Youth at work: building economic opportunities for young people in Africa

Organisation(s): Mastercard Foundation

Date: 2015

Pages: 32 p.


Generating viable employment for young people remains a serious global problem. This situation is particularly acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, where some 600 million people are currently under the age of 25. Many still do not have access to quality and reliable economic opportunities, either through self- or formal employment. The economic and social costs of this challenge are too high. It is time for the global youth jobs movement to take its work to a new level—a level that will create new economic opportunity for millions of young people. The challenges of youth underemployment and low productivity self-employment are multi-faceted. Solutions require a holistic approach—at the level of individual young people, at the level of collaborating organizations and at the level of government leadership, so as to create enabling environments and remove obstacles to youth employment, entrepreneurship and productivity. The Foundation’s Economic Opportunities for Youth programs provide instructive examples of how holistic approaches can be designed and implemented in Sub-Saharan Africa. These programs are guided by three principles: • There is a need to improve training, skills development and education by developing and testing models that deliver the foundational skills, experiential learning and non-cognitive skills young people need. • There is a need to link young people to real opportunities that exist in the market in developing countries. • There is an opportunity to explore the role that financial services and education can play in helping young people make a successful transition into their working years. While data on many aspects of this work are still emerging, a review of the Foundation’s programs and the broader literature reveals a number of important themes, principles and points of evidence that can help further guide practices in this field.

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