11 October 2018

Foresight Shapes the Future of Youth Entrepreneurship

Foresight Shapes the Future of Youth Entrepreneurship

SAIS 2 recently facilitated a collaboration between the City of Windhoek’s Economic Development Division and Demos Helsinki, a leading think tank from Finland. A team from Demos Helsinki worked with City of Windhoek (CoW) in creating a common vision and roadmap for the implementation of its youth entrepreneurship strategy in Windhoek. The goal is to assist Windhoek in transition from planning to thinking about strategic futures by creating scenarios about entrepreneurship in Namibia through the use of Foresight methodology. 

The City of Windhoek is the municipal authority of Namibia’s capital city and it recently launched a Youth Entrepreneurship Development Strategy (YEDS). The YEDS aims to address youth unemployment, and CoW is looking at fostering entrepreneurship as a viable strategy in responding to creating employment opportunities. Entrepreneurship is seen as an advantageous way to promote not only self employment but also skills leading to better employability amongst the youth once the provision of necessary assistance and support services to set up their businesses is in place. Namibia is a country with a youth unemployment range of between 37.8 % and 41.7% for youth ages between 15-35 years of age (NSA, 2015).

As a programme, SAIS 2 focuses on strengthening the operating conditions for early-stage enterprises and in particular young entrepreneurs. The programme works with local innovation support organisation in connecting innovation ecosystems, and promoting innovations serving in particular socially or economically disadvantaged populations across the five SADC implementing partner countries (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia). Such broad-based collaboration was seen as an opportunity to engage Foresight as a methodology leading to the identification and achievement of a commonly shared goal. SAIS 2 Lead Expert Ilari Lindy explains that

“Foresight methodology is applicable not only for understanding the various technologies in the horizon but also a tool to enhance strategy work and eventual implementation of these. With the City of Windhoek we identified the recently launched Youth Entrepreneurship Development Strategy as an opportunity to put practical tools in place that help to create a roadmap for the implementation. SAIS partner Demos Helsinki was able to join in the team and provide technical support in developing the implementation plan through two workshops .”

With this particular partnership, the goal is to assist CoW to sharpening the transition from planning to implementation by thinking about strategic futures through creating scenarios on entrepreneurship in Namibia. Foresight and methodologies such as back-casting which starts with defining a desirable future and then works backwards to identify policies and programs connecting that specified future to the present, were some of the tools that CoW and their stakeholders used in the process.

The process started earlier in June, with a scoping exercise having been conducted amongst CoW and their various stakeholders to understand the status of youth entrepreneurship in Windhoek at the moment. During the pre-workshop, methods of Foresight were introduced to the staff of Economic Development Division. The process of Foresight was motivating from the start. Zurilea Steenkamp, Manager of Economic Development Division, City of Windhoek states that

“Demos Helsinki has really opened our eyes to how our daily activities connect to larger phenomena and megatrends. Through the discussion, our division for Economic Development was able to position themselves within the bigger picture, which is critical for making an impact in youth entrepreneurship.”

As a follow up to the June scoping in September, the Demos team facilitated a five day foresight methodology training workshop attended by 15 CoW staff, government business support organisations such as Namibia Commission on Research Science and Technology (NCRST), private innovation support networks such as Dololo, funding organisations like Bank Windhoek, Kongalend, GIZ and research/academia actors such as Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) operating in the entrepreneurship space. Young local entrepreneurs also participated in order to providing the critical perspective of the SMEs and startups. The roadmap consisted of six tracks leading to the vision comprising key topics such as technical support, capacity-building, funding, physical space, market development and enabling policies. The roadmap and vision is accompanied by a manual to guide CoW staff in the further use of Foresight methodology in similar type of challenges related to policy design and implementation.

“Foresight methodologies are good for planning long-term strategies and often used by forward-looking organizations and governments throughout the globe. For example when cities are planning four or five year strategies, there is a need to reach further into the future to understand that the track to follow is a right one and commonly agreed. Foresight may sound fancy, but the tools are very practical for creating short terms strategies and implementation plans that match with the long term policy goals”

states Jussi Impio from Demos Helsinki. 

The week wrapped up with a presentation of the joint vision and roadmap for entrepreneurship in Windhoek by the year 2030, including the input of all participants. “We want to put in place a plan that will help us from 2019-2030 to make sure that we are able to provide only the best services that will help us achieve our vision of young people having access to all possible resources. We want to see the impact and an improvement in the socio economic condition of young people here in the city of Windhoek.” remarked Leonora Joodt, the Section Head: SME Development and Promotion for the City of Windhoek.