Beata Mandy Shemuvalula doesn’t want companies to take the African youth market for granted. And she wants the youth to be prepared to handle the corporate world. So this young African leader started a company that handles both issues. Shemuvalula is the founder and CEO of Youthia, wich started in 2015 in Windhoek, Namibia, with a goal of empowering 1 million youth entrepreneurs across Africa by 2025. Prior to launching Youthia, Shemuvalula participated in Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative program. Shemuvalula graduated from Monash University in Malaysia with a degree in business and commerce. She was selected to participate in an eight-week internship in the U.S. as part of YALI’s Mandela Washington Fellowship, where she participated in the business and entrepreneurship track at the University of Texas, Austin. She interned at Coca-Cola following her YALI experience.
Shemuvalula is also the founder of M’ché Trust (TMT), a philanthropic foundation helping to develop young Namibians through asset matchmaking. Youthia makes money with products, services and platforms. It charges an entry fee for events and enters into product placement deals with third parties where they pay a fee to feature their products or services at youth events. Youthia also launched Nudge, a new job-finding and career app that charges a monthly subscription and sells in-app advertising. “We are always looking to evolve new ways to monetize old business models,” Shemuvalula told AFKInsider. Here’s how Shemuvalula’s Young African Leaders Initiative experience helped her launch her business in Namibia.
AFKInsider: Tell us more about Youthia.
Mandy Shemuvalula: First, Youthia is not a charity. Since the goal of Youthia is to empower youth entrepreneurs, I felt it was important that Youthia be for profit. Because we are focused on the economic empowerment of youth entrepreneurs and our aim is to encourage job creation and economic opportunity, how could we just talk about entrepreneurship? We had to do it ourselves. We cannot indirectly build thriving sustainable communities through our entrepreneurs if we are not a thriving sustainable organization. I call Youthia a philanthrocapitalism organization. We are a conscious company that can spend money on lobbying, give donations and other related activities.
AFKInsider: Why focus on the youth?
Mandy Shemuvalula: I predict that in the next couple of years youth development in Africa will be one of the top five profitable businesses. For this reason we need to prepare our youth for a future as business leaders.
AFKInsider: What is the AFRO?
Mandy Shemuvalula: The AFRO is a fictitious currency (Youthia) created for our youth to trade in. It teaches them about commerce and finances. We have pegged it to the U.S. dollar. The youth in our program use the AFRO to pay or trade for goods and services.
AFKInsider: How did you find out about the Young African Leaders Initiative?
Mandy Shemuvalula: There was a global entrepreneurship week in Namibia and since is it not very often that there are any sort of events in Namibia that focus on entrepreneurship, I went. At the event there was a representative from the U.S. Embassy who talked about YALI and the opportunity to go to the U.S. to study business and entrepreneurship. It sounded good to me so I applied and I was selected. This was November 2013. I participated in the first YALI program in 2014.
AFKInsider: Did YALI live up to your expectations?
Mandy Shemuvalula: Yes, 100 percent in the sense that the forums and the studying were good. I was able to accumulate a lot of information. And even when I felt that I needed to go outside of the classroom setting, just traveling around Austin, Texas, gave me a better sense of the U.S. and how things work. I really liked touring around Austin.
AFKInsider: What did you learn at the American university where you studied during your YALI participation?
Mandy Shemuvalula: I stayed and studied at the University of Texas at Austin. The entrepreneur track had a lot of networking events. (I) went on corporate tours which were very interesting but these business events were supplemented with a lot cultural activities. So we got to see American cowboys, do the pubs and barbecues. I thought this was great.
AFKinsider: Did the business skills you learned there translate well in your country?
Mandy Shemuvalula: Any experience is an experience I can use. And if I wasn’t getting anything productive, I was seeking something outside of class. I found the new experiences of meeting new people very insightful and helpful. In terms of bringing the knowledge I obtained to my country, I found it frustrating because things in Namibia are a little slower. And although I came back eager and ready to get going and use these new skills, I realized that any changes to be made in Namibia would have to be incremental and I had to be patient. You come from the U.S. and you want to implement all the changes and your realize all the Namibians are not ready to change. For example, everything closes down at 5 p.m. It is going to take a long time to change things like business hours.
AFKInsider: What was one of the best parts of the YALI experience?
Mandy Shemuvalula: There were 500 of us in groups of 25 in 20 universities. The ability to interact with fellow Africans in a different context was really great. After the summit we got to share each of our experiences at the various universities and this was something I really enjoyed.
AFKInsider: How did you get the Coca-Cola internship?
Mandy Shemuvalula: The Coca-Cola internship came after the Young African Leaders Initiative. Out of the 500 YALI participants, 100 of us got the internship. It was actually during the Coca-Cola internship where the seeds of my business were initially planted. Soon after I started the internship, I was sent on a five-day trip to India. (Coca-Cola was) sending bloggers to India so we could see firsthand the life of women in the cocoa business there. I blogged “Women of the Web: An India Story.”
We were going to all these poor rural places to talk to the women in a village where they had contaminated water. Coke set up access to clean water. We were going to these rural, rural communities in the day and staying in these five-star hotels at night. The contrast was so stark to me. When I went back to Atlanta, I was like, “God why did you want me to see this?” And it was then I came up with the idea for Youthia.
Source: AFK Insider