This February, Canadian Feed The Children (CFTC) joins with all Canadians in marking Black History Month. As a partner to communities in African countries for over 30 years, we are always aware of our shared historical and present-day connections.
This month, we will be championing the stories of African entrepreneurs who are making great strides within their communities. This is especially crucial since youth unemployment in Africa is a staggering 11% because of educational, socio-demographic, and economic factors. Globally, one in five young people are NEET: Not in Employment, Education, or Training. 75% of NEETs are young women.
Gender inequality hurdles like inability to own land, reduced access to credit and early/forced marriage or migration disproportionately affect a woman’s ability to be gainfully employed or start their own businesses. This has led to an 8% unemployment rate throughout Africa for women, versus only 6% for men.
Highlighting the stories of African entrepreneurs who, with the assistance of our local community partners, have obtained essential resources to establish and nurture their businesses, underscores an ongoing commitment to supporting African livelihoods. This acknowledgment recognizes their significance not only within their communities but also on a national and global scale.
In honour of Black History Month, we're thrilled to shine a spotlight on the incredible stories of African entrepreneurs, especially the vibrant and innovative youth who are shaping the future.
Tsigehana's Poultry Business
Until recently, Tsigehana’s work as a day labourer in Ethiopia was just not enough to feed and care for her daughter, Hiywot. Her low income and lack of opportunities meant she and Hiywot had to live with her parents, who helped bear the costs of raising her daughter.
Funded by the Slaight Family Foundation in partnership with Canadian Feed The Children's family of supporters, Tsigehana was one of 177 women entrepreneurs who started an agricultural-based business. She received training in basic business skills, including developing a business plan, financial management, customer service and marketing.
Starting with 22 egg-laying hens, she earns 220 birr per day. Thanks to the training, capital, and the chickens she received, Tsigehana has more than tripled her income in just a few months. She says she is now a confident entrepreneur, and looks forward to growing her business even more.
Most importantly, the increase in income has made a world of difference for Hiywot, and is helping support her parents as well. She no longer worries about Hiywot's future: "As my income grows, I am able to meet her needs."
For Zeena, educating her children is important. While she has never been to school herself, she hopes for her children to progress to higher levels of education so they can access better opportunities and contribute to their community.
When the pandemic hit, paying for their education became much more challenging. Zeena tells us: “It was difficult for me and my husband to get money and buy school uniforms, pens, books, shoes, and bags for our children’s education.”
Fortunately, in 2020, Zeena was able to join a women's beekeeping cooperative in her community in Ghana, where she received training and supplies funded by donations from CFTC supporters.
Now, years later, the cooperative is doing quite well. Zeena proudly tells us that the cooperative’s vision is to become the leading producer of honey in the five northern regions. And it seems they’re well on their way! Most importantly to Zeena though, her children thrive in school.
Today, thanks to her beekeeping income, she's also raising livestock and making improvements to her farm. She even hopes to open her own store in the near future. She is thankful for the beekeeping cooperative because it has brought her financial security and peace of mind.
In a VSLA, members deposit their money into a shared fund, and each member receives a set amount on a rotating basis each month. This allows them to start a business, cover costs for family needs, and access credit, often for the very first time.
For one group in Uganda, their VSLA called Bagaga Kwagalana (“Collaborating Rich”) has meant greater financial security for them and their families. Sylvia is the chairperson of Bagaga Kwagalana, and this opportunity has allowed her to create her own salon business, which is thriving.
“This salon … you can’t imagine what it means to me. Having this business is a dream come true. I am now earning from my skills,” Sylvia says.
The Next Generation
Youth entrepreneurship plays a crucial role in fostering economic empowerment in Africa. By embracing innovative ideas and launching new businesses, young entrepreneurs contribute to job creation, poverty reduction, and economic stability. This not only elevates individual lives but also strengthens the economic fabric of entire communities and nations.
Through our local partners in Ghana, Erica and Gafaru were two of around 40 youths who received crucial skills training to help further their livelihoods. Both Erica and Gafaru learned beadwork, which they transformed into thriving businesses. Youths in their community received either beadwork, electronic repair and installation, soap making or barbering training in the hopes of providing the upcoming generation with solid vocational foundations.
By completing these youth trainings and learning these valuable vocational skills, both Erica and Gafaru are gainfully employed, which promotes their local economies. Gafaru shares that his community is now known because of these created youth products, especially beadwork. This advances his local community, which in turn has an effect on the global economy as a whole.
Uplifting African Entrepreneurs for Black History Month
We thank our local partners TradeAid Integrated and RAINS in Ghana, HUYSLINCI, UCOBAC and CEDO in Uganda, and WRDA, EDA and CHADET in Ethiopia for supporting community members with their entrepreneurial visions, and helping to train the next generation businessmen and women.
Thank you to our wonderful group of dedicated donors, who make it possible for this ongoing work to continue. Your support and solidarity play a critical role in helping African entrepreneurs achieve food security and lift their families from poverty.
For Black History Month, we encourage everyone to learn more about the effects of inequality on current food and economic systems in Africa, and how they are linked to global food insecurity.
WHERE CFTC WORKS AND WHY: AFRICA
Learn more about our work with local partners in Ghana, Ethiopia and Uganda. Discover the rich histories of these countries, the unique issues that communities face, and how CFTC-supported local programs are working hard to ensure communities thrive.