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Youth Unemployment is Unsolvable Without Addressing ‘Waithood’

This article originally appeared on World Policy Institute

In a scenario illustrated by the World Bank, “Africa will need at least two decades to change the structure of employment sufficiently to offer dramatically different prospects to its youth.” However, what this scenario may not fully consider is the persistent problem of “waithood,” or “waiting for adulthood.”

Practitioners and social entrepreneurs in over 43 African countries who are passionate about solving youth unemployment have often observed the challenge of “waithood”—a period of suspension when young people are no longer children, but have not transitioned into being adults.

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Ashoka insight

To ensure youth are better equipped for job or business opportunities, social entrepreneurs are creating new intergenerational structures to dismantle the culture of waithood. These structures ensure that individuals from different generations collaborate and form sustained relationships, with the explicit intention of supporting members of the younger generation and helping them secure their own livelihoods and well-being.

By examining interviews and case studies of over 45 social entrepreneurs in 17 African countries, we found four main techniques that are used to create intergenerational support.