Mozambican Youth Persevere to Test New Business Ideas

In Palma, a rural town in northern Mozambique, young people often struggle to earn a living outside of basic fishing and farming. Entrepreneurship offers a promising solution. After participating in the Catalisa Youth program and business plan competition, Folai Andeni and Fazira Nassoro each began testing their own business ideas and have already begun reaping the rewards.

Fazira Nassoro, a 23-year-old Palma resident, graduated from the 4th cycle of the Catalisa Youth program, during which he opened a bakery
Fazira Nassoro is a 23-year-old Palma resident. He graduated from the fourth cycle of the Catalisa Youth program and opened a bakery.

Folai Andeni, 21, and Fazira Nassoro, 23, are natives of the rural town of Palma in northern Mozambique. For decades, Palma and the surrounding district has been one of the poorest and least developed areas of the country. 

With limited access to modern infrastructure such as roads and electricity, there are few industries or opportunities to generate income outside of rudimentary fishing and farming.

 “I had always dreamed of opening my own bakery,” Fazira says. “But I didn’t have the resources to do so.” 

Entrepreneurship in Palma for Mozambican Youth

Palma expects an influx of new people and businesses because of significant oil and gas investments. Integrating the local population into this upcoming market represents one of the critical challenges for successful development in the region. 

In particular, developing a skilled local workforce is a major issue for the private sector, since most Palma residents have never worked in formal jobs and have only a very basic education. Moreover, few Palma residents are adequately equipped to start businesses that can cater to the needs of the upcoming market.

The Catalisa Youth program, a partnership between TechnoServe, Azul Consultoria, and Total Mozambique LNG, has been operating in Palma since 2018. The program engages with local youth to help them develop the skills they need to participate in new economic opportunities in their community. 

Using a blended training and mentoring model, the Catalisa Youth program teaches young people how to build not only professional, but also personal skills. Participants leave the program with a newfound sense of confidence, self-awareness, determination, and independence.

The program’s curriculum is designed specifically for the Palma context using language that is easy to understand and examples that are locally relevant. The curriculum includes modules on the following topics:

  • Life skills 
  • Entrepreneurship 
  • Employability 
  • English language proficiency
  • IT capabilities 

Across each of these modules run higher level cross-cutting themes, such as communication and gender equality awareness. 

A core goal of the Catalisa Youth program is to not only prepare youth in Mozambique for the labor market, but also to help them achieve more success in all aspects of life.

To date, more than 400 Palma youth have graduated from the program, with the sixth cohort of graduates finishing in early 2021. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rising insecurity in the region, both of which escalated in early 2020, the program team had to quickly adapt the way they delivered the training and mentoring. 

The course was digitized so that the facilitators could share the materials each week through short videos on WhatsApp, which were viewed by the youth either individually or in small groups depending on the availability of smartphones. 

As the situation normalized, however, the facilitators eventually shifted to a blended delivery model, with some portions of the course given in person, though according to an altered schedule that adhered to all safety and sanitary guidelines.

Two New Business Ideas, Economic Opportunity for Mozambican Youth

For young people interested in self-employment, the program teaches essential entrepreneurship skills in the course and offers an aftercare program, where TechnoServe staff provide continued one-on-one support to Mozambican youth. 

After graduating from the course, Folai and Fazira decided to enroll in the aftercare program and participate in the business plan competition. Mozambican youth in this competition generate business ideas and receive a small grant and technical assistance to test the idea’s feasibility. After a trial period where the business concepts are tested, winners are selected and receive start-up capital to continue to grow their businesses.

Shortly after participating in the first business plan competition sessions, Folai and a friend came up with the idea of creating a fish and seafood retail shop. They presented and defended the business concept during a subsequent workshop session that focused on business ideas. 

Folai Martins Andeni, a 21-year-old Palma native who graduated from the 4th cycle of the Catalisa Youth program.
Folai Martins Andeni is a 21-year-old Palma native. He graduated from the fourth cycle of the Catalisa Youth program and started a fish business.

Folai, like the other contestants, received a $300 grant to test the business idea. 

“With the small profit we have been making, we have also introduced frozen chicken to diversify the offer,” Folai says. “Our biggest challenge is to gain more customers.”

Folai, who is the one primarily responsible for running the business full time, is selling a wide range of fish. He purchases varieties such as stonefish, safi, and mackerel locally from fishermen in Palma Bay. For interested customers, he even offers to process and clean the fish for a small fee.  

“The shop is operating really well. We collect between 1,000 to 1,250 meticais ($13.61 to $17.02) per day in sales revenue,” Folai shares. 

Our challenge is to be innovative in the service we offer our customers and to diversify our products little by little. Even if I do not win any prizes in this contest, I already feel like an entrepreneur! I’m learning a lot from this business.”
— Folai Andeni

On the other hand, Fazira decided to use the opportunity he gained in the Catalisa Youth program to turn his dream of opening a bakery into a reality. 

Every week, the competitors participate in sessions and workshops with the aftercare program team. During these sessions, they develop their business plans based on the business model canvas, which highlights the four main areas that any business needs to consider in order to be successful — from the customer and offering to infrastructure and financial viability

One of the advantages this model offers participants is the opportunity to seek mentors’ advice on how to address challenges and stumbling blocks, thus keeping their businesses running smoothly. Even if participants do not win any prizes at the end of the competition, they have all gained valuable experience and skills.

Thanks to my participation in the business plan competition, I received a small amount to test my business idea, and here I am — producing and selling bread.”
— Fazira Nassoro

The Catalisa Youth Program Brings New Youth Economic Opportunity into Reach

Today, Fazira produces and sells an average of 200 loaves of bread per day from his home in Palma. He sells them for 10 meticais ($0.14) each and earns additional income doing home deliveries. On a typical day, Fazira now earns 2000 meticais ($27) from his bread sales, but he still hopes to earn more. 

“With the lessons on marketing, creativity, and innovation, I am already introducing some small changes to ensure the satisfaction of my customers, such as ensuring hygiene and good conservation of bread and the introduction of pastries (‘badjia’) at my sales point,” Fazira shares. 

Two Key Outcomes of the Catalisa Youth Program

To date, more than 42 Mozambican youth have developed business plans as part of the competition, and have begun testing their business ideas in practice. 

So far, five winners have been selected, with the next round expected to be announced early next year.

The Catalisa Youth program aims to reach 1,000 young people by the end of the project, training them so they can become valuable economic actors, engaged citizens, informed change-makers, and responsible leaders in their communities and in their own lives.

To learn more about how the Catalisa program creates youth economic opportunity, check out the website.