A core principle of Africapitalism is the need to empower African entrepreneurs, ensuring that they are able to unleash their potential to create and grow their own businesses as a way to build more diverse and resilient economies. With the high level of unemployment and lack of employment opportunities for Eswatini’s youth, formal employment in the private sector is proving to be an impossible route to absorb the many Emaswati entering the job market every year. ESEPARC’s recent seminar on “Rethinking Your Regular 8-5” presented an opportunity for young people to come together and share ideas how they can use their time productively so that even if they are not formally employed, they find opportunities to engage in productive economic activities between 8AM-5PM and beyond.

Despite the youth unemployment challenge currently facing Eswatini, some of the youth in the country have started finding home-grown solutions to improve their own economic circumstances. Six budding entrepreneurs exhibited their various products at the seminar. A common aspect among the products exhibited was that they were locally produced and made to be environmentally friendly. For example, a team of three young women have started Bee Happy, a flavour-infused honey business. “Our honey is made with love from flavours of locally sourced fruits and herbs which are naturally infused in raw honey sourced from local farmers,” said the exhibitor, Melinda. After graduating from university and having gone through numerous unsuccessful job search attempts, the trio decided to take a chance on the honey business leveraging the knowledge they had gained from their Bachelor of Science degrees. Today they are proudly producing honey, “Bee Happy” which comes with an innovation of infused flavours such as lemon, ginger, and garlic, blueberry, mixed berry, cinnamon and orange, just to mention a few.

How many of us have been exposed to flavoured honey in Eswatini? Through this young trio, flavoured honey will soon become a staple in a lot of emaSwati’s kitchens. This is a lesson to a lot of young people out there who have skills from their tertiary education that they need not put these skills at bay while they wait for someone to employ them.  Young people should use their skills to test new business ideas within the different sectors of the economy so that they can eventually find a niche and unanchored markets to serve people’s needs. In doing so, not only can they make money but they will be recreating their own 8-5 by using their skills to be their own bosses. In other words, young people should challenge themselves to see the bigger picture and think about a new productive 8-5 by venturing into the self-employment sector.

In another example of a young person testing the waters in the business sector as a result of the formal employment doors that shut out a lot of young people, is how Mvula Natural Products came to be. While Nomvula kept waiting for HR managers to call her back to tell her that she had been shortlisted for an interview or that she got the job, she also noticed an increase in the number of people wanting to grow natural hair and thus decided to venture into producing natural hair products to boost her income. Like Bee Happy, she also uses locally-sourced agricultural produce such as avocados and lemons to make her natural hair products.  “My products do not have the harmful chemicals most commercial hair care products contain,” she boasted. It is true that buying behaviours are changing, and the world is now hungry for environmentally safe products that can be part of the growing green economy. Following in the same footsteps, Soap Factory Eswatini, a company that produces quality biodegradable cleaning solutions, took on the challenge.

The company produces products ranging from bath soap to toilet seat sanitisers. Andile Vilakati, the owner of this business, is a young liSwati trained in agronomy and digital marketing. During the exhibition of his products as part of the ESEPARC seminar, he explained that, “Our products prevent toxic chemical build-up being washed into the natural environment, especially our water systems, which can have long-term detrimental effects”. Similarly, Bicreno Soap Company show-cased a soap made from locally sourced indigenous product imbondvo. The company is a product of Junior Achievement (JA) Eswatini’s under Manzini Nazarene High School. Bicreno Soap has been scientifically tested by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa as a safe product for use on human skin. Needless to say, the soap became a hit among participants in the seminar and has seen success in many exhibitions including the Eswatini International Trade Fair. While others have found the manufacture of products an escape from unemployment, some young people have found solace in the passion of expression and creativity. Mpendulo, owner of Dawad Retro Studios, is an artist who uses different materials for his art pieces, creating unique textures, colours, tones, forms, and shapes that stimulate tranquil ambiances to anyone who takes a moment to look. Each painting has more than one texture which could be from dried animal skin or horns, shrubs, paper, plastic, and different tree types, seeds or stems.

On the sweeter side of things, Cookie Jar Eswatini displayed various types of home-made cookies including lemon, vanilla, and coconut flavours. The owner sells the cookies in small to large quantities in neatly packaged containers. Evidently, the youth in Eswatini have massive potential to create sustainable businesses; however, securing funding to upscale their products and finding a market seem to be common issues faced by these entrepreneurs. The products need to move from exhibition tables into our shelves and cardboards in our homes. Many of the exhibiting young start-ups lamented that they have sought for funding from the various youth financing institutions but have received little to no support.

How can we help them? As a first step, there is definitely a need to promote locally made products in Eswatini and prioritise these products in our daily shopping lists. ESEPARC has said it before, we vote for jobs in Eswatini when we buy locally produced goods and services. By doing so, we will unleash the potential of our entrepreneurs and further create the value of Lilangeni within Eswatini and in turn induce economic growth. So, how do we do that? It begins with me and you. Need honey? Order it from Bee Happy! Need soap? Call the Soap Factory! On your next shopping trip, just make sure to buy local! Let the money circulate in the Eswatini economy!