A youth employment conference that inspired

Delegates at the OYE conference

The theme of the second edition of the Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) International Conference in Addis Ababa was "Innovation, Inclusion, Inspiration" and the event did not disappoint.

We brought together approximately 50 participants in person and 160 online participants from across the globe by utilising a hybrid model of face-to-face and virtual meetings. The testimonies of young female and male entrepreneurs inspired us as we learned of success and failures in various projects and prioritised several actions for future interventions.

SNV's work in Ethiopia started in 1974 in response to the devastating drought the country faced. Currently, we are implementing 16 projects in the country funded by a variety of donors. With this portfolio, we target about 5 million households in the agriculture, energy and water sectors.

Every year, in Ethiopia alone, 2 million young people enter the labour market; in Sub-Saharan Africa, that number is 12 million. These are huge numbers. We need to do more and better to address the problem of youth un- and underemployment.

OYE: going beyond training

Currently, numerous barriers limit young people to start of business or finding a job: skills that do not match those needed in the labour market, a focus on formal employment only, the difficulty of starting a business, no incentives for businesses to engage young women and men, insufficient job-intensive economic growth to name a few. Yet, we need the enthusiasm, creativity, innovativeness of the young generation to transform the world towards a sustainable and greener economy and livelihood. They are also the future consumers, making different demands on how food is produced and energy is generated.

SNV's Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) approach continues to transform the lives of young men and women and their communities in over ten countries across Africa. We apply an integrated market systems approach to contribute to systems change. Our OYE interventions facilitate linkages between the labour market (demand side) and skilled young people (supply-side) and stimulate employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in countries and markets where we work. Young women and men gain sustainable employment and entrepreneurship opportunities through business development support services such as mentoring and coaching, market linkages and access to finance. To achieve these goals, we focus on developing an enabling business environment, collaborating with national governments, civil society organisations, local service providers and private sector companies, assuring sustainability and scale.

The need to do more

But, we must continue to learn from our experience, to reach more young people and enable them to find employment or start an enterprise. After hearing, the shared stories and experiences during the OYE conference, I propose a few actions to achieve this goal:

  • It is essential that we work with the private sector and convince them to be open to hiring or working with young people, for example, through creating jobs, internships, learning space, supporting innovation hubs

  • Governments and the private sector should jointly support practical and vocational training to meet the demands of society today as well as tomorrow and overcome the mismatch in skills (low-carbon, green economy)

  • Governments, investors and international organisations need to cooperate to increase localized access to finance and digital tools.

  • Facilitating enabling environment to stimulate an inclusive and equitable economic growth in traditional and 'new' sectors.

  • Proactively design targeted instruments to integrate young women in all aspects of the economic transformation.

  • Engage youth actively in all these trajectories.

Investing for success

We know that the number of young people that have the potential to grow their company to a large business is limited. Those who do should be supported in creating many new jobs, especially other young people, to help develop new growth sectors. Examples are weather forecasts, soil sensors, mobile money, eco-friendly products, plastic recycling, and digital markets.

SNV country teams and partners in Africa will continue to facilitate this process, working to create youth leadership, particularly young women, through mentoring and coaching. We will also improve access to finance, youth skills development and market linkages based on youth aspirations and concrete market opportunities. And finally, contribute to creating an enabling environment.

Written by: André de Jager, Managing Director Sectors - Agriculture and Energy.