US entrepreneurial program seeks to counter militancy in eastern DRC

A cohort of youth entrepreneurs on Wednesday completed the training portion of a program designed to increase economic opportunity in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. They will now receive seed-funding and technical assistance from the U.S. African Development Foundation for their businesses.

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“The [Youlima] Youth Incubator was designed to create youth-centric opportunities that empower young people to develop income-generating and community-building projects,” The USADF said in a statement at an award ceremony marking the end of the training period.

This, the U.S. hopes, will lower the number of youth “vulnerable to the manipulation and coercion of armed groups and militias” in the DRC.

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As of 2019, there are over 100 “armed groups” operating in the eastern parts of the country, according to the United Nations. In March, the U.S. designated ISIS-DRC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

“The Youlima Youth Incubator Program is a step towards addressing the challenges of quality education and youth employment and entrepreneurship in the [DRC],” USADF Acting President and CEO Elisabeth Feleke said.

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The USADF, in partnership with Action Social et D’Organisation Paysanne (ASOP), an NGO operating in South Kivu, DRC; developed the Youlima Youth Incubator Program with funding from the Citi Foundation, a philanthropy working “in low-income communities around the world.”

After ASOP conducted an analysis of the “needs of the community and local economy” and the skills required to meet them, ASOP and USADF selected 30 men, women, and people living with a disability, out of a total 300 to receive entrepreneurial training.

And after “an intensive application selection process,” 25 youth will each receive $5,000 in seed-funding from USADF, which will also oversee the implementation of projects.

As of March 2020, USADF had seven “active” projects in the DRC. Since 2010, it has invested a total $1.8 million in the country.

“USADF looks forward to continuing this program and reaching an even more diverse portfolio and application pool of youth social entrepreneurs ready to tackle the most pressing challenges in their communities,” Feleke said.

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