Celebrating International Migrants Day 2021

In celebration of International Migrants Day on 17th December 2021, YBI have been reflecting upon how entrepreneurship can transform the prospects and livelihoods of youth on the move. Youth on the move is defined as 18-35 year olds who have been displaced by forced or unforced migration; International Migrants Day offers the opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges that these young individuals face in their host communities.

Our 2019 report Beating the odds: Supporting youth on the move to become successful entrepreneurs identified that 1 in 3 youth supported by our members are refugees and migrants. The resilience and adaptability of youth on the move are traits that form the foundation of successful entrepreneurship, a career path that needs to be an easily accessibly platform for young refugees and migrants.

According to reports from the UNHCR, at least 84 million people have been forced to flee their homes, among them are nearly 26.4 million refugees, half are under the age of 18. Meet Basel Silati, who made the risky journey from Syria to Sweden and opened his own traditional Middle Eastern restaurant named Almalek.

With no qualifications and a few years’ experience working as a mobile phone technician, Basel took a big risk in opening Almalek. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Basel’s profits reduced by almost 90%. Finding himself ineligible for government support schemes, Basel sought support from our Swedish member NyföretagarCentrum, to help him adapt his business plans. The resilience that Basel maintained in a time of great uncertainty is inspiring to us all.

“Don’t give up! Try to make your business viable enough to keep it afloat. This time shall pass- there is a time after Corona!”

Our Youth on the Move report discovered that young refugee women alone have the potential to contribute $1.4 trillion to global GDP annually if they can be productively integrated into the workforce. Meet entrepreneur Atacha Mumputu, who moved from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Belgium in 2011. Like Basel, Atacha’s business was heavily impacted by the pandemic- Atacha lost 50% of her turnover when both of her beauty centres were forced to close.

With a strong passion for the beautician profession, Atacha opened Face Clinic Belgium, offering anti-aging aesthetic care. Remaining hopeful in the pandemic, Atacha received support from our member MicroStart. The administrative and financial support from MicroStart meant Atacha could buy materials and cover cashflow losses. Since accessing this support, Face Clinic Belgium has grown, and now has an online store. 

“The main skill for an entrepreneur is to always see the light when everything seems to be dark.”

Both Basel and Atacha’s resilience and capability to adapt their businesses promptly in the COVID-19 pandemic are prime examples of how inspiring and flexible refugee and migrant entrepreneurs are in a time of great uncertainty. Basel and Atacha demonstrate that the resilience of young refugees and migrants is a successful pathway to positively contributing to society through entrepreneurship.

On Sunday 12th December, YBI’s CEO Anita Tiessen hosted a panel discussion at the 2021 RewirEd Summit in Dubai. The discussion addressed the impact that entrepreneurship has had on young refugees and migrants, alongside the barriers and challenges they continue to face, including social integration in host communities.

Read our report Beating the odds: Supporting youth on the move to become successful entrepreneurs to find out more about the opportunities and challenges for young refugee and migrant entrepreneurs.

Other Articles

View all

Empowering the future


YBI launches Empower and Elevate Programme to support inclusive youth-led businesses that create jobs


Growing our global network of members to expand our impact on youth entrepreneurship