In Conversation with Alvin Nyika

Social Entrepreneurship for the African Youth 


What inspires your work?

In life we are what we are because either God or other people made a sacrifice for us to be where we are today. This is what makes me get inspired everyday because other people have also scarified for me to be where l am today. That feeling you have when you have made an impact in someone’s life; that alone is a gift of inspiration.

How is social entrepreneurship perceived by the youth?

Social entrepreneurship can be one of Africa’s most befitting avenues for economic transformation. The youth have mixed reactions to social entrepreneurs; some are still trying to understand the concept behind social entrepreneurs and other are still facing challenges in trying to create sustainable models for their enterprises. l think that we should create an enabling environment for youth in Africa that would like to be social entrepreneurs.

What inspires these perceptions?

Social entrepreneurship provides optimal responses to the most pressing needs of society such as empowering youth to make good use of their potential and design creative solutions to positively impact lives around them. It is quite interesting to see that this field of entrepreneurship, so often perceived as a means to richness, can also be such a powerful tool to uplift others. Social entrepreneurs, similar to business entrepreneurs, build sustainable organisations that are either set up as non-profit or for-profit social enterprises aimed at driving social innovation and transformation in various fields, including education, health, environment and enterprise development. They pursue poverty alleviation goals with entrepreneurial zeal, business methods and the courage to innovate and overcome traditional practices

To what extent is social entrepreneurship embraced by youth?

Youth in Africa have taken an active role to embrace social entrepreneurship; some of them are taking part in social entrepreneurship boot camps in the region where they get an opportunity to network and learn from each other. These boot camps have also opened mentoring and training avenues for some youth; the ideas and potential that’s in the in our African youth can change the landscape of social entrepreneurship in Africa.

What incentives can we present to the youth to encourage them to venture into social entrepreneurship?

These could be some of the few steps that can be taken to encourage youth to venture into social entrepreneurship:

  1. Embed entrepreneurship skills from primary school onwards,
  2. Expand proven skills and training path ways,
  3. Expand support and mentoring programs to support young people setting up and running enterprises,
  4. Invest in professional staff support within social enterprises to support specific young people to stay engaged and achieve their skills and employment goals,
  5. Provide a supportive environment that accepts creativity, risk, failure and multiple attempts,
  6. Encourage investment in early stage startups and employment- focused social enterprises.

Capital is a major hurdle for the youth; how can this challenge be addressed?

“I have a great idea for a business. But I don’t have any money to start it up.” This phrase is something I’ve heard again and again . . . and again—from students, friends, and sometimes even colleagues. You might be limited to a strict budget when you want to start a business, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have any options. It is possible to start a business with very little money, if you have the right combination of skills, work ethic and marketing know-how. To succeed in a business project, especially one you’re excited about, it helps to think carefully about all the skills you have that could be helpful to others and particularly about the combination of those skills. If you are confident that you have a product or service people want, don’t allow the lack of capital to deter you from your business goals. By pivoting, grinding it out, getting creative, and differentiating yourself, you can bootstrap your way to a successful business:

  • Resell something

If you don’t want to make anything (or you don’t consider yourself a creative person), many business owners have grown large businesses just be reselling products that have already been made.

  • Make something

Think outside the box; don’t be limited to your environment. Develop a pilot sample product. Whatever you decide to make is up to you but there are several places you can sell your product. This shows some level of commitment from you and also to your potential investor.

  • Sell your services

One way to start a business with little to no startup capital is to sell your services, instead of a physical product. There’s a huge variety of services you can offer, depending on your background and interests

  • Barter to get what you need.

Unfortunately, it’s extremely hard to start a business without any type of funds at all. Even creating a freelance-writing business utilizing Elance and a free WordPress or Wix website will still require a computer to work on as well as Internet. However, there are ways to get supplies you need for starting your business without money. For instance, if you find yourself in need of a used laptop try to barter for it. Build a new website for a used electronics supplier, or offer babysitting services to your neighbor for their old Desktop machine.

