African youth groups help refugee students learn business skills and leadership

For years, charities and international aid organisations have been half-successful in supplying emergency relief to refugees. The short-term aid they provide does very little to address the cycle of poverty that begins in refugee camps and settlements.

The existing humanitarian paradigm is inefficient. It has failed to make use of the best products and processes available; proven unsustainable and has led to dependency, often undermining people’s ability to help themselves.

However, there are alternative ways of doing refugee protection, which draw upon untapped resources or build upon refugees’ own skills, aspirations and entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship projects are very important in reducing refugees’ dependency on foreign aid and their ability to promote sustainable living. They are vital for improving the lives of the most vulnerable members of refugee camps/settlements, the youths.

In December, A Million Faces-Renaissance (founded and run by me), COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa and Tongu Youth Agenda for Development (Founded and run by Selassie F. Tay, Global Youth Ambassador from Ghana), sought to implement a Youth Leadership and Entrepreneurship Development (YLED).

The project was designed to help equip high school students with entrepreneurship skills and to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in preparation for the time they finish school to help them think more on how to create jobs and tackle the problem of unemployment rather than waiting to be employed in minimal employment opportunities.


The project also looked at innovative measures needed to help refugees expand their enterprises and stimulate the economies of their host countries, such as access to education, credit and incubators to make it easier to start up a business. Through this platform we envisioned heightening the Youth Community Action Projects that we incubate to establish small and medium youth-focused bulk industries that can enhance avenues for value-addition chains and full utilisation of the numerous natural resources within the refugee settlement to allow for more job creations in the refugee settlement.

The one-week leadership and entrepreneurship development training in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Western Uganda targeted 50 influential high school students who would then significantly influence many of their peers. The training brought together 14 experienced youth facilitators from Burundi, Cameroon, DRC, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda who spearheaded the whole training.

During the two-week training, the 50 young leaders were taken through entrepreneurship and leadership training, at which they came up with five income-generating projects that they want to implement as groups with the youths they lead. They underwent training on how to identify a need in their community, design a solution to the need, come up with a plan to implement the solution and how to pitch their business idea to an investor.

The major and most important part of the two-week conference was the youth entrepreneurship challenge where the participants, predominantly selected high school leaders from all over the camp with their enterprises, were evaluated based on each group’s passions – a need the enterprise will address in a locality, its youth peace engagement strategy and its ability to be replicated by other youths in the community and that can allow for employment creation over time. Each participant was later awarded a certificate for successfully going through the leadership and entrepreneurship training.