Displaying items by tag: Demographics Afrikati - A smarter development of Africa ! Afrikati - Développer l’Afrique intelligemment ! http://afrikati.com Tue, 11 Dec 2018 03:14:29 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Social entrepreneurship to empower the youth http://afrikati.com/index.php/item/738-social-entrepreneurship-to-empower-the-youth http://afrikati.com/index.php/item/738-social-entrepreneurship-to-empower-the-youth


                                                             “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  
                                                                                                                     – Mahatma Gandhi

Young Africans must be aware of the role they have to play in defining their continent’s dynamics. If shifting towards a needs-based education(1) builds the skills needed, turning them into change agents relies on their ability to step up to the challenges Africa faces, start local initiatives and become accountable. Hence the need for social entrepreneurship as it transforms youngsters into leaders, projects managers and business owners.

Therefore not only is social entrepreneurship necessary to solve Africa’s youth high unemployment but it can also have a significant impact on local communities. Hence the call to public authorities to build an appropriate framework that will help spread social entrepreneurship among youngsters.

Turning young Africans into change agents

Africa’s youth high unemployment rate is a serious issue to tackle. Today, two thirds of Africans are below the age of 35 and in 2020, 3 Africans out of 4 will still be in their twenties(2). This youth, better educated but yet less employed than its parents, is a double-edged sword for Africa: a potential for growth if enough jobs are created to match the demand or a ticking bomb that could eventually lead to social upheavals.

While Africa’s working-age population will exceed China’s(3) around 2035, jobs are still to be created to cope with population growth needs, resulting in an increasing number of young Africans being unemployed. Fixing this forced “idleness” requires young Africans to take the lead and start their own initiatives. Why? So they can actively contribute to shaping the environment they wish to live in and positively impact their community.

This is where social entrepreneurship comes in. It turns young Africans from passive mode to active contributors to the change needed in their communities. Instead of being part of the problem they become a key driver of the solution. Social entrepreneurship promotes collaboration and networking among community members. It applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being. Social entrepreneurship supports traditional values and favors a humanist approach to business. It can take different forms such as co-operatives, social businesses or charity organizations and clearly stands as a viable option in the mix of solutions offered to address youth unemployment.

Social entrepreneurship can have a significant impact

Far from being anecdotal, social entrepreneurship initiatives can be true game-changers. Here are two cases in point.

Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents Program (ELA) – UGANDA(4)

ELA boosts social empowerment by training poor women in critical fields (health, financial literacy, livelihood training…). It’s a peer-to-peer teaching system where more-skilled women teach less-skilled ones under the guidance of peer mentors trained by the NGO BRAC. Training is held in a “safe space” where they can socialize, away from the pressure of the daily life in a male-dominated poverty-stricken society. This peer-to-peer system makes it scalable by turning former students into teachers and yields exceptional results (since its launch 2008) in entrepreneurial activities (+35%), personal consumption expenditure (+33%), teen pregnancy rates (-28.6%), self-reported condom usage (+12.6%), unwilling sex (-83%).

Diepsloot Youth Projects (DYP) – SOUTH AFRICA(5)

“Helping youth help themselves”, DYP is a Youth Development Organization that aims at uplifting the youth by providing them with skills to help them identify and exploit opportunities available in their environment. The organization achieves this goal by providing information, skills and enterprise development training. DYP has developed care programs, leadership camps and youth outreach/volunteering initiatives. Through carpentry training, short skills development workshops and computer training, DYP also promotes skills developments and income generating programs.

So social entrepreneurship can definitely change the face of a community. By both convincing locals of their role in being part of the solution and training them, it unleashes resources for the improvement of the community’s living standards. Youth-led social entrepreneurship projects establish Africa’s youth as a full-fledge change agent. Not only do young Africans “work themselves out of unemployment”, but they are also urged to play a role in fostering change in their community, with their peers. They develop an unwavering motivation that fuels their projects.

On top of providing tangible solutions to local challenges, social entrepreneurship also contributes to developing skills critical to other sectors. Indeed building a successful social entrepreneurship project goes through steps similar to business projects: identifying opportunities, maximizing the value for the community, executing the operational application. Along the way, the social entrepreneur develops a set of required skills such as: leadership/supervision, communication, financial management, record keeping, monitoring and marketing.

The question is therefore how to build a viable environment for such initiatives.

