Youth Empowerment Programs in AfricaBy 2050, Africa’s child population is projected to reach one billion, which would be the largest among the other continents. Already, the median age in Africa has shifted to 18 years old and increased the labor force substantially. The Center for Strategic and International Study released a report highlighting just how much of an impact the youth of Africa can have on the continent’s economic growth. With these trends in mind, a number of organizations are finding new and creative ways to increase youth empowerment in Africa today.

Here are three programs centered around youth empowerment in Africa.

3 Youth Empowerment Programs in Africa

  1. Young African Leaders Initiative
    The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is one of the programs created by USAID to empower young people across the world. This 2010 U.S. initiative focuses on providing Africans with resources to bolster development. These young people receive support regarding leadership skills and entrepreneurship opportunities in Regional Leadership Centers in sub-Saharan Africa. The four regional centers are located in higher education institutions and primarily target young people between the ages of 18 and 35. For example, one center located at the University of South Africa School of Business Leadership serves Swaziland, Zambia, South Africa and Madagascar. These regional centers help foster entrepreneurship and create opportunities for cross-border collaboration.The program also offers a fellowship for young Africans to study at a U.S. university and further develop their skills to become young leaders. The Mandela Washington Fellowship selects young people from 48 countries across sub-Saharan Africa to create a diverse group of fellows learning about topics surrounding business, civic engagement or public management.

    One of the most important parts of this program is the large network for young Africans to connect with each other across the continent. With online resources and regional centers in all parts of sub-Saharan Africa, every day, more young people are gaining access to information about professional development and entrepreneurship, creating a strong foundation for long-term youth empowerment in Africa.

  2. Young Africa
    In 1988, Young Africa International was founded in the Netherlands. With a goal to empower young Africans with employability and entrepreneurship skills, the program utilizes a network of independent and local affiliations to run activities in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia.A majority of the funding goes to creating training centers to hire youth across these countries. It also allows local entrepreneurs to run their businesses in a successful environment. By establishing local nonprofits in these youth centers, it promotes local businesses while also giving youth the opportunity to explore career fields, develop new skills and learn lessons about the working environment.

    Targeted to the 15 to 25 age group, Young Africa also provides 43 courses to people in the program. These courses include vocational education in technical, agricultural and commercial skills. Young Africa also focuses heavily on life skills training to help empower young people to make healthy choices and grow their self-confidence so they can make a positive impact on their community.

    The overall impact of the organization can be seen by its milestones. In 2017, there were 1,980 vocational graduates from the program. Sixty-nine percent of them are now employed or self-employed. Overall, there have been 36,894 graduates from the vocational program and their incomes increased significantly. In Namibia alone, the participant’s average daily income increased from $15.30 a day to $40.

  3. International Youth Foundation
    For 30 years, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) has prepared young women and men to take control of their futures by focusing on a combination of education, employment, entrepreneurship and social innovation.Zimbabwe:Works is an example of a program focusing on employment for marginalized groups, especially women. Using the Passport to Success curriculum, the program teaches life skills to increase self-esteem, promote teamwork and motivate young people to engage in their communities. Certain partners and entrepreneurs also assist the process by providing business courses and access to microloans and related programs. Roughly 80 percent of interns with this program have transitioned to full-time employment with various companies. Also, almost 7 out of 10 women in the targeted group received financial literacy training.

    This program is just one of many examples of youth empowerment programs in Africa led by IYF. Across 14 countries, various programs introduce young people to healthier lifestyles and brighter futures.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Firms like Dalberg are needed more than ever in an increasingly complex world where sociocultural beliefs influence the effectiveness of public health interventions, where psychology interplays with sustainability measures, where the business of globalization meets the small farmer, and where economic and social development needs a well-thought out strategy in order to be innovative and successful.

Dalberg is a global development advisory firm where capital, research and strategy work cohesively to develop innovative solutions . Dalberg capital designs financial tools for high growth development projects. By developing these financial capabilities locally, Dalberg is able to incorporate their understanding of the local environment into their development strategies. Dalberg addresses specific needs of the communities.

Functioning like a think tank, the Dalberg Research team identifies critical issues related to global development, social impact and investing. The team offers analytical insight that can shape further solution design, investments and policy. They offer insight on topics like the internet gender gap and the need for a change in African economics in order to generate employment for the youth in the region.

