THE MasterCard Foundation has launched an innovative youth employment initiative in Uganda and Ghana at a meeting in Entebbe, Uganda with representatives from financial service providers, relevant government ministries, the private sector, educational institutions and youth-based organisations.
The “Youth Forward Initiative” is a partnership between The MasterCard Foundation, Overseas Development Institute, Solidaridad, GOAL, NCBA CLUSA and Global Communities.
The five-year, $74 million initiative will reach more than 200,000 economically disadvantaged young people, aged 15-24. It is focused on youth living on less than $2 per day, who are out of school, unemployed or underemployed and are seeking quality employment or the opportunity to start their own businesses in the growing agricultural and construction sectors. This innovative model uses a holistic approach that combines market-relevant skills training, mentorship, internships and access to financial services to help young people transition out of poverty and into sustainable livelihoods.
‘The Foundation recognizes that in order for youth to reach their full potential, they must have access to the right skills and opportunities,’ said Ann Miles, Director of Programmes, Financial Inclusion & Youth Livelihoods at The MasterCard Foundation. ‘By bringing together multiple partners with varying types of expertise, we can better support young people through practical skills development, networking opportunities and access to appropriate financial services so they can successfully find a job, further their education or start their own businesses.’
The Youth Forward Initiative will be implemented through partnerships with four consortia comprised of 28 organisations. In Ghana, Solidaridad will lead a group of organizations that plan to create business and job opportunities for young people in the cocoa sector and Global Communities will do the same, focusing on the construction sector. In Uganda, GOAL and NCBA CLUSA will lead consortia connecting young people to employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the agricultural sector.
In addition, Overseas Development Institute (ODI) along with Development Research and Training (DRT) of Uganda and Participatory Development Associates (PDA) of Ghana have been engaged to generate critical learning about the initiative.
‘The scale and scope of the Youth Forward Initiative presents an exciting opportunity to learn more about the needs of young people and how to improve economic opportunities for them across different sectors and regional contexts,’ said Peace Nganwa, Youth Forward Initiative Coordinator for Development Research and Training (DRT). ‘The learning partnership will facilitate conversation and learning between implementing partners, the private sector and government, working to ensure that research and evidence inform their decision-making.’
Young people in sub-Saharan Africa face several challenges as they seek a sustainable means of living, including low levels of education and skills, limited access to appropriate financial services such as credit and negative perceptions and discrimination from employers. As a result, most young people on the continent find themselves employed in informal jobs with low productivity and pay.
The Youth Forward Initiative specifically targets sectors in Africa that have the highest potential for job growth: agriculture and construction. The World Bank expects that 72 percent of young people will be engaged in household enterprises in agriculture over the next five years. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the construction sector will generate 5.1 million jobs over the next 10 years.