Future Forward, an initiative by Ashoka and the MasterCard Foundation, identifies and supports social entrepreneurs and changemakers with innovative solutions for youth employment in sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative also convenes a wider community of practitioners, thought leaders, and young Africans who spread insights and effective approaches with a vision to redefine meaningful work and opportunity in the 21st century.

Why this Initiative?

Sub-Saharan Africa, which will be home to the largest youth population in the world by 2050, faces a paradox that has global implications: in spite of rising literacy rates (by 6%) and education enrollment (by 9%), two-thirds of young people face long-term unemployment. It is apparent that as the world is changing rapidly, so are demographics, employment, the workplace and the skill sets needed to contribute in the 21st century. The entire employment system needs to be reframed and the mindsets of individuals in public, private and civil sectors need to shift so that more opportunities are created for youth to thrive. Especially considering that half the population today is younger than 25.

How might young Africans create or secure sustainable and meaningful livelihoods?

The challenge is that young people in sub-Saharan Africa are struggling to translate their skills into productive and meaningful employment. The good news is this region has great potential for innovation and economic development spearheaded by young African men and women—the most educated generation ever. Not only will they find lasting jobs, they will also create them.

Recognizing this opportunity for action, the MasterCard Foundation and Ashoka have joined forces to identify and support social entrepreneurs who are tackling youth employment issues in sub-Saharan Africa. Future Forward creates and expands approaches for young people to practice changemaking skills, seize opportunities, and pursue livelihoods in the global economy. Together, we will build nurturing environments that allow young Africans to become leaders both today and tomorrow. 

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