In one of their contributions, a collaboration with the IFC, the research team identified the factors that contribute to the inefficiencies of aid organizations and proposed solutions to fill the gaps. The report highlighted some successful examples like the ICICI rural banking system in India and suggested an information sharing system at all levels of the supply chain that would increase transparency and accountability. The plan  also discussed the need to engage in more public-private partnerships to scale up the efforts of the private sector and to know about and adopt measures that have been successful elsewhere. This is just one example of the kind of work that Dalberg Research produces.

Dalberg also works with international aid organizations and governments to determine paths for growth and successful strategies to fill the development gap. For instance, in Senegal, the youth population is large and the school drop-out rate is high. The International Youth Foundation and USAID in Senegal wanted to strengthen their existing programs by understanding the youth perspective. Dalberg stepped in to perform the assessment and guided a discussion on potential solutions to this problem based on their findings.

In Pakistan where literacy and school enrollment is low, Dalberg worked with a development finance institution to identify schools that provide quality education, understand their business models, and regulatory factors that influence their success. With this kind of assessment, they were able to contribute to the design of financing models and investment options to foster the growth of the education sector.

The approach of organizations like Dalberg allow for the identification and scale up of successful solutions and enhanced cooperation between the private sector and aid agencies. An in-depth understanding of the contextual landscape of developmental issues assists in developing a more refined financing system and a friendlier political climate. Such organizations are finding an important place in the integrated methods that play a role in the fight for global equality.

– Mithila Rajagopal

Sources: CNBC Africa, Dalberg 1, Dalberg 2, U.S. News

Photo: Dalberg

Although somewhat of a cliche, the statement that “children are the future” has never been more true. It is not enough to start children off in the right direction very early in life, they still need assistance at every level leading into young adulthood. This can be seen in western societies plagued by economic strife where young people are trying to find their proverbial footing in a competitive, seemingly shrinking job market. The problem is greatly exacerbated in the developing world where jobs are often scarcer and the focus on education doesn’t extend as far into young adulthood.

The International Youth Foundation (IYF) is hard at work attempting to provide what’s necessary for children of all ages to successfully enter adulthood and contribute meaningfully to society. Starting in 1989, founder Rick Little came to realize that large swaths of the global youth populations were underserved by governments and most types of foreign aid. He wanted a renewed focus placed on youth development. Through years of effective networking and promotion, Little and the IYF have built partnerships with many donors and other aid organizations to serve youth at every stage of their development.

Thanks to the tremendous awareness raising efforts of the IYF and their partners, recognition of the importance of youth is being recognized by organizations like USAID. In fact, USAID counts the population of young people today at 1.5 billion, the largest juvenescence in global history. In conjunction with the advent of new technologies, the youth presence is very concerned and motivated to tackle demanding world issues. This only underscores the importance of youth development from childhood to adulthood.

IYF contends that 400 million youth the world over cannot find decent employment, mainly because of gaps in their skill sets. Through things like mentorship programs and internship opportunities, IYF is able to plug many youth into their respective job markets. Another way used is purely entrepreneurial, mentoring and empowering the young to start their own businesses. This is done again through partnership with other organizations. entra21, launched in Latin America, is one such IYF program. Through their association with the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank, favorable results were achieved for young people ranging from ages 16-29.

When it comes to schooling, the IYF is active with its Passport to Success initiative. Targeting at-risk children like those on the verge of dropping out of school, the program teaches key skills like time management and goal setting. Ensuring the longevity and continuity of the program are local institutions, schools, and universities. The program has helped over 60,000 students in nearly 30 nations with 60 life-skill lessons. Especially telling are the results from Mexico, where nearly 100% of those who completed the program were employed within 6 months and school dropout rates were sliced in half.

The International Youth Foundation has certainly brought focus to a sect of the youth population that was in dire need and it reminds us that the importance of education and development spans out into adolescence. Equipping young people with the right tools to become great citizens as adults is just as much, if not more so significant than early childhood education. With almost 2 billion young adults waiting in the wings to assume society, it’s absolutely necessary.

– David Smith

Sources: IYF, USAID Youth Impact, Entra21, Passport to Success
Photo: Facebook