Diverse Paths for Youth Entrepreneurship

April 11 – October 7, 2022

Breakout Session #1
11:00 a.m. until 12:15 p.m.


Youth populations are expected to rise considerably in the coming decades in a series of developing countries. By 2030, there will be over 3.3 billion people under the age of 25 (youth and children) in the world, mostly residing in Africa and Asia. The youth population (between the ages of 15 - 24) in Sub-Saharan Africa alone is expected to nearly double, from 207 million in 2018 to 407 million in 2050. Other challenges such as rising urbanization rates, technological changes, migration and trade will impact labor markets around the world. Technology will bring significant changes to the labor market. Some estimate that 65 percent of schoolchildren will work in jobs that do not exist today. Moreover, technology is already affecting the skills requirements of most occupations.
As developing countries prepare for these changes, they must consider the skills necessary to equip youth for the future. It is important that future generations have adequate education and employment opportunities. Many young people will decide to become entrepreneurs – and they will need financial resources, mentorship and connections, access to technology, and a set of skills in order to succeed. We need to lay the groundwork for this now.
We also need to become more serious about improving the quality of work for the future generations. Many of the jobs that are being created in the developing world are in the informal economy, with low earnings, low productivity, unsafe working conditions and outside legal protections. There is an imperative to improve: the quantity of jobs, quality of jobs and the education and training systems to better prepare workers for the needs of the labor market.
This panel will feature three youth speakers from diverse international backgrounds, all of which are entrepreneurs in different sectors in their countries. The panel will focus on the entrepreneurship experiences of each panelist and identify some of the main challenges and opportunities to becoming an entrepreneur as a youth, how technology has impacted entrepreneurship, and what support is required to enable youth to solve social problems in their communities around the world.


Mercy Abang
Mercy Abang is a Nigerian trainer, youth advocate and award-winning journalist. Mercy was a lead trainer in a successful, popular program that developed social media entrepreneurs in Northeastern Nigeria. In addition to the entrepreneur program, she continues to focus her attention on vulnerable, under-reported communities, particularly women in West Africa, as well as developing self-funded media projects. Mercy was the 2017 United Nations (Dag Hammarksjold) Journalism Fellow. In 2012, she was named as one of 10 Young Nigerian Women to Watch. In 2017, she was named Woman of the Year in Journalism.

Nestor Bonilla
Nestor Bonilla is a tech and social changemaker from Managua, Nicaragua, and Co-founder of two social startups, Digital Bonds and Honey Things. At Digital Bonds, their mission is to improve the quality of life of people, solving societal issues through the use of technology and at Honey Things, they develop technologies, research, and provide services derived from the beekeeping sector that improve the quality of life of their clients and beneficiaries. His experience has been focused on social innovation working with a vast amount of local and international profit and non-profit organizations.

For example, as a Workforce Connections Talent Cloud Fellow with FHI 360 Nestor developed a mobile application to make labor market information more accessible and transparent to professional and technical job seekers and firms in Nicaragua. His expertise varies from women rights defense, food waste and security, sustainable tourism, climate change, export and import merchandise values for entrepreneurship path analysis with data science techniques, to beekeeping procedures to maximize the productivity of small farmers from rural communities. He has extensive experience in the design, development, and implementation of web platforms, mobile apps, and data science projects for the last six years. His background has let him understand social problems from a holistic perspective, narrowing its solutions with a scalable technology inclusion. 

Alejandro Maza
Alejandro Maza is a Mexico City based entrepreneur working at the intersection of technology, transparency and decision-making. In 2010 he founded Yo Propongo, which pioneered the use of social media and machine learning for civic engagement in the region. The organization evolved into OPI Analytics an AI startup that provides state of the art technology for decision making and government transparency. OPI has been instrumental in the implementation of Open Data policy and technological infrastructure in Mexico at a national and local level, and OPI’s algorithms are currently used to detect corruption risk in public contracting and for evidence-based policy planning at a national level. Alejandro has a background in Mathematics and Economics and is passionate about technology. He is an Ashoka Fellow, an Endeavor Entrepreneur and a WEF Global Shaper. Besides his work at OPI, Alejandro mentors several startups and NGOs in Mexico.

Moderator: Romina Bandura
Romina Bandura is a senior fellow with the Project on Prosperity and Development and the Project on U.S. Leadership in Development at CSIS. Her current research focuses on the future of work in developing countries and the United States’ economic engagement in the developing world. She has also conducted extensive research on enhancing the reach and impact of the Multilateral Development Bank system. Before joining CSIS in September 2017, she was a senior consultant at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). She worked closely with clients to design research and manage projects that included index building, quantifying qualitative variables, policy analysis, and strategies for investment and growth. EIU flagship projects include benchmarking indices like the Global Microscope on Financial Inclusion and the Latin America and Caribbean Infrascope project. Ms. Bandura is an economist with 18 years of experience in international development research, policy analysis, and project management. Before joining EIU, she was an economist at the International Labour Organization's Washington office. In her previous capacity as a business manager at DAI’s Economic Growth Sector, she managed a $90 million private-sector development portfolio of projects in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. She has also served as a policy analyst for the UN Development Programme. Earlier in her career, she worked in the banking sector in Argentina. Ms. Bandura holds an M.P.A. in international development from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a B.A. in economics from the Universidad Católica Argentina, Buenos Aires.

This breakout session on "Diverse Paths for Youth Entrepreneurship" is made possible by generous support from the Alliance for International Youth Development, Creative Associates, FHI 360, and the International Youth Foundation.