Bangladesh, home to 160.9 million people is growing at a rate of 7.9%. Almost 65% of the country’s population is aged between 15-64 years.2 Youth labour force (aged 15-29 years) is the largest proportion of the country’s total labor force which is 31.6%. Thus, this is the right time for Bangladesh to invest in the human capital of its youth population if the country wants to reap the benefits of this demographic dividend. The youth of the country presents a great opportunity to transform the future. Though only 4.2% people in Bangladesh are unemployed, the youth unemployment as a percentage of total youth is as high as 10.6%. Additionally, the share of youth not in education, employment or training (NEET) as a percentage of the youth population is 29.8%.
In order to address such macroeconomic challenges Bangladesh Youth Enterprise Advise & Helpcentre (B’Yeah) has been working on the economic and social empowerment of youth through entrepreneurship since 2007. In 2015, “Turning Job Seekers into Job Creators” a four-year project was grated to B’Yeah by Comic Relief to support the underserved youths in a systematic manner with pioneering business ideas through a market-based holistic support package, including capacity development, mentoring and access to finance. As the project was efficaciously completed by B’Yeah in October, 2019, LightCastle Partners Limited was hired to conduct an end-line study to assess the impact of the project in supporting young entrepreneurs and creating greater impact in the economy.
LightCastle Partners interviewed 84 young entrepreneurs from a database of 300 entrepreneurs who were the primary beneficiaries of the project, 5+ mentors who supported the entrepreneurs with different aspect of business, 1 financial institution who assisted B’Yeah and the entrepreneurs throughout and a non-governmental organization, UCEP.
The entrepreneurs were interviewed to assess the impact of the B’Yeah in enhancing the entrepreneurs’ entrepreneurial competencies, in enhancing the life of disadvantaged young people, in creating jobs for the underserved youths, etc. The study showed that the success rate of the project was approximately 92%. The top categories of businesses that the entrepreneurs are involved in ae Garments Clothing (19%), Handicrafts (14%), Hardware/Electronics (12%). Bakery/Catering (11%) and IT Services (5%). From the study, it was inferred that 91% of the entrepreneurs were “Very Satisfied” or “Satisfied” with the trainings provided by B’Yeah. The services provided by B’Yeah were training on entrepreneurship development, business management, marketing, communication, business plan, business counselling, etc. Entrepreneurs mentioned IT skills, Marketing and Sales strategies as their major areas of development.
From the study it was found out that the entrepreneurs were satisfied with the business performances. 12% of the respondents that were surveyed achieved growth in revenue in one year. 77 of the entrepreneurs who identified themselves as entrepreneurs created 63 news (each entrepreneur created .81 jobs).
With rigorous analyses of entrepreneurs’ data and qualitative insights from mentors, financial institutions, LightCastle Partners created a clear image of the impact of the project in the lives of the underserved entrepreneurs and unemployment.
The results of the data analyses and qualitative interviews indicated that participants of B’Yeah have the potential to create jobs and assist in mitigating youth unemployment rates in Bangladesh. The benefits of the program are not limited to job creation only-the program provides a platform for current and prospective entrepreneurs to collaborate and solve problems and boost the ecosystem for entrepreneurship. To foster nurturing environment for entrepreneurs specialized recommendations were provided too. Establishing a common forum for entrepreneurs, supporting entrepreneurs with paperwork, raising awareness about the importance of market research, building easy access to finance, digitizing the learning process, building a mentor-mentee pipeline are some of the scalable and sustainable recommendations that were provided by LightCastle Partners.
The results of the end-line study were presented in details by LightCastle Partners on November 27 on a Project Learning and Sharing event organized by B’Yeah.
We expect more NGOs to come forward in order to address youth unemployment and create a sustainable solution. More successful projects like these will help developing an inspiring and informative eco-system for the youth of Bangladesh. An informative data platform with updated sector-specific information will encourage more youth to start a business on own and create great impact on the economy.