Ipyet/Sustainability of Youth Enterprises

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Welcome to Module 4. This is the fourth of five modules on the IPYET 2011 Online programme. The first module set the tone for the discussions we have had so far and will explore for the remainder of the sessions and the residential programme. Module 2 took us further up the chain on entrepreneurship training by exploring some of the critical elements during an example workshop. It explored some fundamental challenges trainers face in such workshops –teaching costing and finance. After all the basics of what a business is, why start your own business, types of enterprises, etc., while a bedrock of a solid entrepreneurship training, will become worthless if the training programme did not include such strong elements of financial management. Module 3 then took us into the world of perceptions! While some may argue that business/enterprises and its management are purely scientific being for which people can be though, social and physiological elements such as the orientation, acculturation, and perceptions of people can affect these to a large extent. Module 3 therefore discussed the perceptions of people on gender, child labour and disability, and how these affect training and the running of the businesses itself. Now, the business is formed, how do we sustain it! This is crust of our discussions in Module four.

Build it, it shall stand!!

A well built house can surely stand, wouldn’t it? But will it – even against earthquakes and tsunamis – if these weren’t planned for? There are strong houses and strong-looking houses. It is surely a test of some greater force of nature that mostly distinguishes these. Several engineering feats have revealed that, with proper planning and taking into account a lot of different negating factors, and planning well for these, you can build in very soft stand, and have it still standing after major forces plummet it.

Do all businesses last? Do some businesses fail? Why do businesses fail? How do we know that a business has failed? Is a running business necessarily a successful business? How can we tell that a business has failed even if it still opens its doors for business? How will be defined a sustained business? What elements can ensure sustainability of businesses?

Obviously, the IPYET programme is not about advocating for building houses in soft sand, but the scenario described earlier may very well come in handy for businesses and especially trainers. How many youth entrepreneurs have you trained? How many of them went ahead to form their own businesses? How many of those businesses formed have “survived” after a defined period – say, one, two, or three year? Some trainers may argue that their jobs are to train these entrepreneurs and not necessarily to follow them throughout their business life. However the mammoth question is, how do you feel about 80% of all young people you trained having successful businesses three years down the road? Equally, how do you feel about all the businesses the young people you trained having failed less than six months from your training?

So what is a sustainable business?

It is estimated that as much as 80% of all small and micro businesses fail within the first two years of start-up! Disputing the figures? Yes, you are allowed. These may be figures for the US and you are allowed to generalise it only for more developed countries. But wait, if those are the figure in more developed countries, how does Africa and third world countries perform? Very little quantitative data has been captured and analysed to determine a very accurate figure for failed small businesses in Africa. However, several undefined terms and unasked or unanswered questions may hamper such a determination.

  • What is a failed business – are these folded or inspirational enterprises only?
  • What is a sustained businesses – are these businesses which open their doors daily for businesses; undertaking a continuous/sustained level of production capacity or production levels; are these having a sustained level of profit figures; are these maintaining a sustained number of customers; making returns on investments; are these enterprises still in the same businesses they started with one, two, three years ago; etc?
  • What factors contribute to the un-sustainability of businesses – inadequate training; too much social and family interference; acts of nature; health issues; conflicts; demand conditions; changing markets; technological changes; etc?

Clarity is indeed needed for these and many other questions for trainers and entrepreneurs to effectively promote actions that will ensure that youth businesses are made indeed sustainable.

During the residential programme several of these questions will be explored. The online discussions will however touch on two main issues – HIV/AIDS and ICTs – and how they affect the sustainability of businesses. These topics have been chosen not because they are the only issues affecting the sustainability of businesses, but because they are two pressing issues affecting youth enterprises today. Both the ILO and Commonwealth have taken several interventions in these areas. Several countries of IPYET participants have also voiced these issues as major developmental concerns.

Key Questions

By the time you finish the online discussions on this module, you should have explored how health and wellbeing, especially HIV and AIDS, as well as ICTs impact in businesses. You should have further explored interventions towards generating businesses bottom-line benefits in these issues.

How this module is organised

There are two sub-modules. Each sub-module can be organised as a stand-alone course.

Module 4.1: HIV/AIDS and Sustainability of Youth Enterprises explores the impact of health and wellbeing on businesses with particular focus on HIV and AIDS. it is assumed that all participants have a sound basic understanding of the history and effects of HIV/AIDS. While this is assumed, a brief synopsis is provided on possible impacts on businesses. The sub-module further puts forward some of the general intervention areas taken by businesses and encourages discussions on these. Your moderator for this sub-module is Victor Mensah. Get ready for a lot of discussions and participation in the class.

Module 4.2: ICTs and Sustainability of Youth Enterprises discusses the nature and use of ICTs in business. The types and costs of various IC options are discussed. The concept of Sustainable ICT Platforms is presented, and discussed generated on mechanisms for ensuring marked benefits from ICTs in a youth enterprise. Your moderator for this discussion, Brian Sikute is an IT specialist with expertise in several platforms. With his experience in moderating e-discussions, he will no doubt ensure that you have an experience that will leave you wanting for more during the residential programme.

General Recommended Readings:

Daly K. (2000). Business Response to HIV/AIDS: Impact and Lessons Learned. Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, Global Business Council on HIV & AIDS, http://www.hrhresourcecenter.org/node/927

OECD (2002a), “The Impacts of Electronic Commerce on Business: Summary”,

USAID Africa Bureau (2002). How Does HIV/AIDS Affect African Businesses? Population, Health and Nutrition Information Project, United States Agency for International Development, Washington D.C.

Velden, M. van der (2002) ‘Knowledge facts, knowledge fiction: the role of ICTs in knowledge management for development’ Journal of International development, Special Issue: Information and communication technologies (ICTs) and development, Editor Richard Heeks, Volume 14, No1 January 2002, Wiley

Zielinski, C. (2001) ‘The changing role of information in development’, Conference paper, The Institute of Information Scientists (IIS): Information for development forum (IDF) Development and information 2001 seminar, Impact Evaluation of Services and Projects.