The African continent has the youngest population in the world. Over 600 million people are under the age of 24 years and this figure increases to over 750 million when considering youth under the age of 35 years. Youth are therefore one of Africa’s greatest assets. In fact, the share of youth in the labour force is the highest worldwide: approximately 35 percent of the workforce in sub-Saharan Africa and 40 percent in Northern Africa, of which about 40 percent are women. [Source: UNIDO]
Africa’s most abundant resource, the youth, are available to be tapped into. Their need for earning money, finding purpose and meaning in life, and making a contribution to society, is driving them to seek opportunities that will enhance their technical, entrepreneurial, business, and digital skills, while increasing other or new competencies. Africa is on the verge of a movement of innovative pop up youth-led businesses and SMEs fostering self-employment. What is motivating this? Maybe the 50% of graduates in Africa who do not find work each year? (I.e. According to a 2021 report from the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET)).
A couple of years ago I met a youth volunteer organisation that had tapped into this abundant resource by training and recruiting nationwide 7400 youths to volunteer for either a few weeks or up to 6 months in community development projects. Volunteerism among youth in Africa is on the increase. The youths in this programme explained to me that they eagerly volunteered in these projects because the exchange of their participation for learning and developing (new) skills, receiving training, improving their English, increasing their people and organisation network, and building up their experience for future employment was far better than sitting at home as a ‘couch potato’ worrying about being unemployed. Where are these youths now? The ones I have been able to keep in contact with have either become part of those pop up youth-led businesses, or have found a good job. Have we underestimated Africa’s most abundant resource and the potential behind this volunteering attitude?
The future of the next generation is dependent on new opportunities that can potentially arise across Africa. African youth are a valuable human resource for an organisation who wants to achieve certain deliverables and overall goals. With proper allocation i.e. assigned appropriately and monitored closely to see if they perform as the business progresses, and utilisation i.e. measuring how effective the organisation is making use of them, youth can be a helpful resource for an organisation to leverage higher productivity.
The value of youth – how much is that? It is the present worth of their expected future services. My hope is that upon reading this blog you will see the potential in youths and even if you do not have a vacancy for an employee you will at least ask yourself what can your organisation offer a youth through the context of volunteering. My plan is to access this abundant resource for fighting against poverty in Africa by teaching them entrepreneurship, and having them teach others entrepreneurship.
In my next blog I am going to write about going more than a mile deep. Till then, this is,
Sheila Speed, Business Development Specialist, of Speed InterLink for World Trade Center Leeuwarden.