It’s here: the first Youth SEEN publication

15 10 2010

It is with utmost pride that Youth SEEN presents our first publication “Pitfalls and Possibilities”. The publication contains a collection of academic research papers prepared by Dutch master students of various universities on youth entrepreneurship.

We started this project with the vision that youth entrepreneurship is an important and most of all promising ticket out of extreme poverty and unemployment for young people in developing countries. This publication is just a first step, but a pivotal one, towards unveiling the specific aspects of the processes involved in setting up youth entrepreneurship in different parts of the world.

We presented the fruit of our labour at the Making Cents conference in Washington DC over the summer and the responses of the organizations we spoke to were very positive. We could not be more excited.

We truly feel that this initial investigation will prove to spark an interest on this bustling subject and hope that our efforts to put the importance of youth entrepreneurship on the map will highlight its key role in Development Aid.

You can order the publication from this website using the order form:

Order Form

To order the new Youth SEEN publication, simply fill out the information requested on the form below and email it to us on We can then send you an invoice and the PayPal payment information and instructions.



New students on the field

15 10 2010

Ewoud ter Meer and Jeroen van Kesteren from Nyenrode Business University go into the field in Rwanda, while Tim van der Grift from the University of Gent goes to Jordan

Ewoud and Jeroen will be working together until the end of November in Rwanda. They will be doing an internship at one of our partner organizations, YES Rwanda ( YES Rwanda is an NGO concerned with local youth employment systems which has, at its very core, the mission of stimulating and capacitating young people for the creation of entrepreneurial self-employment. The two Dutch students will focus their research on how micro financing for small and medium enterprises can be improved in Rwanda so that YES becomes more attainable to the country’s youth. We are very enthused about having the students work with one of our core members and are eager to hear about how everything is coming along for them.

Tim van der Grift is currently interning in Jordan at the Masar Center, an NGO active on issues of the environment, media, democracy and human rights. Tim’s research will be focused on mapping out conductive environments for youth entrepreneurship and social innovation in Jordan’s informal economy of the city of Amman. He will be on the field until January and we are very excited to see the results of his research and experience.

We will be keeping track of the students and will also encourage them to share their progress with us a bit further into their journey. The blog should be updated with news from Ewoud, Jeroen and Tim sometime in the next few weeks: stay tuned!

Youth SEEN at UpToYouToo Event, Bitterzoet

2 07 2010

A photo impression of the show in Bitterzoet by Sauti Sol and Stan (Kenya), 30 June 2010. Xander Groesbeek conducted for Youth SEEN a research in Kampala, Uganda, and shared his  experiences with the audience.

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New blog by researcher Signhild Brosvik

15 06 2010

Signhild Brosvik conducted a research at the Manzini Youth Care in Manzini, Swaziland, from February to May 2010. The focus of the research was what possibilities youth taking part at the Youth Enterprise Services (YES) Programme have to start their own business, and how this according to their point of view affects their well-being.

The Yes programme is a sheltered work shop programme where currently 17 young Swazi are operating their businesses. It is a 1, 5 years training programme, where they get training within business skills such as accounting, marketing and management. The entrepreneurs taking part are expected to have the vocational skills needed when accepted to the programme. While they are taking part in the programme they get access to sheltered work shops where they can operate their businesses. Today businesses such as catering, welding, spray painting, car mechanic, sowing and PC upgrading are run by the youth entrepreneurs.

The following are preliminary results, and might change as the analysis progress.

The first aspect the research focused on was the youth’s own perception on entrepreneurship, and what aims they are having. Overall there was a very positive perception on running a self-employment entrepreneurial activity. I distributed a survey to 73 current or aspiring entrepreneurs and interviewed 16 current entrepreneurs, all the respondents thought that running a business would help them gain long term needs. In addition 48 of the 73 respondents to the survey thought it would help them gain short term needs. This trend was confirmed in the semi-structured interviews, when all the respondents said they liked running a business, and would rather run their own business than be employed somewhere. The main reasons for this was that all the money they earned was controlled by them, and there was no-one other than themselves shouting at them. Statements such as “I will not have the stress other workers are having,” were common.

