Announcing! Five winning ideas for addressing employment in Africa—social entrepreneurship fixes for youth, by youth—from the MasterCard Foundation and Ashoka’s Future Forward partnership.
African business and political leaders, including Zambia Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda, have described Africa’s youth employment challenge as a “ticking time bomb.” The deepening gap between young people’s skills and the needs of employers has been linked to education systems that simply are not up to snuff, but also to a general lack of faith in young people as being capable of making meaningful contributions in a global marketplace, sometimes because of cultural and gender biases.
As a result, young men and women in sub-Saharan Africa are more likely to make a living in the insecure informal economy, struggling to overcome myriad barriers to formal employment.
(Youth aren’t alone: 49% of sub-Saharan Africa’s workforce is un- or under-employed.)
Despite these daunting challenges, many leaders see this situation as a great opportunity. They are confident that young people can be activists and innovators—even job creators for their communities.
Here are five ideas from social entrepreneurs under the age of 30 that redefine employment in Africa, while putting young people in charge as changemakers.
1. Helping women entrepreneurs seize market opportunities: KadAfrica, Uganda
Eric Kaduru, age 30, is helping thousands of out-of-school girls turn small tracts of unused land into money-making passion fruit farms in Kyenjojo, a small town at the intersection of two major highways in western Uganda. Participating young women each receive a 240-square meter plot (about twice the size of a six-yard box in soccer) and 45 passion fruit vines to launch their own small-scale agribusiness.
Kaduru, who worked in advertising but turned to agriculture four years ago, offers “intense” technical support to his KadAfrica entrepreneurs, who also get access to a ready market: 70 percent of passion fruit in Uganda is imported, so there’s plenty of appetite among Ugandans for buying local.
2. Enabling income-generation by closing systemic gaps in health care: GiftedMom, Cameroon
GiftedMom is Central Africa’s first mobile health platform that has been designed to improve the health of pregnant women, new mothers, and their children. It saves lives, too.
When founder Alain Nteff, age 22, visited a clinic in rural Cameroon, he learned that 17 premature babies had lost their lives due to complications from illnesses like syphilis, chlamydia, and malaria. The deaths were preventable, and the grieving mothers would still have their children had they received proper care during their pregnancies, Nteff said. He felt he had to take action.
3. Creating a path from self-sufficiency to ambitious entrepreneurship: Tiwale Community Based Organization, Malawi
In Malawi, a landlocked country powered by agriculture, about 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas and more than 60 percent live on less than $1 per day. Women, in many cases, have it tougher than men. Just 16 percent of girls finish primary school, and many women must deal with challenges like a low socio-economic status, higher than average rates of HIV and AIDS, and one of the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality.
Ellen Chilemba, a budding entrepreneur since her pre-teen years, is trying to change these difficult circumstances for women in Malawi with her for-profit social enterprise, Tiwale. Chilemba, now 20, and her team have trained 150 women as entrepreneurs, while also offering grants, loans and lessons that can lead to empowerment and independence.
4. Formalizing real-world learning in the creative arts: Twim Academy, Nigeria
The Twim Academy in Idaban, Nigeria, is a school for media and the creative arts that was founded by Olumide Adeleye, age 27. Twim Academy opened its doors in 2013 and offers young people—typically between the ages of 18 and 35—courses in basic computer skills, photography, video production, web design, and visual effects.
Media and arts students who want to grow their skill set and gain real-world experience can sign up for six-week, certificate-level courses, or earn Twim Academy diplomas in more structured, semester-long classes. Both course types offer plenty of hands-on experience and students walk away with expertise and vocational skills, because the last thing young people in Nigeria need—or can afford—is empty experience.
5. Putting inmates back to work: AEPT-Détenus et Entrepreneuriat, Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso’s government collapsed under the pressure of protests demanding a change in leadership in October, 2014. President Blaise Compaoré stepped down one day after the parliament building in the capital city, Ouagadougou, went up in flames, officially ending his 27-year rule.
During Compaoré’s governance, major human rights problems included (but were not limited to) the “excessive use for force against civilians, criminal suspects, and detainees,” according to a U.S. State Department report, as well as the abuse of prisoners, harsh prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, and judicial inefficiency.
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