  • Get creative. Funding sources are everywhere

Sometimes you have to get into the trenches and make it happen.Traditional entrepreneurship philosophy dictates that, to be successful, you should stick with one thing and not deviate from it. But desperate times call for desperate measures. If you are having trouble finding access to funds, there are a number of creative things you can do.

Africa has been a field for many social entrepreneurship ventures, has this contributed to the overall development of the African societies?

Progress, however, is slow. There are some organizations dedicated to raising funds but the involvement of communities-in-need is still minimal. So it is a scenario of constantly giving the fish and not teaching people how to fish. There is no sustainable benefit accruing to these communities.

What major factor(s) should a young person seeking to venture into social entrepreneurship consider?

Being an entrepreneur, social or otherwise, requires something more than being passionate about one’s cause and/or running it like a business. It must be defined as doing things in ways that have not been done before. Social entrepreneurship strives to combine the heart of business with the heart of the community through the creativity of the individual.

Challenges they can expect and ways to address these challenges?

First, governments need to step in as an enabler to support entrepreneurs to ensure that they have the finance needed as well as access to information and the technology required to ensure their businesses can grow.

Secondly, social entrepreneurs themselves need to create networks across national boundaries.

Finally, in many African countries social entrepreneurship is stifled by a range of bureaucratic barriers such as the failure to provide information needed by entrepreneurs to develop their businesses and walls that limit their ability to export and scale up their models.

Last words to the young people out there:

Where the mind goes the man follows; do something today that your future self will thank you for. Be an entrepreneur, be an innovator. Young entrepreneurs are to a large extent responsible for the creation of jobs in Africa now and in future. Work harder! Be resilient! Try harder! The future is only yours to make. If there are heroes in the world you can bet you are one of them, just by trying to do what almost everyone is afraid of. A social entrepreneur “is a different kind of social leader” who, among other things, “applies practical solutions to social problems by combining innovation, resourcefulness and opportunity; innovates by finding a new product, service or approach to a social problem; focuses foremost on social value creation, whether legally constituted as a for-profit or not-for-profit; and is fully accountable to the constituencies he or she serves”

Alvin Nyika is an accomplished entrepreneur, engaging speaker, Christian thought leader, author of Success Climate, co- author of Africa80 and philanthropist. Founder of Africa80 based in South Africa a Pan African Organization that creates collaboration platforms for African youth in more than 40 African countries. A serial social entrepreneur, Alvin founded not only Core Foundation, an educational facility developing social entrepreneurial skills among youth, but also Gibeon Enterprises and Success Climate Social Enterprise, two organizations that, like Core Foundation, work to inspire economic advancement and social change throughout Zimbabwe and greater Africa. In order to inspire others to become involved with and support social change, Alvin has recently taken on ambassadorial roles for similar educational institutions: Kenyan Change Minds Change Future organization and Sterio.Me, which operates in over 10 African countries including Nigeria, Uganda, and Ethiopia. He also communicates regularly to a growing audience through radio talk shows on SFM on The Entrepreneur and The Morning Grill. ZiFM on Enterprise Zimbabwe and Impact and ZBC Radio Zimbabwe on Vechidikivarimumabhizimusi (youth in business), BBC Radio Merseyside, Africa80. Alvin is a trustee to numerous charities in Africa and has been featured in Parade Magazine, Botswana Youth Portal, Africa Inspirational Stories, Venture Africa, ModernGhana, NaydChat (Kenya) and the African View Point Journal. Nominated Judge for Africa Youth Awards 20 under 20 Change Makers. Alvin has also been recognized as an inaugural member of the World Economic Forum Harare Global Shapers Community, was winner of an African Youth Award Africa Change Makers, and was nominated as one of the 100 most influential Zimbabweans under 40 in 2014 and 2015. Alvin tweets via @AlvinNyika

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