Supporting Entrepreneurs in Developing CountriesFrom 2002 to 2012, the World Bank invested around 9 billion dollars in skills training programs for aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries. The hope was to counteract the shortage of schools worldwide. However, because these programs suffered from low participation and high dropout rates, they seldom lasted long enough to make any real impact. After doing a cost and benefits analysis of these programs, the World Bank found that they were not successful in increasing participant income. Consequently, the World Bank has started to withdraw its support from these programs, citing that there are several problems with the initiatives.

With the failure of such programs, aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries need a more efficient system to support them. Currently, more than two billion workers in these countries are unable to meet the requirements of possible employers, including necessary literacy skills. There are now about 420 million incapable workers below the age of 25. As a country’s economy evolves, locals need to adapt to changing needs. However, an overwhelming amount of people do not have the skill sets to do so.

Possible Solutions

One solution to this problem has been introducing programs that cultivate entrepreneurship in Africa’s youth and women. There have been several programs already instituted to work towards this goal, including the Pan-African Youth Entrepreneur Development (paid), BeniBiz, Apoio e Geração e Incremento de Renda (AGIR), Impulsa Tu Empresa 2.0 (ITE 2.0) and Crece Tu Empresa (CRECE). 

These programs offer content and training in creating and maintaining businesses. They also offer lessons on accounting, management and finance. Some cater to individuals, while others cater to business owners. Graduation programs, which are now in the works, also intend to provide entrepreneurship learning services for lower prices. Overall, there are many options for aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries. Two programs that especially stand out are the Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) graduation program and Business Lab Africa (BLA).

Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB)

The International Labor Organization created Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) in 1977. It offers vocational training that has shown concrete results. People can use the locally relevant knowledge they gain from this program to work jobs that are in-demand and make a living for themselves and their families. The program also offers business management training. It teaches skills in accounting, finance, creating and maintaining business and management practices. Thus far, this program has more than 15 million users and is still growing. 

SIYB has been able to change the lives of many of its users. In 2011, the program conducted a SIYB Global Tracer Study that examined the effects of the program on users’ lives. About one-third of users who had no prior experience in business before receiving SIYB training were able to generate an average of three new jobs following its curriculum. SIYB is continuing to update its technology. In fact, a new version of its web-based monitoring platform (SIYB Gateway) is expected to launch in 2020.

Business Lab Africa (BLA)

The Business Lab Africa program (BLA) works to help African entrepreneurs succeed in business areas. The program itself is subscription-based and provides quality entrepreneurship training at inexpensive price points. This makes it easily accessible to entrepreneurs in developing countries. The program’s services can be accessed via mobile or web.

BLA “offers practical, qualitative and locally relevant” knowledge around marketing, sales, global expansion, business structure, processes and business models. Teachers in this program are distinguished business experts who teach relevant skills that entrepreneurs in developing countries can use to support themselves. Thus far, it has trained more than one million entrepreneurs both online and in person. By 2022, BLA estimates that its user base will increase to at least 100,000 people.

These programs are generally tailored to fit the needs of underprivileged individuals, offering both asset transfer and training. Additionally, they do not require repayment of initial grants, which would usually create an insurmountable barrier to student success and self-sustainability. With these programs, people living in underdeveloped countries will have the opportunity to access the educational tools needed to succeed despite staggering economic situations. 

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr