A group of youth entrepreneurs that meet every week after school in Niamey, Nigeria.
All photos by Ylva Seiff Berge/CARE Norway.
The sun is hot, the air is dry and the temperature approaches 35 degrees Celsius. Between the clay huts in the shade of a large tree, a group sits together in a circle. At first glance, it may look like a primary school class, but today’s classes are over, and they are gathered for a completely different reason.
This is one of the most impoverished areas on the outskirts of Niamey, the capital of Niger.
Fourteen-year-old Oumai Farauk and her best friends lead the meeting. Children as young as six sit in the circle, but they all follow along intently. This is important.
These are Niger’s future entrepreneurs, teachers, and doctors. Those who will build the country and dream up new ideas. Those who will work for equal rights and opportunities for all.
The group meets every week after school. They get together to save money and have created their own little bank. Everyone saves what they can, and those who need it can borrow money to test out their own business ideas.
They have started their own Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA).
The method that the youth group uses to save money goes back to 1991, when the first savings and loan groups started up in Niger. Since then, people all over the world have been inspired by the concept.
It is estimated that for every group that is founded, there are three other groups that also start because they see that it works. In this way, the savings and loan groups have spread around the world over the past 30 years. In fact, it was through observation that this youth group was started. Oumai and her friends watched their mothers participate in VSLAs, start their own businesses, and take out loans to buy what they needed.
So they started their own.
Unlike their mothers, they invited both girls and boys into the group. They make sweets from insects, teach henna tattooing, and organize large events in the villages to earn money for the group.
This group means that we have our own money and can use it however we want.
– Oumai Faruka
For Oumai, this is the first step on the road to one day starting her own business and becoming independent.
This group gives the children in the village new opportunities and bright futures where they can make their own choices in life. Here, young people are inspired to follow in their mothers’ footsteps-not in the traditional footsteps, but in the those of innovative entrepreneurs.
In this way, a new generation with completely new ideas will flourish.