At UNDP Innovation Talks: Young Entrepreneurs Showcase Skills, Opportunities & Express Need for Financing

Close to 30 young entrepreneurs have been convened in Yaounde, Cameroon as part of activities to launch the first edition of the UNDP innovation talks.

Photo credit: United Nations Development Programme, Cameroon

Liz Ngwane, 28, is a female entrepreneur who has created a clothing and fashion enterprise known as “Margo’s Mode”.

The young environmental engineer by training was among the youths gathered in Yaounde on August 23, 2023, for the first-ever edition of the UNDP innovation talks.  

Liz Nwane just like other youths shared her experience as a young entrepreneur in the fashion industry.

“We believe that sustainability is about creating jobs for the local community. But one thing that is very fascinating about the whole program with the United Nations Development Programme today, it involves young people in innovation and I belong to an industry that I think, is such a beautiful driver of change. The fashion industry has the power to change not just me, but everyone. We all wear clothes today and you can understand that this is an industry that touches up to 17% of the United Nations’ SDGs.”  She said.

According to Liz Ngwane, this new project put in place by UNDP is a space of expression, that will help to seek innovative solutions, and financing and build resilience for many young entrepreneurs who face challenging issues in their daily activities.

She went further to praise this initiative that sets the pace for youths to be upskilled in workshops to grant the necessary tips that will guide them in entrepreneurship.

She said: “I face a lot of challenges every day, especially financial challenges, so we are looking at what the UNDP can come up with after this meeting, as we expose our problems in the entrepreneurship sector. Apart from the challenges we face, through this meeting, we also discovered that we have issues in building our skills in managing an enterprise. Take for instance, I have a background in engineering which is different from running a business. We hope UNDP will launch a series of workshops that will help us upgrade our skills. And I also appreciate this initiative because of the various entrepreneurs I have met here, it is quite impressive to see how young people invest themselves.”

Another participant encountered at the UNDP innovation talks is Mr. Laye Mbunkur of Bluemoon Limited, a technological organization based in Buea, South-West region of the country.

The young managing director saluted the initiative of UNDP which according to him, comes in to reinforce the mindsets of young entrepreneurs who are left on their own.

Laye Mbunkur said through this program, he was able to discuss with other peers the numerous challenges that cripple their businesses and exchange innovative solutions.

“Our challenges are the challenges of all technological organizations in Buea and elsewhere. If I have to cite our main challenges, we first face the problem of access to finance which affects most start-ups and small businesses. Then comes, the issues of access to markets, skills, and capacities. Added to that, the issues of regulations as Cameroon is still one of those countries to acquire the start-up Act and so we do not have particular regulations that are dedicated to start-ups, in a bid to accompany start-ups through the process of growth…”

The president of the National Youth Council of Cameroon, Fadimatou Iyawa seized the occasion to share some best practices with her young peers and encourage them to strive forward and succeed in their businesses.

In his key address, the spearheader of this initiative, the Resident Representative of UNDP in Cameroon, Mr. Aliou Mamadou Dia warmly welcomed the youths who were present at this gathering.

Mr. Aliou Mamadou Dia said the UNDP innovation talks were initiated to bring together different stakeholders to brainstorm and create development solutions.

The patron of UNDP Cameroon expressed satisfaction after listening to the different ideas developed, solutions brought forward and the next steps proposed by the participants who have shown proof of commitment in their various sectors of life.

He outlined: “For this first edition we have focused on young entrepreneurs. They have brilliant ideas and it is good to see the engagement and commitment that these young men and women have to make their businesses work. UNDP is just trying to bring them together, to create a platform for brainstorming and innovative solutions. We are here to see how we can support them better because they know what are the issues and also know what are the solutions. But for us, it is also a way to gather these solutions and package them so that we can scale up their efforts.”

UNDP’s Resident Representative acknowledged the fact that Cameroon has made a lot of strides in terms of sustainable development goals and such initiatives are a strong force in accompanying the country to achieve its developmental agendas.

“When it comes to sustainable development goals, SDGs, Cameroon has been making great progress but there is a need also to bring those young entrepreneurs on board so that at least we can achieve these SDGs by 2030.”

He added: “This is the first edition with the youths, but my next targets will be women entrepreneurs. We are going to bring women entrepreneurs from all over the country just like people living with disabilities because as you know the SDGs are about leaving no one behind”.

 The theme chosen by the host organization for this first edition was: “Engaging with young Entrepreneurs and innovators”.

The UNDP innovation talks aim at mobilizing key development actors from various sectors, periodically, in a bid to share their vision and co-create innovative ideas and strategies to help Cameroon eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities.

As underscored, the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, through this newly launched initiative pursues one of its core missions, that of supporting the government in achieving goals set up within the framework of the 2030 National Development Strategy, NDS30.

Elise Kenimbeni

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