RAYEE project racing to realise the vision and aspirations of youth in Ethiopia

Young woman growing vegetables

With OYE International Conference 2021 taking place in Ethiopia under the theme “Innovation, Inclusion, Inspiration”, we are visiting the youth employment and entrepreneurship project Realising Aspiration of Youth in Ethiopia through Employment (RAYEE) in Ethiopia to highlight what SNV is doing to make this theme a reality.

Realising the vision and aspirations of youth in Ethiopia

RAYEE is a five-year project supported Mastercard Foundation and implemented in Ethiopia by SNV. The project aims to support 240, 000 youth (70% Women) to successfully transition to dignified and fulfilling work. It targets unemployed and underemployed youth living in selected urban and peri-urban towns of Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR, Sidama and Tigray regions including Dire Dawa City Administration.

In Amharic Rayee means vision. At SNV Ethiopia we believe that youth if given the opportunity, are able to unlock bottlenecks that hamper the realisation of their aspirations. The following are stories of youths who have accessed opportunities to realise their vision. The RAYEE project trains unemployed youth and coaches those who benefit from employability skills enhancement interventions. The training has enabled them to tap into their potentials, encourage a mindset shift, save money to enhance their negotiation power, mobilising their own money and helping them to look more holistically at their development.

Workplace coaching and mentoring support for young workers

Rebecca Elias is the youngest of four siblings living in Dire Dawa city administration in the Eastern part of Ethiopia.  She completed 10th grade and looked for jobs for many years. The 22-year-old tried many options, but without success like many other young people of her age.  Things changed for Rebecca and her family when she was selected by SNV -RAYEE project to participate in basic employability life skill training and linked with Shemu edible oil producing factory. SNV/RAYEE project in partnership with Mastercard Foundation has trained and facilitated job opportunities in Shemu edible Oil-producing factory for 400 youth job seekers.

Rebecca joined the factory at an entry-level job as an operation assistant.  Within a month of successful completion of her probation period, she has been promoted as a machine operator at the production department for plastic containers. Rebecca earns a total of 5,300 ETB per month (salary of ETB 1,800 and overtime payment of ETB 3,000).

In addition to the basic employability life skill training, Rebecca is actively participating in group coaching and mentoring sessions organized by RAYEE for young workers in the factory. ‘In our mentorship group, we have a very good group dynamic. Most of us have taken the employability training- the concept of planning, time management and proper utilisation of our monthly income is still fresh in our mind’.

Surafel Meles, plant manager in Shemu edible Oil-producing factory, one of the mentors is highly collaborative in arranging the workplace coaching sessions- ‘In time I am sure the training and continuous coaching support of RAYEE will help us embed an organisational work culture shaped by trust, respect and industriousness in young people.’

A picture of Rebecca

Rebecca Elias working Shemu edible oil factory

Participants receiving their certificate

Post training follow up and support

Post-training follows up and support

Coaching and mentoring is a continuation of RAYEE wage employment service to reinforce the different soft skills acquired through basic life skill training. It also provides critical support for young women who have entered the labour market with limited experience in the world of work. It started with identification of the youth progress after the training and a major challenge a young person faced in the workplace mainly related to behavioural, communication, time management, teamwork, compliance with code of conducts and goal setting etc.

Training topics include self-esteem, communication, leadership, time management, decision making, problem-solving, group work, work ethics, financial literacy, and gender and safeguarding. The training courses are delivered through local service providers selected from the government institutions, private sectors with close supervision and monitoring of RAYEE cluster advisors and partner companies where the youths are employed. RAYEE post-training follow-up and mentorship support in the workplace is believed to have contributed to reducing worker turnover and drop out that have constrained the productivity of many businesses/companies.

Improved team cohesion enhances the productivity of youth-led SMEs

24-year-old Yosheph Mulugeta, as chairperson of the Latisha Beekeeping Small and Medium Enterprise, responsibly runs the bee farm.  In the early stage of organising the SME, there was a problem of group solidarity and conflict among members, lack of technical skill in beehive management, finance and working space. With the facilitation of RAYEE project, the group was linked with a microfinance institution.  BDS support enhanced group cohesion as we prepared a bylaw.

Yoseph really values teamwork ‘As we started our beekeeping business, we had no clue about managing the team, there was constant conflict. We also wanted to diversify our products’ he remembered. Latisha Beekeeping started business in early 2020 owning 26 hives having a total of 6 members (4 male and 2 female). After establishment, Latisha harvested and supplied 25 kilos of honey per harvesting season for the local market. The income the enterprise generated was not sufficient to pay a total loan of ETB ETB 95,000 it secured from Omo Micro Finance Institution.

‘We were struggling to keep our business going. Then, the Shebedino Industry and Enterprise Development office screened Latisha as a RAYEE target SME’ said Safo Zerihun, another member of the SME.

Upon conducting gap assessment for Latisha SME, RAYEE provided life, business and technical skills, income diversification skills and financial literacy training.  ‘I attended a four-day training on how to manage our business, teamwork and two days technical skill training on beekeeping’ remembered Yoseph.  After the training, Yoseph testified that there are better group dynamics among members. ‘We have prepared a bylaw accordingly and we have designated roles and responsibility and work schedule’.

With the support and facilitation of RAYEE, the project has created market linkages with Aroresa Honey processing PLC. RAYEE also provides continuous Business Development Support to ensure that the MSE sustains its market. ‘In addition to the sale of honey, we have now diversified our product and sell local candles and wax for the local market. The technical coaching of RAYEE is very important as it helps us in beehive management and forage preparation for bees. We currently own a total of 63 hives, of which 46 are modern’. Currently, Latisha produces 143 kg of honey per harvesting season and hires three full-time employees.

