youth Policy (Ministry of Youth and Sports, 2010; ILO, 2010).

The National Youth Authority is expected to collaborate with the Ministry responsible for the youth in supervising implementation process of the youth policy so as to assure its effective response to the aspirations and development needs of the youth; and to assure positive contribution of the youth to the broader national development agenda. The foregoing together with the action plan required for implementation of the National Youth Policy is stated in Section 11 and the related Sub-sections. Concluding statement on the National Youth Policy is presented in Section 12 and its Sub-sections. This section recognises the youth as essential human capital and the need for actionable policy to be drawn to guide and direct stakeholders in systematic mobilisation and development of the youth to ensure positive productivity; and their meaningful contribution to sustainable national development. Complementary roles of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the donor-community to the success-story of the National Youth Policy are duly acknowledged in this section (Ministry of Youth and Sports, 2010; ILO, 2010).

The Problem

In our traditional and contemporary homes, parents are noted for being responsible for the upkeep of their children, including feeding, clothing, sheltering or lodging, healthcare, boarding and education, to mention a few. These responsibilities are borne by the parents over a considerable period, depending on their level of financial affluence. However, as the children transition from childhood to adolescence and youth, part of the parental responsibilities is shifted to them. Some youth, prior to their young adulthood, are trained to become important bread-winners for their respective families. Being a bread-winner sometimes denotes searching and competing for jobs just as active adults do in the labour markets. The implication is, national policies related to employment opportunities must be carefully crafted to accommodate the active youth labour force.

Consistent surge in the population of young people in prior years made it imperative for attention to issues related to youth unemployment to transcend national borders to include regional and global levels. In 1995, the World Programme of Action for Youth was adapted and launched by the United Nations General Assembly to outline global framework aimed at addressing pertinent youth issues; and to reflect ongoing dialogue since the 1960s (Advocates for Youth, n.d.). The foregoing affirmed issues related to youth, specifically youth unemployment, gained global recognition several decades ago.

However, the decades-long initiatives of the United Nations (from the 1960s to date) to address youth unemployment challenges have yielded little or no socio-economic results. As of 2012, there were about 18 million street children in India, the largest number of street children in the world. This number constituted 18% of the estimated 100 million street children globally during the period; and more than half the estimated total population of Ghana (31.6 million people) as at March 2021 (UNICEF as cited in UNESCO, 2013; Worldometer, 2021a). Even though young people may possess set of skills and the requisite academic qualifications, it is still difficult for them to access gainful employment either in the public or private sector or both, in many economies across the globe.

 Projections by the World Bank (as cited in Mercy Corps, 2020) revealed one billion young people would enter the global job market in the next decade. However, less than half of this number is likely to gain formal employment, leaving majority who are already experiencing working poverty or are unemployed, in marginalised and minority groups. Young people are believed to constitute about 41% of the world’s unemployed population. The global average youth unemployment rate in 2019 was 15.3%. This was about 2.83 times the global unemployment average rate (5.4%) during the period; 2.7% (15.3% – 12.6% = 2.7%) increase over the world’s youth unemployment rate in 2010 (12.6%); and 10.5% (15.3% – 4.8% = 10.5%) higher than the global unemployment rate in 2010 (4.8%). In quantitative terms, global unemployment among young people was estimated at 67.6 million (Advocates for Youth, n.d.; World Bank, 2021e; UN-DESA as cited in UNESCO, 2013; Mercy Corps, 2020).

 Statistics released by ILO (as cited in Mercy Corps, 2020) and Advocates for Youth (n.d.) indicated as of September 2020, the global youth population between the ages of 15 and 24 years was estimated at 1.3 billion. Approximately 133 million global youth could barely read and write; about 110 million young people live in hunger; estimated 462 million youth live on less than US$2.00 a day; approximately 238 million young people live in extreme poverty, implying they live on less than US$1.00 daily; nearly 85% of the world’s youth population are found in developing countries while the Pacific and Asia are home to the largest proportion of global youth population.

Further, about 60% of the world’s youth population lives in Asia, 15% in Africa, 10% in Latin America and the Caribbean while the developed economies and regions share the remaining 15%. Moreover, nearly 255 million young people live in 19 economies identified to have the largest poverty gaps; and 15 of these 19 economies are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. The foregoing reflects inequality in the pursuit of job and other opportunities; and poor youth employment outcomes. As a result of these challenges, the future becomes uncertain, living standards and well-being cannot be sustained while the health conditions of many young people are likely to deteriorate. The imminent question is: “What are some of the practical measures and programmes that could be adapted and implemented by leaders at the national, regional and global levels to address the challenges of high youth unemployment rates?

The general management problem is the inability of key stakeholders at the global level to formulate and adapt policies; and to strategically develop and implement same through practical programmes to effectively stem the growing tide of youth unemployment rates, so as to assure the teeming youth of decent livelihood and hope for the future through inclusiveness and employment opportunities. Gyampo (2012) and Mercy Corps (2020) argued, unresolved challenges associated with high youth unemployment rates could create anxiety and dent their hopes for the future; the youth may feel alienated and socially-excluded; and these social repercussions could degenerate into negative economic development and growth outcomes at the national, sub-regional, regional and global levels. Although evidence of the current phenomenon exists, there are limited empirical works, if any, to assess the impact of youth unemployment rates on national unemployment rates; and the effect of global youth unemployment rates on global unemployment rates.

The specific management problem is failure on the part of policymakers in developing economies to include young people in youth policy formulation, so their actual and specific needs could be identified and incorporated into the final policy draft to assure positive outcomes from the implementation process. The purpose of this research was to examine the implications of youth unemployment rates for national and global unemployment rates during the research period.

 Author’s Note

The above write-up was extracted from recent Publication on “Youth entrepreneurship: Essential tool for socio-economic development and growth” by Ashley, Tufuor, Obeng, Agbenuvor and Ackah (2024) in the International Journal of Business and Management (IJBM). DOI No.: 10.24940/theijbm/2024/v12/i2/BM2402-015

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