Zambian youth turn to entrepreneurship as unemployment bites

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA - JANUARY 20: Zambians queue to cast their ballots for the Zambian Presidential elections in front of the city library in Lusaka on January 20, 2015. (Photo by Jean Mandela/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Market stalls and sellers in Livingstone, Zambia. As joblessness persists, many young people in the country are turning to commerce.

Youth unemployment remains one of the challenges confronting virtually all countries around the globe today.

As more and more young people graduate from higher institutions of learning, conventional employment opportunities seem to be dwindling.

This has forced some young people in Zambia to look to alternative ways of earning incomes and running small businesses is slowly becoming their mainstay of getting hired.

It is now common to see young people from both rural and urban parts of the country involved in businesses with many of them earning a living solely from their enterprises.

“I started by helping out at a hair salon run by my elder sister. After learning the ropes, I decided to invest my all in hairdressing and hair accessories,” said Grace Phiri, 25, a resident of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.

Phiri revealed that she currently earns about 150 Zambian Kwacha (about 7 U.S. dollars) each day from selling hair accessories and hairplaiting.

According to Phiri, a number of her peers who ventured into businesses are doing well. She added that young people are increasingly becoming enterprising in a bid to counter unemployment.

And Kelida Banda, 26, who runs mobile money businesses that has provided employment to three other young people, said it is more fulfilling to create one’s own opportunities for employment.

“I no longer wish to look for employment because I am comfortable being self-employed. I earn about 9,000 Zambian Kwacha (about 400 U.S. dollars) every month. I am now working on ways to expand my business,” said Banda.

Patrick Dilaiva, 25 and a resident of Siavonga, a town in southern Zambia, said lack of conventional employment opportunities has pushed many young people in Zambia to venture into businesses.

Dilaiva, a professional fisherman, further observed that even those that are considered to be highly educated have also joined other young people in being enterprising.

“We have among us university graduates that have chosen to be fishermen and have actually become good at it,” he said.

Dilaiva asserted that while youth unemployment may be considered as a bad thing, it is also an opportunity for young individuals to innovate and create their own job opportunities.

He, however, emphasized the need for young people to have access to start-up capital, noting that would accord many young people with great business ideas to realize their dreams.

Dilaiva’s views were echoed by Zizo Muleya, 24, who specializes in selling village chickens in Zambia’s border town of Chirundu.

Muleya, who earns an average of about 5,000 Zambian Kwacha from selling livestock, said that being self-employed as opposed to being employed by others instills a sense of responsibility and ownership in an individual.

“I believe being self-employed helps one to be disciplined with resources such as time and money. Those in unconventional jobs also tend to be more resilient to social and economic shocks and are often open to new ideas,” he added.

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