FUTURE LAGOS | The Youthful Cities Index: lessons for and from Cape Town

“The secret to Nigeria’s success? Youth entrepreneurship receives extensive support from both the public and private sector.”

 Lagos is the top African city on the Youthful Cities Index for entrepreneurship, and Casablanca for financial services. Sibusiso Tshabalala considers what Cape Town can learn from them, and what the Index missed in Cape Town.

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By Sibusiso Tshabalala

What does the African continent’s “youth bulge” hold for its young people? What exciting challenges, opportunities and trends are taking center stage in the lives of young Africans? The second annual global Youthful Cities Index provides useful insights.

With more than 10 000 young people surveyed in 55 cities across the world, the Youthful Cities Index sets out 20 attributes that make cities attractive areas for young people to live, work and play in. Through the survey Youthful Cities – a Canadian-based youth-run start-up – aims to develop information tools to help policymakers make better decisions to better address the needs of young people.

In this year’s Index, Johannesburg was ranked as the top African city for Africa’s youth. It ranked particularly high in terms of diversity, fashion and public space. Other key attributes measured by the Index are employment opportunities, entrepreneurship and digital access.

Other top African cities include Casablanca in Morocco – ranked high for employment opportunities and access to financial services – and Lagos in Nigeria – ranked high for youth entrepreneurship.

Cape Town was not surveyed, so we drew the following lessons for the Mother City from the continent’s top youthful cities and considered what they might learn from us in return.

1. Support for youth entrepreneurship needs extensive public and private sector support

Lagos is the continent’s top city for youth entrepreneurship.

Traditionally, Nigeria’s economy has always been driven by oil exports. Oil accounts for 95% of Nigeria’s total exports. Yet, in Lagos, the country’s biggest city, young entrepreneurs are building businesses in the services, creative industries and entertainment industry.

One example is Nollywood, a term frequently used to describe Nigeria’s film and television industry, which contributes 1,4% of Nigeria’s GDP and is reported to have added 2 million jobs in the past 20 years.

Lagos happens to be the home of Nollywood, and film and TV companies are dominating Lagos’ SMME space, with approximately 1 500 films produced in Nigeria annually. And it is no surprise that many of these companies are youth-owned and run.

The secret to Nigeria’s success? Youth entrepreneurship receives extensive support from both the public and private sector.

In February this year, former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan launched the “Presidential Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy” – an initiative lead at the highest office of government to support youth entrepreneurs. In addition, the Nigerian Youth Entrepreneurship Network was launched to streamline opportunities for business finance, premises and mentorship.

The private sector is also betting on Nigeria’s youth entrepreneurs. In December 2014, Nigerian investment banker and real estate magnate Tony Elumelu announced that he would be pledging $100 million to developing young African entrepreneurs. In July, 1 000 youth entrepreneurs from 52 African countries will flock to Lagos for a two-day entrepreneurial bootcamp. The bootcamp is part of the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s $100 million programme targeted mainly at youth based in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria’s two main cities.

2. Access to financial services needs to be affordable and readily available to young people

The Youthful Cities Index ranked Casablanca in Morocco as the top African city for affordable and accessible financial services for African youth. Some of the key indicators used for this ranking include availability of business banking, quality of personal banking services, micro-lending instruments for youth businesses, and financial literacy.

Five years ago, King Mohammed VI of Morocco announced his grand vision for Casablanca to be North and West Africa’s financial hub. This is how Casablanca Finance City (CFC) was born. The CFC is essentially a special economic zone in Casablanca in which companies and individuals operating within this benefit from preferential tax breaks.

For example, employees working within the CFC – many of which are young, given Morocco’s youth bulge – pay a maximum of 20% in income tax, as a opposed to the 38% income tax rate of the rest of the country.

Another exciting development is the expansion of micro-credit for young people in Casablanca, and Morocco as a whole. In 2008, MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) and the MasterCard Foundation partnered on a $5 million programme to create inclusive financial services and financial literacy to Moroccan youth.

Over the past five years, the YouthInvest programme has reached over 50 000 people, with the following key results:

  • The reduction of the cost of opening a savings account in Morocco from $80 to $12, helping to instil a culture of savings among young people.
  • A 100-hour course that enables post-school youth to learn financial literacy skills and entrepreneurial know-how.
  • Specially designed micro-loans for the youth market, specifically for youth-run microenterprises, which often have little or no collateral.

3. How Cape Town’s young people are shaking things up

Although Cape Town was not ranked in the 2015 Global Youthful Cities Index, it would be remiss not to mention some of the exciting initiatives that are being pioneered by young people, for young people in the Mother City.

In February this year, Creative Nestlings – a youth-run creative agency that works with young African creatives – launched The Nest, a network that offers mentorship support for young African creatives. While many youth networks and clubs exist, Creative Nestlings is determined to make this one distinctive by aiming to recruit a wide variety of young people across the continent, and they’re looking beyond just the creative industries.

Engineers, teachers, developers, researchers and many more other young people from different backgrounds can be members of the The Nest. Over time, Creative Nestlings wants to encourage its members to work on cross-sector collaborative projects that have social impact.

Another exciting programme is by Future Cape Town, an independent think-tank on urban issues. Earlier this year, Future Cape Town launched its Young Urbanists programme. The programme attracts young urbanists, from ages 20 to 30, who have a passion for issues related to cities – like infrastructure, urban planning, public space, the economy and a variety of other fields.

The Young Urbanists network grants its members access to thought-leaders on urban issues, and enables them to share their knowledge and skills with each other.

Just recently, the Young Urbanists network hosted a lecture on the possibilities for housing in urban settings. The keynote was given by South American architect and urbanist Alfredo Brillembourg, well-known for his work on the EmpowerShack.

The big ambition is that the Young Urbanists will begin leading city-wide debates on issues like infrastructure, mobility and the economy –ultimately shaping and developing solutions for greater Cape Town’s transformation.

So, just in case you were wondering, youth is clearly not wasted on the young.



This article first appeared on www.capetownpartnership.co.za on 1 June 2015

Sibusiso Tshabalala’s interest lies in understanding how citizen-activism and innovation can help solve the challenges faced by a post-apartheid city like Cape Town. Now at Quartz, Sibusiso worked previously as a Programme Coordinator at the Cape Town Partnership.

About FutureLagos

Olamide Udoma is a researcher, writer and filmmaker holding degrees in BSc Architecture, MA Design and MPhil Infrastructure Management. Olamide has worked in London, South Africa and Nigeria with various organisations focusing on transport management, slum upgrading and housing rights in urbanising African cities. At Our Future Cities NPO, she is the Lagos manager and editor.