CLE Opens Door to Youth Entrepreneurship in Burkina Faso 

In Burkina Faso, approximately 65 percent of the population is under the age of 25. But while a large proportion of the population is of working age, employment is hard to come by for most. Only a few boast full-time jobs.  

In lieu of formal employment, many young adults in Burkina Faso engage in the informal economy. But even this doesn’t offer a panacea: Limited business skills, a lack of access to finance, and other barriers tend to prevent their enterprises from flourishing.  

In 2021, Tanager partnered with the Kingdom of the Netherlands to address these challenges. The Cultivons L’Esprit d’Entreprise (CLE) program offered an integrated and inclusive approach to building the entrepreneurial culture in Burkina Faso. Tanager implemented the project in four regions in Burkina Faso, in coordination with three local partners, La Fabrique, WakatLab, and MediaProd (now Massaka). 

“Entrepreneurship is about a mindset, not really about [having] the funds,” says Romain Kenfack, CLE project lead and country representative for Tanager’s work in Burkina Faso. “How do we actually improve that mindset and empower young people to consider entrepreneurship as a way of life?” 

Through a series of outreach and engagement efforts, CLE raised awareness about entrepreneurial opportunities and built skills among young adults so their business ideas would be more likely to become successful enterprises. The project closed last month, having amassed impressive impact across Burkina Faso. 

The CLE Journey

The CLE program featured multiple phases that guided aspiring entrepreneurs through the process of building a business, what the project dubbed “the CLE journey.” A mass communications campaign, led by CLE partner Massaka, first introduced the concept of entrepreneurship with Burkinabé audiences. 

“We wanted to share with youth the opportunities and expected challenges they may face if they consider entrepreneurship,” says Kenfack. To that end, the project aired video vignettes on model entrepreneurs on national media. A radio series based on the entrepreneurs’ tumultuous stories was also developed. The series was broadcast on local radio stations, in the local language.  

To encourage discussion and reflection on the opportunities and obstacles to young people’s involvement in entrepreneurship, the project then organized 20 discussion forums throughout the four regions. As Kenfack explains it, “We were broadcasting information, but we were not getting enough feedback to really address pending questions from youth.” 

But it was clear that they were interested: When the project offered basic entrepreneurial training, it fielded more than 8,000 applications.  

“I liked all the modules,” says Adama Soulama, a participant who took the trainings in Banfora. She was one of the nearly 2,000 people who were selected to receive training. “When I took the first training course, I was shown how to manage money. My trainer told me to take a notebook and write down all my expenses. But when I did that in a week, I realized that I was spending unnecessarily.” 

Trainings covered both soft and hard skills, but Kenfack says soft skills—such as effective time management, anticipation of potential challenges, social cohesion, and conflict management—proved to be most valuable for participants. “When individuals have the entrepreneurial spirit, they can find a person to handle the business plans, financials, and other areas,” he points out. 

Eventually, a subset of participants attended ideation and maturation camps, where they assessed gaps in the market, tested business concepts to meet those needs, and validated whether they could indeed make money from their idea. The best ideas received seed funding; the top 25 businesses from the seed funding phase then earned six months of incubation support.  

Positive Differences

 “Entrepreneurship is not simple. With the CLE program, we better understood what we were doing,” says Marie Oho Tioyé, manager of the Youdola cooperative of weavers and seamstresses. Her business is not the only one that has benefited from CLE. Indeed, thanks to the project:  

  • 2,432 participants (1,348 female and 1,084 male) received entrepreneurial skills training; 
  • 878 youth—56 percent of them female—turned their business ideas into viable projects through the ideation and maturation camps;
  • 125 entrepreneurs received seed funding totaling $28,875 to build out their ideas; 
  • 459 jobs were created or maintained through the project’s efforts, and 108 youth had their internships or apprenticeships, which they had received through the project’s technical training component, extended; and 
  • 28 businesses launched or experienced growth, of between 20% to 120% over the last 12 months. 

Entrepreneurs who have gone on the CLE “journey” can point to the positive differences the project has made on their businesses. Kalafé Songuimpari Thiombiano owns Yempabou, which produces various potato-based products and other foods. She is one of the 25 entrepreneurs who received incubation support. “Before the CLE program,” she relays, “in a week, I could produce 50 or 100 sachets. Now, I can make 200 bags, 250. Before, I worked with two employees. Today there are six.” 

Maïmouna Touré-Tamboura, owner of a groundnut paste company, is another incubee. Through CLE, the Banfora-based business owner was able to clearly define her company’s vision, mission, and values; improve its financial management; and develop a business plan.  

She adds, “Thanks to the support, we participated in several activities, including the Fab’Meet & Collab and the Pitch Show. Through these activities, we met communications experts, graphic designers, nutritionists, and equipment manufacturers. This allowed us to properly formulate and structure our products, and expand our distribution network from Banfora to Bobo-Dioulasso, Ouagadougou, Kaya, and as far as Fada N’Gourma. 

Igor Yaméogo is representative of CLE partner WakatLab. “I would say, CLE, it’s a key that we gave to young people,” he says, referencing the French word, clé (meaning “key”), that the project acronym spells. “They have been presented with a door to the future, and it is up to them to open and enter.” 

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