Building a viable environment for social entrepreneurship

Now the critical question: how to foster social entrepreneurship? Like companies who need a friendly business climate to thrive, specific actions from public authorities are necessary to let social entrepreneurship reach its full potential. It should be done both directly (via government institutions) and indirectly (via the support of third-party such as NGOs).

First, Governments should act directly by designing a “social entrepreneurship strategy for youth” that could be implemented by actions such as: local campaigns to sensitize youngsters, contests to foster emulation and reward creative thinking. Management of such initiatives would be delegated to local authorities such as city councils for example. The idea here is stimulate social entrepreneurship initiatives by directly improving the ecosystem.

Governments could also act indirectly by supporting non-governmental structures whose activity help young social entrepreneurs start, develop and secure their project. Indeed, public authorities should finance capacity building and skills development programs NGOs and associations could freely deliver to youngsters. Impact assessment could also be carried out by NGOs to ensure transparency and objectivity: number of program beneficiaries, number of business launched, community outcomes, income generated.

To conclude, social entrepreneurship offers untapped solutions for youth employment. It is up to the stakeholders, both authorities and young Africans, to leverage and grow its potential. “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” -Winston Churchill.


(1)  http://afrikati.com/index.php/item/736-towards-a-needs-based-education        
(2)  http://www.africa-youth.org/    
(3)  Mo Ibrahim Foundation, « African Youth : fulfilling the potential », November 2012,  http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/downloads/2012-facts-and-figures.pdf    
(4)   http://www.youth-employment-inventory.org/inventory/view/542/    
(5)   http://www.diepslootyouth.webs.com/    

Blog Thu, 21 Nov 2013 00:23:42 +0000
Towards a needs-based education http://afrikati.com/index.php/item/736-towards-a-needs-based-education http://afrikati.com/index.php/item/736-towards-a-needs-based-education

                       “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”
                                                                                              - Nelson Mandela, Address at the Planetarium, 16th July 2003

Changing Africa starts with the right mix of talents, capable of addressing local challenges. Hence the need for education to focus on equipping people with skills needed locally. This is all the more critical that Africa has limited financial resources to fix its shortage of talents. So instead of breeding waves of graduates equipped only with theoretical knowledge of no practical use, we should move towards a ‘demand-pull’ approach: Which skills does the country need now and in the future? How can the educational system efficiently deliver them?

In this article, I focus on the economy1 and suggest an approach in 3 steps: 

1. Select industries to foster: industries in which the country either is or can become competitive and industries vital to development
2. Bring home state-of-the-art know-how: through both training of nationals abroad and import of talented foreigners
3. Design tailor-made academic curricula: to fuel nascent industries with appropriately-skilled graduates.

A clear mismatch between education and the economy

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)’s educational systems perform rather well on quantitative metrics: enrolment has been growing steadily in primary, secondary and higher education, though still very low compared to other regions. Today, 6%2 of an age group (vs. world’s average of 26%) attends a higher education institution. According to UNESCO3, total number of students in higher education in SSA multiplied twentyfold from 0.2 million in 1970 to 4.1 million in 2007 (out of 152 million students globally).

The key issue is rather on the nature of the output: first most students graduate in fields not related to direct needs of local companies (routing of graduates) and second, these graduates are equipped only with theoretical knowledge as opposed to actual know-how (quality of degrees).

The mismatch between graduates (education) and skills in demand locally (economy) is appalling. Let’s consider this: while agriculture and extracting industries are the dominant sectors, economic and social sciences have the lion share of graduates (see Exhibit 1). This failing routing of graduates might be due to African countries who mimicked at first their colonial power and to the relative lower cost of training in social sciences (e.g. sociologists) compared to technical fields (e.g. medical doctors, engineers) which require expensive equipment.

Exhibit 1: Relative weight of fields in higher education and employment

In short, while a construction company looks for well-trained bricklayers, they are presented with philosophers and sociologists. No surprise that World Bank’s enterprise surveys highlight the difficulty to find skilled workers as a hindrance to African economies. Let’s be clear: I’m not saying economic and social sciences are useless; I’m just questioning the efficiency of a routing system who uses its limited financial resources to train most young peoples in areas which almost certainly lead them to unemployment. Simultaneously, this system also underserves the very few companies looking for skilled workers to grow and expand.

