After graduating from school in Kinshasa, Clement Cinyeri, 22, returned to his hometown of Bukavu looking for economic opportunities. Unable to find formal employment in the fragmented economy of war-torn South Kivu Province he opened a stall to sell soft drinks and beer. He had little knowledge of how to expand his sporadic sales or manage his business. Slow sales allowed him to spend time with other under-employed youth in bars and other local HIV hotspots.
In 2009, Cinyeri was one of 100 young people enrolled in a youth enterprise development program introduced by Education Development Center and the ROADS project in Bukavu. The program, supported by USAID/Washington’s EQUIP3/Cross-Sectoral Youth Project, provided a series of business development trainings, linked participants to local cooperative banks, and matched each young person with a peer coach and local private sector mentor for practical follow-up. The trainings covered market studies, business visioning and planning, customer care, basic financial accounting and recordkeeping, and included a business plan competition.
The 20 most promising plans, including the one submitted by Cinyeri, were funded with grants of US$300. With his funds, Cinyeri procured additional inventory for his business and diversified into hot food service. Seeing Cinyeri’s potential, his mentor provided chairs, tents and promotional materials to help attract customers. Cinyeri now employees three other youth, reporting that steady work keeps him and his staff away from risky environments.
ROADS research among participants, conducted at the end of the one-year program, indicated a reduction in willingness to “risk health for business gain” from 11 percent to one percent. Thirty-four percent of participants reported a reduction in the number of sexual partners due to business growth, and 64 percent stabilized at one sexual partner. ROADS is applying lessons learned in Bukavu—for example, that practical peer-based business training combined with ongoing mentorship can reduce vulnerability to HIV— in its programs along the transport corridors of East, Central and Southern Africa. ROADS is supported by USAID East Africa and bilateral missions, and has been invited to present lessons from the program at the Global Youth Enterprise and Livelihoods Development Conference in Washington, DC in September 2010.