Informal networks and youth self-employment in Zambia

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Mumba, Hangoma Moonga
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The study examined the role informal networks play in influencing self-employment among the youth in Zambia. The target were males and females aged between 15 and 35 years, who operate their own businesses in Lusaka’s New Soweto and Mtendere markets. For fieldwork data collection and analysis, mixed methods techniques were used. On the quantitative side, a survey using a semi-structured questionnaire was conducted involving a sample size of 141 self-employed youth while in-depth interviews and non-participant observation with 10 purposively selected self-employed youth were used on the qualitative side. Findings reveal strong ties, particularly family and friends, playing a significant role and making it possible for most self-employed youth to achieve certain ends that would not be attainable in the absence of such support. The study shows strong ties not only providing resources such as information, finances, skills, and trading space among other things, but also facilitating the discovery of business opportunities among some young people. Findings also provide evidence showing challenges some self-employed youth face in accessing support from strong ties, simply due to lack of trust, non-approval business, and jealous among other reasons. The study further shows sketchy evidence on the use of weak ties in accessing resources among self-employed youth. In order to maintain links and continue drawing support particularly from ties outside family circles, the self-employed youth often have to ‘invest’ in the network by extending certain favours. However, findings show that reciprocity is not always guaranteed, thus increasing transaction cost to the disadvantage of the self-employed youth. The overall conclusion the study draws is that while informal networks exist and are used in the Zambian context, they only serve as a fall back mechanism for survival and cannot solely be relied upon as a basis for sustaining self-employment among the youth in the country. Depending on the context and circumstances, informal networks can enhance or constrain self-employment among the youth. The study thus recommends embracing the context surrounding self-employed youth in designing policy interventions. Given their situation, government support remains very crucial if self-employment is to contribute effectively in reducing unemployment and vulnerability among the youth in Zambia.
Youth-Employment-Zambia , Self employment