Be Part of the Solution: How You Can Help Young People in Africa Find Jobs - And Purpose

Young people everywhere crave having a purpose in our rapidly changing world. This has serious social, economic, and political implications for the sub-Saharan Africa region because it is on track to have the largest youth population in the world by 2050.

Already, according to a new World Bank report, half the population of this region is younger than 25. And the population of 15-year-olds in sub-Saharan Africa will be increasing by a half million every year until 2035. The good news is that this region has great potential for innovation and economic development that will be spearheaded by young African men and women--the most educated generation ever. Not only will they find long-term jobs, they will also create them.

The challenge is that young people in sub-Saharan Africa are struggling to translate their skills into productive employment, even as literacy rates and education enrollment rates continue to rise. The youth unemployment rate across the region is above 60 percent.

“All young people need to have acquired basic literacy and numeracy, without which their earning potential remains low,” said Deon Filmer, the lead economist for the World Bank’s Development Research Group and Africa Region, and one of report’s authors. “They also need to be able to access land, financing, and training, all of which play an important role in improving their prospects.”

Mastering multiplication tables and learning to read a newspaper won’t be enough, even with greater access to capital or mentorship support. Young leaders must be able to apply skills like leadership, teamwork, creativity, and empathy in order to take charge of their futures as changemakers. As Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka put it; "The moment a young person creates something, they know for the rest of their life how powerful they are"

The challenges are complex, but there are youth-centered and systems-oriented solutions. This is why The MasterCard Foundation and Ashoka have joined forces to launch the Future Forward partnership.

By identifying and supporting social entrepreneurs who are tackling youth employment issues in sub-Saharan Africa, Future Forward creates and expands approaches for young people to seize new opportunities and pursue meaningful livelihoods in the global economy.

The Future Forward: Youth Innovations for Employment in Africa challenge will also award five young entrepreneurs prizes including an all-expenses-paid trip to the February 2015 Ashoka Globalizer Summit during which the winners will join an ecosystem of top innovators, thought leaders, Ashoka Fellows and potential investors that can help them scale and increase the impact of their work.

The event is designed to play a critical role in their growth as social innovators who are dedicated to improving the prospects for young people in a constantly evolving marketplace. It will include peer-to-peer training, support, and visibility that will help them fast-track their solutions.

You don’t have to take the Future Forward challenge to get involved. You can still participate, be inspired, refine your ideas, and help build a network for change by helping to:


Do you know a young African who is addressing employment in his or her community? Encourage them to take the Future Forward challenge.

It’s open to all individuals between the ages of 18 and 30, as long as they are from Africa and are operating -- or plan to operate -- in sub-Saharan Africa (including all African countries except Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Western Sahara, and Sudan.)


We invite you to share your stories and expertise on our community blog (read the contributor guidelines, please) and in one of our many webinars.

Also, join our community on Twitter! Just tag your tweets with the hashtag #AfricaYouthFwd.


Help us co-create a community conversation about solutions, insights, and knowledge related to youth innovations in Africa. If you’re interested, or want to learn more about this opportunity, you can email Lauren Parnell Marino at lmarino [at] changemakers [dot] com.


We’re developing an innovation guide and a toolkit to provide tips and other practical advice that equip people with the how-tos for developing impactful solutions for youth employment.

photo credit: RLabs