Creating a sustainable tomorrow

Cécile Billaux Head of Unit Micro-economic Analysis, Investment Climate, Private sector, Trade and Employment, Directorate-General for International Partnerships European Commission

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Team Europe supports small businesses and young entrepreneurs as key for Africa’s sustainable growth.

In Africa, 60% of the population is under 24 years old. Despite their number and key role in shaping the continent’s future, young adults face challenges that prevent them from achieving their potential.

To name a few: high rates of poverty, overrepresentation in the informal sector and limited access to decent employment and finance. These challenges place youth, particularly women, in a vulnerable position. By 2030, 25.6 million more young people around the world will arrive on the labour market, mainly in Africa, the European Union’s close partner. Even at pre-COVID growth rates, many of these young people would not have found a job. The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the situation. Small businesses are being hit the hardest, especially those owned by youth and women.

Small business at the centre of support

Youth are at the centre of the EU support aimed at strengthening micro, small and medium-sized companies and the business environment. This support is holistic, as it tackles both the supply and demand sides. The EU helps empower young people by easing access to education and developing skills, while boosting entrepreneurship opportunities and creating jobs.

One example is a recently signed €20 million EU partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation and GIZ, a German development agency, which supports African women entrepreneurs. The programme offers seed and venture capital to young women who want to start or grow their business. It also provides gender-sensitive entrepreneurship training and business development services to navigate through the start-up and early growth phases of businesses.


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Team Europe

The EU’s commitment to support the private sector and young entrepreneurs in Africa, and the continent’s long-term growth, is also reflected in the EU’s programming for 2021-2027. Acting together as Team Europe is crucial in the fight against the pandemic and its consequences. This approach brings together the expertise, networks and resources of the whole EU family – the European Commission, the EU Member States and the European financial institutions.

Finland works with women entrepreneurs in developing countries. The International Trade Centre is our key multilateral partner. We have specifically decided to emphasize women and youth entrepreneurship in our five million euro support to the ITC during 2021–2022.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently announced a new Team Europe initiative called ‘Investing in Young Businesses in Africa', which will help micro, small and medium-sized companies across the continent take off, expand and create decent jobs. It will do so by: 1) increasing financial and technical support to small companies at pre-seed stage as well as to micro companies 2) supporting access to finance for start-ups at seed and early stages, and 3) supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the investment climate.

Our commitment today is to help micro businesses and start-ups raise the finance they need to launch or expand and support efforts to improve the investment climate.
By doing so, we are walking the talk when it comes to solidarity with our African partners, involving the young generations at this crucial juncture.

Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships

Youth lies at the heart of the EU efforts, because young people have the potential to create a sustainable tomorrow and a better planet for all.

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