6.3 Increasing Economic Opportunities for Youth in Rural Areas: Current Practice
This chapter presents understandings emerging from practice and the futuristic thinking of experts working in rural and youth development fields. These understandings, which are forming the basis of recognized principles, show both common factors and the diversity of the young people who are launching their productive lives in rural areas. As a coherent set of understandings, they have yet to be vetted by a representative group, so they do not represent “industry policy” or agreed upon “principles” at this stage.
In 2012, The MasterCard Foundation engaged in an inclusive research initiative to give young people in Africa a voice in shaping the directions of the Foundations’ work in the field of youth learning and financial inclusion. The exercise also served as a professional development opportunity for the young researchers, and a demonstration to others of good practice in engaging youth in strategy development. Over a period of six months, nine young people from Ghana, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Kenya developed a research agenda and interviewed 119 peers and 51 community and business leaders to explore how to increase youth employment (formal, informal and self-employment) in growth sectors such as agri-business, green growth, information and communications technology and financial services. The Foundation concluded that the approach successfully “amplified youth voices,” and the research will continue in 2013 with fresh questions.
The following are the high level recommendations of the Youth Think Tank:
- Grow networks and market oneself in order to help identify opportunities for employment or self-employment.
- Emphasize creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship training programs for youth.
- Help youth identify new and innovative ideas for entrepreneurship.
- Learn and practice soft skills as part of training and development.
- Leverage financial literacy programs with mobile technologies to increase reach.
- Develop a savings culture for youth and access to credit at an early age.
- Facilitate mentorship/guidance from leaders and professionals.
- Explore new growth sectors for women’s training and employment.
- Develop on-line job boards/job information that can be accessed by mobile.
Further, 92 percent of young people surveyed responded that agri-business offers good job opportunities in their communities, and they identified pros and cons of different kinds of agribusiness from farming through process and distribution.
One of the researchers, Arnest Sebbumba, a young farmer from Uganda who’s a member of the Youth Think Tank, shared his perspective on the importance of young people having a voice in research and high-level decision making:
“ ‘Experts’ who come from a very different reality often try to intuit the needs of youth on the cusp of their productive lives, based on a set of demographics or statistics about youth unemployment, but few have thought to interface directly with them. Perhaps because I am in this phase of life myself- because I have the perspective of a young man from rural Africa - I see great value in programs like the Think Tank. This is my own future in the hands of governments, NGOs, and big business. … As we compiled these personal stories in the Think Tank project, we saw that youth in East Africa consistently said they wanted ‘increased access to leaders and decision-making processes.’ They also wanted to know more about professional options, and “the market and industries that hold the greatest opportunities for employment,” and said they needed greater access to employment and entrepreneurship training programs.”2