How Africa is using technology to curb youth unemployment

Fri, 2014-11-21 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

Of all the unemployed people in Africa, if you were to choose one at random, odds are that person would be under the age of 25. And even having a college degree doesn’t change those odds much.

For young adults in Africa, the problem is that few employers have entry-level positions. And those with degrees find their education doesn’t match employers’ needs.

Technology may be coming to their aid, however. AllAfrica profiled three projects that strive to put young adults to work – and help their communities in the process.

Turning youth into digital ambassadors
One way to create more jobs for young adults is to get more people to see what they have to offer. A program called the Digital Opportunity Trust works toward that goal by returning the graduates to their home communities as interns. Each intern is required to start a community improvement project.

A trust intern in Uganda started a program to help start-up companies be successful. The intern helped entrepreneurs get to know their customers and their customers’ needs better, refining their business plans in the process. The idea is that as those companies grow, they will need to hire people to keep up with business.

In Kenya, another intern started a program that mentors teens and gives them workforce skills and apprenticeship opportunities. Of the 30 young people who have gone through the program, half have already found jobs.

Using technology to make farming profitable
Especially in Kenya, farming traditionally has been work for older people. The average farmer there is 60 years old. With a rapidly aging population, there are plenty of opportunities for younger people to get involved in farming. A program called M-Farm tries to make farming an attractive option by combining it with technology.

M-Farm is in large part an online marketplace. Farmers can check market prices in real-time to make sure they’re getting a good deal, and can join with other farmers to get volume discounts on needed supplies, such as fertilizer.

The program seems to work by showing young adults how to use their education to make farming work as a more successful business. The first farms in the program doubled their profits in a year, and the group behind the platform hopes to enroll 180,000 farmers by next year.

Working together, succeeding together
Still another program believes that there is strength in numbers. Jokkolabs is modeled after entrepreneurial hubs that have sprung up in communities around the world. It provides shared office space, giving entrepreneurs a place to go to work on their businesses, but more importantly, an opportunity to meet others with complementary skills.

In African culture, entrepreneurial ventures are regarded as especially risky, and therefore the people behind them aren't given much credit. By allowing many entrepreneurs to work on their ideas in a shared workspace, the hope is that not only will they see that they are not alone, but that their ideas will be made stronger by talking with and sharing their concepts with other like-minded individuals.

Nearly 150 entrepreneurs have already started using office space in one of the various Jakkolabs spaces, which are now in several countries, including Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Nigeria.

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