International Youth Day 2021: Building a sustainable food system through youth employment, entrepreneurship and an enabling environment

A handful of beans

In its many years of implementing youth employment and entrepreneurship programmes in Africa, SNV, in partnership with relevant stakeholders is contributing to the development of the local entrepreneurship eco-system and an enabling environment on many fronts.


By undertaking market diagnostic /market scans, barriers that constrain young people from venturing and succeeding in the world of enterprise development and employment are identified and sustainable solutions are sought in partnership with actors and stakeholders.

Typical constraints include fragmented and limited coordination of youth-related policies.  The regulatory frameworks on aspects such as ease of business registration and the length of time it takes on such a transaction is a common gap in many countries.  Furthermore, skills gaps and technical know-how exist. Underpinning this, the education system in many countries is quite theoretical, lacking in practical application. This inherently limits innovation, creativity and practical problem-solving skills and the entrepreneurial acumen that comes with early exposure to entrepreneurship opportunities in the communities where young women and men reside.  Linked to this, entrepreneurship education is hardly integrated into the curriculum frameworks of primary and secondary education systems.  As a result, opportunities are missed “to catch them early”.

Similarly, opportunities are missed that can stimulate entrepreneurial behaviour and the development of technical knowledge. For example a) how to identify business opportunities; b)  how to start and run a sustainable enterprise; c) undertake basic market research and d) basics on money management matters thus limiting young peoples financial literacy capacity. Yet, this is a critical skill that is needed to run a professional career or enterprise.

As well, information access and gender gaps persist, private sector engagement remains minimal and developmental programmes are still uncoordinated in many spheres. Left unchecked, prolonged passive private sector roles, duplication of effort coupled with the fragmented distribution of resources and development approaches in most geographies can only exacerbate the increasing poverty gap in most developing countries, particularly in Africa.  Opportunities in agriculture and agri-food systems, remain untapped. Yet, Africa is home to the most fertile soils in the world (with favourable weather) and a growing innovative youthful population.

Our approach

On this backdrop, youth employment is a priority sector for SNV, national governments and development partners.  Thus, SNV’s OYE and entrepreneurship development approach is designed as an integrated market systems development approach.  It is applied in high growth sectors such as agriculture, water and energy to address youth employment and unemployment in the countries where we work.  SNV seeks to intensify collaboration and support with national governments, to contribute to strengthening the eco-system and an enabling environment, while at the same time, bringing donors, private sector, civil society organisations under one tent. In partnership with relevant actors, SNV aims to facilitate and deepen the empowerment of young unemployed and under-employed women and men, for sustained support, market access, scale and impact. This is due to the crucial role that young people can play in transforming food systems as entrepreneurs, innovators and consumers.

Examples from the field


Despite the political, social and economic challenges in Ethiopia, youth employment remains a priority for the country. RAYEE Ethiopia, a programme implemented by SNV and funded by the Mastercard Foundation is aiming to create employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for 240,000 young women and men (70% women).  RAYEE is collaborating with several national agencies such as the Job Creation Commission (JCC) and others to contribute to a sustainable and enabling environment that supports youth employment and entrepreneurship development. To address the financial inclusion challenge, RAYEE has partnered with financial service providers such as MFIs to develop and revise loan products for young women and men agri-entrepreneurs.  RAYEE is also partnering with the Micro and Small Enterprises Agency to mobilise its resources by the youth as a source of capital to finance youth businesses in the agribusiness sector.  This, ultimately, would positively translate to youth MSEs raising their own capital and facilitate access to affordable loans, resulting in improved business performance.

Similarly, LI-WAY programme, funded by Sida and implemented by SNV is making major strides in supporting and contributing to a sustainable enabling environment and youth employment.  Since its inception, LI-WAY has realised (among others), the following milestones as a result of this effort of facilitating collaboration with governments, the private sector and young people:  As of June 2021, the LI-WAY programme has created new jobs and increased income for 11,481 women and youth, and improved performance of 969 businesses (150 are new enterprises).


In Uganda, youth unemployment is a high priority for relevant actors and stakeholders.  Increasingly, the government and related agencies are supporting the implementation of youth entrepreneurship and employment programmes, particularly targeting the marginalised unemployed and underemployed refugees.  For instance, the SNV SUPREME project, funded by the EU, promotes peaceful co-existence between host and refugee youth, in the ratio of 50 host: 50 refugees.  To build the capacity of youth, the project has adopted community-based training to allow access of skills to all youth, including the most vulnerable.  To strengthen this support further, SUPREME has signed an MoU with the office of the Prime Minister to help refugee youth that are living in the settlement to access skills training; to develop social and business development skills and ultimately, enable them to create or find employment and improve their incomes.


Although this vast agricultural rich country is experiencing varying developmental challenges, the SNV Cabo Delgado agriculture programme in partnership with actors and stakeholders is striving to stimulate enterprise development in agri-food systems and related value chains, targeting unemployed and under-employed young women and men.

To sustain impact, strengthen and deepen implementation of project activities, the programme has signed an MoU with implementing partners and government actors. With institutions such as IFPELC on youth training in basic life skills and career guidance. Private sector companies such as Plexus is also collaborating with the project on the internship programme and youth employment linkages while OPHAVELA is supporting the creation of saving groups and income-generating initiatives.  The expected impact of these partnerships is that young women and men who are gaining work experiences via internship programmes are absorbed into the job market with an increased salary.

SNV’s Opportunities for Youth Employment Approach

SNV’s Opportunity for Youth Employment Push-Match-Pull-Enable (P-M-P-E) Approach is applied in over 10 countries in Africa to help stimulate entrepreneurship and employment opportunities for unemployed and underemployed out of school young women and men. We focus on ecosystem development (enabling environment) collaborating with national governments, civil society organisations, local service providers and private sector companies to play a pivotal role in providing concrete employment opportunities, mentoring and coaching, market linkages and access to finance to the target group. SNVs OYE Approach contributes to SDG 8.5 that aims to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including young people by 2030.

For more information about OYE, please contact Jean Muthamia-Mwenda, Global Lead - Youth Employment & Entrepreneurship.