There is also the issue of the quality of degrees. Even for those who graduate in ‘locally useful’ areas, the gap between their theoretical knowledge and the tasks they have to perform in local companies is equally a hindrance. For example, while Cameroon’s higher education has 25,000 students in scientific fields, the construction of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline has required the import of foreign workers, for tasks as basic as welding. Also out of the country’s 6,000 engineering students, few are able to apply their knowledge of mechanics to find solutions to local problems. Far from being anecdotal or specific to Cameroon, this illustrates how skewed the supply of graduates compared to the actual needs is.

Anticipate current and future demand. Reverse plan the optimal mix of graduates

To avoid such a waste of scarce resources, African countries need to adopt a ‘demand-pull’ approach. Starting with the skills in short supply in the economy at the moment or in the future, they should anticipate the mix of graduates that would optimally fill this gap. Doing so require educational systems to work hand in hand with professional associations representing companies of the same industry. This translates into three major steps:

1. Select industries to foster

An efficient allocation of resources begins with choosing industries to foster: industries in which the country either is or can become competitive and industries vital to development. The first category encompasses optional sectors (e.g. aeronautics) in which the country stands a chance to succeed. The second refers to critical sectors such as construction, which is necessary to build roads, schools and hospitals. Morocco is a good example since the country has identified key sectors (including car-making, aeronautics…) in a strategy plan designed in 2003. Ever since Moroccan policies in education, fiscal incentives, transportation infrastructure and special economic zones have been designed to best serve this plan. As a result Morocco has secured significant investments in the identified industries such as the French carmaker Renault who decided to set up a factory there.

Sub-Saharan African countries should do the same. For example Kenya might focus on the tech industry, among other key industries, building on its tech ecosystem and success stories (such as M-Pesa4 or Ushaidi5 ).

2. Import state-of-the-art know-how

Building state-of-the-art skills (required to win in globalization) from scratch takes a long time. To speed up the learning curve, African countries should send nationals to be trained abroad and attract talented foreigners through interesting schemes (special economic zones, fiscal incentives, time-limited high wages...). Chile’s international startup competition (Startup Chile6 ) is a good example: each year it attracts hundreds of world-class entrepreneurs and startups who are interested in the prize of US$40,000 of equity-free seed capital, a temporary 1-year visa to develop their projects and an access to the most potent social and capital networks in the country. In 2010, 22 startups (out of 300+ applicants) from 14 countries joined Chile. Such a yearly steady stream of top innovators trickles down locally with Chilean working for and with such entrepreneurs.

In our example, Kenya might send Kenyans to world-class tech scenes (Silicon Valley, Israël…) and offer tax relief schemes to attract top start-ups.

3. Design tailor-made academic curricula

It’s only when an industry’s current and future demand has been planed that academic curricula can be designed to provide the needed skills en masse. At this stage, government can work hand in hand with institutions representing the industry’s companies to design tailor-made programs. Academic institutions gain in decreasing unemployment among their alumni and companies gain the right set of skills. Morocco here provides another good example. Cooperation between the French carmaker Renault and the Moroccan government yield a school7 where students are trained to match job openings in Morocco (in Renault’s factory and other suppliers in the local car-making industry).

Such demand-pull academic curricula should be the norm in our countries who have no resources to squander. These curricula can also contribute to pushing the local know-how frontier via R&D, innovation and problem solving.

From ‘supply-push graduates’ to ‘demand-pull skilled workers’

Therefore African educational systems require a radical shift: from a ‘push’ approach where the economy is expected to adapt to graduates, to a ‘demand-pull’ system where academic curricula are designed to produce the very workers in need locally. Otherwise it results in simultaneously high unemployment for graduates and serious difficulty in hiring skilled workers for companies.

The question now is to know whether Africans agree with such a shift. What about you? Do you support the shift from push to pull? Why? Your view is of high interest to us.


(1) The focus on the economy is only for the sake of conciseness. Civil society and Government also require specific skills that are equally important.
(2) Gross Graduation Ratio: total number of students in higher education (ISCED 5 & 6) divided by the population of age of studying in higher education (age group of up to 5 years after end of high school).
(3) Source: UNESCO’s Global Education Digest 2009
(4) M-Pesa : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-Pesa
(5) http://www.ushahidi.com/
(6) http://startupchile.org/
(7) Institut de Formation aux Métiers de l’Automobile de Tanger Med


christian.nouboue@afrikati.com (Christian Nouboue) Blog Mon, 09 Sep 2013 21:37:51 +0000