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Given the growing importance of entrepreneurship and self-employment as a source of new jobs and economic dynamism in developed countries, and livelihoods in developing countries, there is need to promote youth entrepreneurship as a source of improved youth livelihoods and economic independence.

The youth entrepreneurs cite several reasons for starting their businesses. According to Gray, et al., (1995), several of the main reasons often cited for starting a business in North America, Europe and Japan are: to be one’s own boss, with more control over one’s own work and life; to obtain an alternative route for advancement from a dead-end job; to obtain additional money; and to provide products not elsewhere available. In the UK, for example, the youth, especially the graduates, are motivated primarily by desires for independence and flexibility and not necessarily money (OECD, 2001).

In contrast, youth in developing countries tend to go into business out of economic necessity or need to survive, or out of failure to find productive use of their energy in other avenues. Survey data from Zambia show that the overwhelming majority (92.3 percent) of the respondents cited socio-economic problems as the major reason for starting the business (Chigunta, 2001). Of these, close to half (46.2 percent) cited lack of employment, a third (30.8 percent) the need to supplement household income; and 15.4 percent poverty. Only 7.7 percent of the respondents cited the need to accumulate wealth as the major reason for starting the business. Similarly, in Malawi, the majority of youth entrepreneurs cited unemployment and poverty as the major reasons for starting their businesses (Kambewa, et al., 2001).

In some countries, the different life experiences and expectations or different socialization processes of females and males in society influence their reasons for starting an enterprise. For example, the data from Zambia suggest that the need to supplement household income is the motivating factor for starting an enterprise among female youth proprietors, while among male youth proprietors it is lack of employment.

Recognising the various reasons why young people decide to start a business is important for the promotion of youth entrepreneurship. As White and Kenyon (2000) observe, the challenge lies in promoting entrepreneurship as a genuine career alternative for young people, especially as a way to achieve greater financial reward and work satisfaction, rather than focusing on self-employment as a way to escape the negative circumstances of unemployment and poverty.