How can we provide employment to the 1.8 billion young people that live on this planet? Will we have enough jobs for all these young people? Will there be sufficient high-quality and high-productivity work, especially for women, who are often the most vulnerable when it comes to finding meaningful work? The size of the youth employment challenge – and opportunity – is enormous. That’s why we need all the help we can get.
With its rich oil and gas deposits, Algeria has long been able to sidestep many of the social and economic challenges facing other North African nations. But as oil prices drop and the youth population grows, young Algerians are feeling the pressure: On average, 1 in 4 Algerian youth is unemployed; among college grads, the jobless rate is close to twice the national average.
Africa’s rise has not taken its young people along with it. Economies riding the resource boom of the last decade are coming back down with a thud, exposing that the steep rise in GDPs that lent itself to the “Africa rising” narrative did little for the continent’s youth. The youth bulge that was supposed to energize the continent’s resurgence is increasingly looking like a threat.
Not even the high temperatures, or the wind blowing dust, could deter Eliud Muchai from pushing a trolley filled with cooked camel meat sausages as he moved around looking for customers on his first day of work. At 19 years old, he knows all too well what it means to be unschooled, penniless, and homeless in Isiolo town, a region in Kenya’s arid lands that is characterized by economic and weather-related shocks.
Currently, about 73 million youth worldwide are looking for work. Those who succeed in finding employment are typically hired into low-skilled, low-productivity positions, often in the informal sector. For those who don’t find work, the impact of long-term unemployment can be devastating and have long-lasting impacts, putting social cohesion at threat.
Agriculture is the primary source of income for many rural populations in Africa, but keeping youth involved in the sector is a major challenge. Training opportunities are often limited, and income is inconsistent across the seasonality of many crops. As a result, many rural youth engage in a plethora of economic activities to support themselves, ranging from formal agricultural production to informal cash-paid labor. A recent year-long study by The MasterCard Foundation has shone some light on the diverse economic lives of rural youth in Ghana and Uganda.
Walk along any street in most African cities and you will see the story of Africa’s development, growth and potential: hard working, entrepreneurial people fill the cities making a living out of every opportunity crossing their path. However, dig a little deeper and you will see missed opportunities to take Africa and its citizens to the next level of development and build a future that today’s youth will thrive in.
In early March, I spent a week in Rwanda building a profile of how young people in rural areas use media and technology and interact with rural financial institutions (RFIs). With the help of the Rural Youth Agribusiness Forum (RYAF), we interviewed 116 young people (aged 17 to 34) in a ring of towns and villages outside the capital, Kigali.In many ways, this process mirrored our Digital Insights work in Bangladesh and Palestine, but with some significant additions on the methodology. First, we asked them some key questions about entrepreneurship.
Latin America holds a promising richness: youth. A quarter of its 163 million people are aged between 15 and 20. With such a huge working age population, Latin America has a massive demographic bonus, especially in comparison to ageing Europe and Asian countries such as Japan. The challenge is to transform the concept of “working age population” into “talent” and “human capital”. That’s not yet happening. On the contrary, about a fifth of Latin America’s young people – or nearly 30 million individuals – are “NEET”, either not employed or not engaged in education or training.