In Togo, youth entrepreneurship is working
At 27, Azia Amina Ouro Agoro considers herself lucky. This dynamic young woman explains how she came to create her small business of processing cassava and other tubers, producing 200-300 kg flour every day.
“I got my certificate in business. I decided to stand on my own two feet and not to swell the ranks of the unemployed graduates," she says.
- Over 400 youth, of whom 30 percent are female, launched their business with the support of the project
- Over 650 business plans obtained micro-financing, with an additional 400 others underway.
- The establishment of the National Employment Agency provided 25,000 job seekers with job finding tools as well as 1,000 jobs, and 792 internships.
According to a survey in 2011, 6.51 percent and 22.76 percent of the working population in Togo are unemployed and underemployed, respectively. This phenomenon affects many young people, especially women, in a country where 75 percent of inhabitants are under 35.
With her modest savings, Azia opened a shop, and went around the local markets to buy and sell gari and tapioca in Lomé, Togo’s capital. She quickly realized that she could earn more by mastering the tuber production and processing chain. But she still lacked the means and the money.
Encouraged by her friends, she prepared and submitted her application to the Fonds d’appui aux Initiatives Economiques des Jeunes (FAIEJ, Support Fund for Youth Economic Initiatives), which has been supported by UNDP since 2012. She received training in business creation and management, as well as personalized support to structure her business plan and develop the economic potential of the project.
Once her application was accepted by microfinance institutions working in partnership with FAIEJ, Azia received a loan of around US$2,000 at a preferential interest rate of 4.5 percent. After 12 months of activity, Azia employed five women and young volunteers and fetched a monthly sales turnover of over US$600.
Open to any young person with an idea for job creation, FAIEJ aims to encourage youth entrepreneurship through training and guidance, and improve their access to finance. The initiative focuses on areas of agriculture, food processing, handicrafts, information and communication technology, and renewable energies.
Since 2012, the project has helped launch nearly 400 young entrepreneurs, of whom 30 percent are female. The project created 625 jobs, of which 370 are permanent, and financed over 650 business plans for an amount of US$1.7 million. Four hundred more projects are currently being financed.
While youth entrepreneurship is one of the solutions to respond to the arrival of roughly 40,000 new job seekers in the labour market each year, the Government and UNDP also established a service platform for job seekers at the central and regional levels. The Agence Nationale pour l'Emploi (National Employment Agency) launched in the five regions of the country. In 16 months, the service has provided 25,000 job seekers with job-finding tools, as well as 1,000 jobs and 792 internships.
“For now, everything is going well. This is already a major step,” Azia concludes, before adding, “I would like to help more women. God willing, you will soon see a large processing plant of our local products.”