This year saw a record number of applicants for the DAREnterprisers course. With over 200 applications for just 40 places, the enthusiasm among university students to participate in the programme and develop their own business models is only growing.
Dar es Salaam is the 9th fastest growing city in the world; yet, despite its potential for social, economic and technological development, youth unemployment remains a large problem in the country. According to recent figures, 900,000 professionals compete for just 60,000 jobs in the formal sector. Considering this shortage, the importance of individual initiative among young graduates is becoming indispensable.
Through conversations with our participants at the start of the course, this entrepreneurial mindset and eagerness to tackle unaddressed social problems became ever clearer. However, as my fellow volunteer, Issy Houston, referred to in in her blog, we have identified an emerging disparity between the aims of Tanzanian students and the extent to which they feel able to pursue such careers. Many of our participants stated their frustration with the way that their university education leaves them under-equipped to pursue an independent career pathway: they feel they lack skills in business training and are uncertain of how to get their business ideas off the ground.
It is this mismatch between the teaching given in institutions of learning and the needs of the labour market which the DAREnterprisers course intends to address. Set up in 2014, the interactive programme is unique in being the first course run by a team of students from both Cambridge and Tanzanian universities which is focused upon ‘human-centred design’. The goal is not only to motivate our shortlisted candidates to produce tangible business ideas, but also to challenge them to make positive social impact by focusing their businesses on issues within their local communities.
As we enter the third week of the course, participants have started narrowing down their business ideas and assessing their viability and potential impact. Alongside learning some key business theory, participants have already had the chance to conduct research in their local communities, attend workshops with inspiring entrepreneurs, and go on site visits to successful businesses and factories.
We are particularly encouraged to hear that many participants are enjoying the interactive nature of our course: it is a key goal of the project to implement peer-to-peer learning, as opposed to the heavily lectured-based style of their university education. Week two was packed full of sessions focused on business ideation and divergent thinking, encouraging both the CDI team and the participants to think creatively and come up with as many innovative business solutions as possible. This is the unique strength of our course: students facilitating student initiatives, youth supporting youth. One of the key points of action identified at The Promise of Youth in Africa Conference 2016 was to ‘acknowledge and support youth as individuals who can powerfully support one another’, and this is a point CDI’s Entrepreneurship Project focusses its work upon. The co-inspiration and relatability of the CDI volunteers working with the course participants is at the heart of its vision and its success.
Whilst the DAREnterprisers course is currently a small part of a necessarily wider picture of jobs-for-youth development programs, we believe that it can make progressive steps towards encouraging Tanzanian students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and become social advocates for their own communities. It is at this crucial stage in the course that the initial enthusiasm of our participants begins to transform into tangible business propositions, and we can now start to look forward to the point when these students can pitch their ideas to a conference of industry experts and local organisations, and take the first steps towards pioneering positive social change.