Benin: New opportunities for young graduates

Young entrepreneurs in Benin
Philippe and Ulrich decided to launch their own business after finishing their university studies in Benin. Photo: UNDP Benin

Faced with the difficulty of finding new employment in Cotonou, Benin’s largest city, Philippe and Ulrich, two brothers from a poor background decided to launch their own fruit juice distribution business after finishing their university studies. Nowadays, both brothers command a salary, and recruited two employees to expand their business.

Philippe, 30, graduated from university with a degree in industrial mechanics. “I encountered many difficulties when it came to finding a job, and I didn’t want to go on facing such an uphill struggle,” he said.  

Highlights

  • Benin’s labour market is unable to support an annual influx of 100,000 university graduates.
  • Only 33 percent of young people between 15 and 35 succeed in finding paid employment, an age group that accounts for approximately 60 percent of the population.
  • The project will eventually result in the creation of 500 small businesses.

His bother Ulrich, by training an agronomy engineer, also found it impossible to find a job. “The project that I was responsible for came to an end, so I  decided to join forces with Philippe.”

Every year more than 100,000 young graduates in Benin are faced with a limited supply of jobs. In fact, only 33 percent of young people between 15 and 35 succeed in finding paid employment, an age group that accounts for approximately 60 percent of the population. Underemployment currently affects 80 percent of Benin’s population, and income instability has led to an increase in the rate of poverty, from 29 percent in 2002 to 35 percent seven years later.

“To respond effectively to the problems of of unemployment and underemployment, Benin would, on average, have to have created more than 110,000 jobs a year in the period between 2000 and 2015,” said Nardos Bekele-Thomas, UNDP’s Resident Representative in Benin.

As a result, earlier this year UNDP and the Government of Benin opened up a special business centre dedicated to training and advising young entrepreneurs, especially those coming from the countryside where rates of poverty are higher. The hope is the newly trained graduates will return to their homes and villages and begin the critical task of creating new jobs and revenue.

The US$ 2 millions project is being implemented by the Ministry for Microfinance and Youth and Women’s Employment through Benin’s National Agency for the Promotion of Employment. Three business centres have already been established in key cities, including Bohicon, Cotonou and Parakou, with the aim of creating 500 new businesses.

Meanwhile, Philippe and Ulrich, along with 30 other aspiring entrepreneurs, have been receiving training in business, leadership and innovation. Today, the brothers’ business is expanding from a home-based enterprise to semi-industrial production while they wait for a $3,800 loan from a local bank.

“The training that I received boosted my entrepreneurial ambitions,” said Ulrich.