When asking the entrepreneurs about how they wanted their business to develop over the next five years I got answers within five different categories; more equipment/bigger space; Reputation -expand to the whole country; Employ/train other people; Expand to more than one type of business; and improve own work/focus on customers. What I find from the answer to this question is that there are many wishes and dreams of how the business should develop, but very few concrete plans. None of the entrepreneurs I interviewed had concrete written business plans.

Similarly when asking youth who have not yet started their business but are eager to, why they want to start their own business I got answers within four categories; ; “dreamt of starting a business,” “to generate more money,” “help my family or community” and “no work outside.” The second category, to generate more money, is by far the most popular one and I will argue the most important for why the respondents want to start their own business.


The second issue for the research is the possibilities the youth have to start up their own enterprise. Here I first need to point out that the entrepreneurs I was in contact with are among the lucky ones, as they already are connected to the Manzini Youth Care. The possibilities and perceptions they are having can not be generalized to a wider youth population in Swaziland. In fact, several of the respondents gave the impression that their friends were not interested in starting a business, one respondent even stated that “my friends are afraid of starting an own business, it is not popular.”

Access to capital:

Very difficult for the youth. Those at the YES-programme receives a loan that helps them to buy the tools they need to run their business, but that is all the funding they receive. When I asked them if they have considered getting a loan from the bank they all said it is very difficult for them as they don’t have any collateral and would not be able to pay it back. Informal lending arrangements did not seem to be common. Some of the youth have tried to apply to newly initiated Tinkhundla (system of government in Swaziland) Youth Fund, but still don’t know the outcome of this. Access to capital is a major obstacle to youth who wants to start a business in Swaziland.

Access to Market:

Another difficult issue for the youth entrepreneurs. Again, those operating at the YES programme are lucky as the office there is helping them both with marketing skills and in getting in touch with customers. However, access to the market is still difficult. Swaziland is a small country, where the capacity of the market is limited. One issue to discuss here is competition. The businesses the youth are operating are common businesses in Swaziland, and therefore the competition is high. The respondents I interviewed pointed out that it was difficult to get access to the market being new, and some said that established businesses didn’t want them to succeed.

In addition transport to the customers was a major obstacle for the youth entrepreneurs. They have to rely on public transport, kombis, (minibuses), which is expensive, not reliable and very time consuming. Many of the respondents thought it would be easier to run a business if they had a driving licence and could administer a car.

There are more to discuss regarding possibilities, but I will stop here for now as these were the two major issues.


Well-being is a big and complex concept, which there is no room to fully discuss here. Therefore this will be a brief and somewhat superficial summary. I operationalised well-being into three categories; material, psychological and social well-being. Here I will give a short summary of the preliminary finding.

Material well-being:

As mentioned before increased income was the most important motivation to start a self-employment entrepreneurial activity. However, the results show that the youth entrepreneurs are not earning a lot. None of the respondents stated they were satisfied with the money they were making. When I asked if running a business increased their income the most common response was ‘not really.’ The majority of the respondents stated that they spent the money they do earn on their immediate needs, such as school fees for their children, transport and food.

Psychological well-being:

This is the well-being category where the respondents are most positive. All the responses from the interviews show that the young entrepreneurs are very proud to run their own business, enjoy being their own boss, and that running a business create many positive relations. However, the observations I made somewhat contradicts this image. When there is a lack of money, no customers and the situation in general is a bit uncertain several of the entrepreneurs showed stress and were not satisfied with the situation. Especially one of them was showing this, she considered quitting her business and get a job, because then she would have a more certain income. This shows that it might be a discrepancy between what they are telling me as a researcher, and how they really feel.

