The Future is African

Our friends, Julienne Oyler and Sara Leedom, African Entrepreneurship Collective share their thoughts and experiences.

In 2011, Julienne Oyler and Sara Leedom quit their jobs, and backpacked across West Africa, where they met inspiring young people, eager for jobs, for opportunity, and most importantly to create positive impact in their communities.

Fast forward a year later and Sara and Julienne, two Langley residents, had launched African Entrepreneur Collective to build businesses, create jobs, and combat youth unemployment in Africa. They started in Rwanda, a tiny country in East Africa, and in a few short years they, and their team of 70 local staff, have supported more than 3,400 entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. In turn, these young entrepreneurs have created more than 5,400 jobs in their communities.

Here is some of what Sara and Julienne shared with us:

1. The future is African. By 2030, 25% of the world will be African and 26% of the world’s refugee population is in Africa. Africa’s people, and the continent’s growth, will shape the future of the global community. We think this is an incredible opportunity for investing in the young people of the continent.

2. Entrepreneurs will transform the Continent. AEC entrepreneurs have already created 5,497 jobs; entrepreneurship is a backbone to a thriving economy. In the US, so much of the economy – and jobs — are driven by small businesses, like those here in Whidbey. In Africa, most of the jobs are with large corporations or government. To help create jobs, harnessing the power of the small and medium enterprise sector (SMEs) can create much-needed jobs across Africa. In fact, even the refugee entrepreneurs in AEC’s programs create two jobs in the host community for every one job they create for another refugee.

3. All of the problems on the Continent have solutions that already exist on the Continent. AEC encounters inspiring and smart youth every day. They are today’s innovators, working to solve problems they see in their communities. By investing in young people who understand the real needs of their communities, these entrepreneurs are creating new solutions that fit the local context. AEC sees it as their job to bring the capacity building resources — training, business consulting, and access to affordable capital — to help young people put those ideas into action for the benefit of their communities.

Sara and Julienne are back on Whidbey every other month, connecting to the community here about ways to further support and grow a global community of those invested in Africa.
We intend to host a gathering at NWLACC to meet Sara and Julienne and find out more about their experiences, viewpoints and work with AEC in the next few months.

Check out this video of Sara and Julienne and the entrepreneurs they serve in the local language Kinyarwanda.