Young Entrepreneurs Making Waves in Africa: A chat with Now AfriCAN
Laura Seay is an assistant professor of political science at Morehouse College. You can read more about Laura’s research on African politics, development and security at Texas in Africa. In this post she is interviewing Priscillia Kounkou Hoveyda, the co-founder of Now AfriCAN, a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower African youth living in post-conflict zones by leveraging education, microfinance and the media.
What led you and the co-founders to start Now AfriCAN?
Now AfriCAN started as a radio show, the idea was to disseminate positive stories about accomplishments in Africa. Nowadays, most of the stories we hear about Africa are either about war, famine or poverty; we wanted to let the world know that there is much more going on in Africa, that African people accomplish wonderful ventures too. So Camille and I decided to set up this radio show that we had called at the time “Parce que nous le pouvons” (“Because we can”) and we started collecting stories of African successes in our neighborhood in Eastern Congo and inviting young successful fellows who made it out of war or poverty to share their testimonies. Our motivation was really to inject hope in Congo. It was a real success!
How is the Now AfriCAN approach different from traditional NGO’s or other efforts to help young people in conflict situations?
Now AfriCAN’s approach is sustainable and this is the key difference. When all NGOs do a fantastic job, it is either centralized in the US with policy efforts and no direct impact on the ground in people’s lives OR it is about sending money constantly to respond to an immediate need. Both approaches are needed but Now AfriCAN takes the sustainable approach. Let me explain: for example the micro-finance prong offers the possibility for young entrepreneurs to launch their business ventures, to that end, Now AfriCAN provides different amounts of money to inject in the selected businesses but before making the sum available, the young entrepreneur attends ten sessions where classes such as how to launch your micro-venture, how to make a business plan, how to cut losses and maximize profits, etc. are taught. It is only once those skills are acquired and mastered that the young entrepreneur receives the sum of money needed for his/her venture. How does this create sustainability? Well, the young entrepreneur does not only receive “money” (which is what is usually done in the aid world) but also a concrete skill set about micro-ventures so that he can avoid making mistakes, act based on what he knows and what he has and not only what he has. Now AfriCAN trains the youth in accessing their dreams and does not only throw money at them thinking, “now, they are fine.”
The same principle applies to the media prong where our reporters are trained on how to write a compelling story, how to conduct a successful interview, etc. and can then decide to use these reporting skills elsewhere as well, if they want to. It is about making future businessmen, leaders and not simple charity.
How does Now AfriCAN help young people to start businesses?
Young entrepreneurs are selected based on their business ideas, motivation and seriousness. They then enroll in the Leadership Academy where they are taught how to start a micro-venture, make profits, cut losses, why marketing is important, what does return on investment mean and other key concepts alike. After ten sessions, they take an exam and if successful, they are then awarded the grant. Universities in Congo do not have the expertise to teach solid knowledge on micro-ventures and business. Many young entrepreneurs have great ideas but no knowledge nor the financial means to implement their business ideas, Now AfriCAN doesn’t only give the financial means, it also provides with the knowledge. Once the skills are acquired and the funds received, Now AfriCAN follows the young entrepreneur in the implementation of the business and remains available for business advice and guidance when necessary.
Why did Now AfriCAN choose business development as one of its key activities?
The founders at Now AfriCAN are firm believers that a healthy economy offer jobs, and that jobs offer the financial means to provide an education for the family’s children who then will vote wisely, as educated, and eventually change the government, if necessary. Additionally, business development is a self-reliant and sustainable approach that does not constantly cry for charity. Of course, not everyone wants to become a business man/woman so other efforts are also needed.
How can our readers help Now AfriCAN’s efforts to improve young peoples’ lives in the D.R. Congo?
If you live in America, you can join our fundraising events, read the stories posted by our trained reporters online, drop a comment, spread the word about us and of course donate! Now AfriCAN is a young organization that needs a lot of help in order to be able to grow rapidly, if you want to make a difference in Africa, you can trust us that this is the direction we are taking because we believe in Africa, we believe that Now Africa can.