Social Well-being:

This category has been the hardest one to get a clear picture of. Firstly because several sources have told me that entrepreneurship and running a business is not really part of swazi culture. Secondly because of reports of jealousy; if an individual does better than others in a traditional Swazi setting they are looked down upon. One respondent said that which craft and mhuti were common issues. If someone do well, and become richer than others (especially in a rural setting, but also in the towns) they will most probably be targeted by which craft by their neighbours. The director of the project said that swazi culture is not supportive of business, which makes it very difficult for the young entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs themselves, however, did not mention this as an issue. However, they did report mixed attitudes from the family and community. A common case was that the family did not support them in the beginning, but as time went by and the family could see that they were being serious they started to support them.

I have not yet analysed this part of the data, it is therefore difficult to discuss it more. Suffice it now to say that the picture is not clear, but that most of them are supported by their families. It is also worth noting that attitude towards entrepreneurship is changing in Swaziland as a whole, as NGOs and the government are starting new projects, funds and support systems. It will be interesting to follow the changes over time.   

New post by researcher Xander Groesbeek

11 06 2010

Currently, Xander Groesbeek is finishing his research in Kampala, Uganda, on how  self-perception of entrepreneurial competences influences youth in least developed countries in their decision to become self-employed.

Research objectives

Much research has been done after the best practices to educate youth in becoming entrepreneurial. Most of these researches however, have focused on youth in developed economies. The objective of this current research is to test the relevance of previous literature findings regarding entrepreneurship competences, in developing countries. In doing so, the findings will offer new insights into the self-perception of competences and to what extent these perceived important competences influence entrepreneurial behavior.

Formulated differently: it is asked what residents of LDCs think, are the most important personal competences to become a good entrepreneur. Such insights will help organizations in focusing on cultural relevant competences, instead of competences that are considered important from a developed economy’s point of view.

Practical relevancy

Findings will be practical relevant for, among others, international and national governmental organizations in allowing them to adapt their development and training strategies by putting more focus on local expectations and perceptions. Theoretical relevance is achieved by offering groundbreaking and unique findings that help other academics in expanding the literature stream of entrepreneurship in developing economies.

New blog by researcher Sabrina Axter

8 06 2010

Researcher Sabrina Axter conducted a research about Youth entrepreneurs‘ access problems to financial services in Nairobi, Kenya. Some first results:

First round of research

My research focused mainly on the financial needs of youth and the way they would design a financial service. Hence during the first round of research I spoke to 18 youth groups that currently work with Youth Initiatives Kenya (YIKE) and engage in various income generating or community outreach activites. The first part focused on finding out about these youths’ financial, training and entrepreneurial needs and the way they have addressed these needs in the past. Main findings include that one of the main problems most youth face is the access to market. Financial problems include the lack of access to adequate start-up capital or funding for further projects. Those youth groups that have hardly any financial problems have received plenty of outside funding whereas other groups still struggle. However only few groups have managed to keep their members sustainable.


The main part of my research however was to have the youth design a youth inclusive financial service that addresses the needs of these specific youth groups that require group loans, rather than individual loans. There are opportunities for youth to receive loans but these usually focus on personal loans as group loans are less favored by banks due to the higher risk associated with them. In a group it is harder to hold anyone accountable in case of default and the responsibility of each individual might be reduced due to the existence of other members who are also responsible for it. Designing a financial service with the youth meant that they outlined certain key criteria that would have to be met in terms of membership requirements, savings, loan eligibility, loan amount and interest rate, grace and repayment period, organisational structure, training and other support and how to deal with default. After designing the youth inclusive financial service the ideas were re-evaluated with the youth and with experts and consultants in the field to give further suggestions and to consider the realisability of the service.


In total a service was designed that has a strong savings element and caters to groups that need loans for group projects. Such a service could be started by the youth themselves in collaboration with an impartial monitor who knows the groups and has worked with the groups.

Update of researcher Fernando Baptista!

28 05 2010

Researcher Fernando Baptista posted an update of his research on Perceptions of Youth Entrepreneurs about Collective Engagement! Visit his blog on