A chicken-egg situation. A prosperous society is much more likely to be peaceful than a non-prosperous one. At the same time, a peaceful and secure environment is a necessary condition for wealth creation; thus prosperity.
Prosperity in turn helps keep the peace. Simplistically, a wealthy man or woman has everything to lose in a war and will be more averse to it than a poor man/woman who has nothing to lose.
This lack of prosperity is the single most important cause of turmoil in Africa. Without prosperity, there can be no proper education and unity of purpose in the populace. These are very important.
With these in mind, East Africa should look at business much more deeply. It cannot be about making money. It is a driver and an enabler of prosperity. Good business environment and a population that is entrepreneurial is thus a necessity, not an add-on. It, thus cannot be gainsaid entrepreneurship is the next big thing.
Many young graduates should opt to run startups rather than seek traditional employment. There are not enough jobs to go round as it is. This should not be news. What should be is when policymakers and society should start to accept and, indeed encourage this new class of entrepreneurs.
The well-worn path of getting a college degree and going to work for banks, mines or giant corporations should make way for one where graduates can pursue their own passions. Many of these young entrepreneurs will need a lot of inspiration in the journey they embark on.
It is no easy walk. Most of this support should come from the private sector. Being practitioners of trade, they would be best placed to pass on valuable skills, insights and knowledge to these young entrepreneurs. There is nothing new in this.
In the traditional African society if one’s father was a cattle keeper, the son learnt through herding with the father, everything to do with cattle; how to milk, what herbs to give for what disease, how to fix a fracture and how to defend the herd. The same with the farmers and girls learnt matters maternal from their mothers and aunts. This helped preserve and propagate the society. It is this principle that we need to adopt in a more modern and aggregated manner
The issue of funding is critical too in investing to nurture young entrepreneurs. Workshops on entrepreneurship are good but what matters most is funding. That is why there are many local non-governmental organizations running these programs, but unless someone has money to invest in the best entrepreneurial ideas, nothing substantial will happen.
Monetization: Young entrepreneurs need to learn that giving away their products for free may not be the best idea. Rather, they should figure out how to commercialize their ideas and use that revenue for growth. Do not give away too much of freebies when you start to grow to build your name.
The young people should not rush to be ‘international’. Come up with products that are geared towards solving local needs. Think local. Besides; who will leave Facebook for the local version?
As we look back and remember, mourn and honor our family members friends colleagues and comrades whose lives were brought to an abrupt end in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, it is important to learn our lessons and face the future with expectation, using our thoughts, skills, knowledge and resources to build a hopeful and even more united future.
Sam Kebongo is a skills and business advisory services consultant. He also teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College. Email