ITC Shares

Youth in business sets the way forward in 2021

1 July 2021
Jenni Jostock, International Trade Centre

A business survey revealed how young entrepreneurs in trade are coping with COVID-19


During the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, our team around the Youth and Trade programme devised a survey to understand the challenges and opportunities of young entrepreneurs in light of the slowly emerging economic crisis.

The valuable data informed the activities around our youth-specific programme for the remaining year.

In the first quarter of 2021, we ran another survey, asking over 350 youth across different regions, from Sub-Saharan Africa to South Asia. With this new insight we were able to map the way forward for 2021.

Here is what the young entrepreneurs had to say

Business outlook

Almost 50% were very optimistic about their business in 2021, while 32% said they were fairly optimistic.

Strategies in 2021

The two top strategies that more than half of the youth entrepreneurs were looking to employ in 2021 were
1) increased communication and marketing efforts
2) looking for new investments.

These were followed by transition and expansion to online sales (32%) and customizing / proposing new products (28%).

Financial standing

Almost 50% of all businesses are currently struggling financially, with an additional 24% indicating that their revenue had decreased in 2020. Only 11% were financially better off than before with increased revenue. Over 90% are seeking funding in 2021.

Seeking support in 2021

More than 50% will look to trade promotion organizations for support in 2021, closely followed by incubators, accelerators and tech hubs (40%) and national/local governments (37%).

Types of funding needed

Over 70% are looking for grants in 2021, almost 50% are looking for micro-grants, and almost 40% for equity financing as well as government funding.

25% of them needs funding in the range of $5,000 - $10,000, and another 25% in the range of $10,000 - $50,000. More than 50% would use the funding to finance:

1) new physical infrastructure
2) expand to new markets
3) new products
4) digitalization

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Type of support needed

Almost 80% need access to finance. Over 50% need support in digitalizing their business. 50% need training as well as market information.


Only over 30% are working with a mentor, but over 80% are interested in mentoring. Over 70% of respondents cited “knowledge and experience in one particular area, i.e. branding, marketing, legal” as a key interest in connecting with a mentor, with “professional network” and “professional expertise” in their industry/sector ranking a close second and third.