‘In the future, we plan to increase the number of our beehives and start our honey processing plc’ As production and sales increased, it is no longer a challenge to settle a loan of almost ETB 4,000 every quarter.

RAYEE entrepreneurial pathway comprises a selection of unemployed young women and men, who are then organised into MSEs; and provided with life, business and technical skills, Business Development Support (BDS) and market linkages, financial access and working premises. To date, with the support of the RAYEE project, a total of 6,527 have started a business creating employment opportunities for 34,556 youth.

Honey from Yoseph's farm

Honey from Yoseph's farm

Yoseph at the bee farm

Yoseph's bee farm

Committed to succeed: The case of a woman-Led SME

A year ago, a narrow space adjacent to a compound enclosing an area reserved for investment was filled with filth and human waste. The place, located on a busy street-side in Sabian neighbourhood of Dire Dawa City, has now transformed into a seedling shop creating employment opportunities for five women. Andnet Greenery and Landscaping is a woman-led enterprise and  has a total of five members, established a year ago.  For Bemnet Hailu, Chairperson of the enterprise, it is a meaningful journey from which she learned a lot.

Bemnet completed 10th grade and remained unemployed for nearly three years.  Bemnet and the other four members are committed to succeeding in their business as they have the responsibility of raising their children.

Bemnet’s father used to run a seedling shop. He decided that she should take over his business as he faced health problems. ‘My father borrowed start-up capital of ETB 30,000 and with four other friends I established Andnet.’ Bemnet was attending RAYEE’s life and business skills training while she was requesting a workspace from the Enterprise Development Office. ‘There were many ups and downs, I would have lost hope and quitted if I didn’t get the support of family, friends and the RAYEE project. Processing the request was lengthy and tiresome. RAYEE’s training especially on setting goals, helped me to stay focused’. In addition to business training, Bemnet said ‘RAYEE’s support has significantly contributed to preparing bid documents and creating market linkages. A month ago, we won a bid from the Small and Medium Enterprise Bureau and earned a net profit of ETB 50,000 after saving 30%’.

The enterprise has a plan to borrow from a financial institution. ‘We are well trained in terms of the requirements of a loan, and we have a plan to expand our business by opening a fruit selling outlet’.

Andent greenery provides landscaping services, sells seedlings and fertile soil. The enterprise earns ETB 15,000 per month from the sale of seedlings in addition to the income it gets from commissioned work. ‘The RAYEE project supports by providing training, business advise and follow up from the establishment until now has encouraged us to push forward.

‘We all have a vision, but achieving it comes with perseverance, hard work and commitment. I practically learned the importance of these values in running our SME while handling a bid process, bargaining with customers, dealing with suppliers’.

Post-training observation

The post-training observation indicated that youth motivation, problem-solving skills and opportunity-seeking mentality have significantly improved as evidenced by their mediation to save money, leverage of family resource-including working premises and their newfound patience for bureaucratic processes to start a business.

Bemnet Hailu from Greenery and Landscaping is a woman-led enterprise

Bemnet Hailu from Greenery and Landscaping is a woman-led enterprise

Simachew, Gizat and Friends is a youth-led enterprise

Simachew, Gizat and Friends is a youth-led enterprise

Capacitating youth to opt for a viable business option

Simachew, Gizat and Friends is a youth-led enterprise established by 18 youth members (10 male and 8 female) in 2020. The enterprise secured working space from the South Achefer district Technical and Vocational Education Development (TVED) Office to produce onions and other market demanded vegetables by irrigation.  However, producing onions becomes a challenge because of disease prevalence from the swampy nature of the land. Then in 2021, the district/woreda Enterprise Development Office linked the enterprise with the RAYEE project to investigate alternative business options for the MSEs.

Through RAYEE business development service, the enterprise optioned into a cattle fattening business that can perform better in swampy areas.  Then MSEs members mobilised finance from their families and started the business.  In the first round, the enterprise managed to fatten 14 oxen and earned a net profit of ETB 60,000. The enterprise grows maize as supplementary forage and earns extra income from maize production. ‘Following the Business Development Support (BDS) service of RAYEE, we properly record our business expenses, income and develop a working schedule for team members,’ said Simachew, Chairperson of the Enterprise.

Life and business skills training and Business Development Services (BDS) are provided to the MSEs through local service providers capacitated by RAYEE by offering training courses and coaching in partnership with technical support of the local Ministry of Agriculture. RAYEE also facilitated market linkage with nearby butchers. The enterprise contemplated borrowing from a financial service provider to increase the number of animals and expand its business. To mitigate the business risk, RAYEE support helped them to mix their business.

Facilitating financial access

RAYEE is intensively supporting the youth to improve their capacity for saving, through training and coaching. The savings enable them not only to meet the pre-loan requirements of FSPs, but also finance their start-up businesses. In this regard, youth have shown significant success, make deposits and started businesses from their finance.

The project works closely with bigger regional MFIs that target youths access youth revolving fund that is relatively cheaper than other loan types. Borrowing from FSPs, accessing service contracts, mobilising their own savings, and grant opportunities from government offices and NGOs are the major sources of finance for MSEs.  To date, RAYEE has partnered with 15 Financial Service Providers (FSPs) and a total of ETB 311,251,340 has been mobilised by MSEs.