According to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) 2016 World Employment and Social Outlook, last year, the youth unemployment rate was 10.9% in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the working poverty rate among youth standing at 70%. In Northern Africa the unemployment rate was 29.3%, with one in four working youth estimated to be living in extreme or moderate poverty. ILO’s report essentially revealed that ‘unemployment continues to remain high in North Africa while the number of young people in working poverty is expected to increase in sub-Saharan Africa.’
In Ethiopia, the unemployment rate stands at 24%. As stated by the World Bank in 2007, Ethiopia’s rural youth are becoming landless and lacking job opportunities, which often leads to an increased migration to urban areas. In Addis Ababa, over 20% of households have an unemployed adult and in other urban centres the rate is around 10%. Furthermore, low incomes, unemployment, underemployment and poor working conditions are highest amongst young people (15-29).
Reasons for high unemployment in Africa, and in particular in Ethiopia, include: inadequate business skills, lack of regulatory frameworks and sustained administrative support as well as lack of access to finance.
The high unemployment rates coupled with the increasing rate of the young population on the continent calls for urgent action at all levels.
In Ethiopia, the Ministry of Sport, Youth and Culture (2004) has recognised these challenges, with the 2004 National Youth Policy stressing the importance of skills for youth to be able to participate in the development process of the nation, thus reinforcing the need for training and capacity development programmes. In Ethiopia, the agriculture sector employs approximately 85% of the country’s population (World Bank, 2012) while services and industry employ 40% and 10%, respectively. Therefore, the government pinpointed agriculture as a high potential sector for creating youth employment opportunities and generating economic growth.
In an effort to respond to this call and tackle the unemployment challenges, SNV Ethiopia has engaged youth in development projects and created job opportunities for 10,217 young people in both agriculture as well as in the energy and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sectors.
For example, the Apiculture Scaling up Programme for Income and Rural Employment (ASPIRE), funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS) and the Ethiopian Government, has impacted the lives of 4,500 youth in beekeeping. The project has provided young people with technical and business training, linked them to market opportunities and facilitated access to finance. At the same time, the government has provided land for apiary sites. What’s more, the programme has identified particularly driven youth and coached them to become lead beekeepers. These youth now promote beekeeping in their communities and provide extension services. Some of them have also started input supply businesses. These efforts have contributed significantly to improving household incomes, with the average income reaching €410 per household (surpassing the targeted €360).
In WASH, numerous young people have followed training in hygiene and sanitation promotion as well as in entrepreneurship and business management and have received technical support under the DFID-funded Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All project. Many of them are now responsible for running market centre WASH facilities and are using the incomes from these activities to pursue university degrees.
“Working for this facility has given me a chance to earn some income and pursue a BSc at Hawassa Farma Health Science College. I don’t have to ask my family for money, I’m supporting myself and have started planning for the future” Andualem Tadesse, market centre WASH facility operator, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, Ethiopia.
In the energy sector, SNV Ethiopia is supporting youth in starting viable bio-digester businesses. Since its launch in 2009, the National Biogas Programme of Ethiopia (NBPE) funded by DGIS and implemented with Hivos, has trained around 2000 masons. More than 30 masons have started formal bio-digester construction enterprises (BCEs), each generating an average monthly income of ETB 4,500 (USD 205). SNV and NBPE have played a major role in providing rural youth with technical and business skills, promoting biogas technology and developing a biogas market.
“In order to stay in the bio-digester business, vision is very important. Most of my friends were not able to see this opportunity. From the entrepreneurship trainings I learnt the benefits of engaging in the various activities of the bio-digester value chain. I am now generating an average monthly income of ETB 5,000 (USD 250). I want my business to become a preferred enterprise. The next plan is to engage in suppling bio-digester appliances and accessories”, says Getachew Lemecca.
With the new Biogas Dissemination Scale-Up Programme (NBPE+) funded by Europe Aid and the Ethiopian Government aiming to construct 36,000 bio-digesters, youth will have even more opportunities to get involved in the biogas market. To support these efforts, SNV is working with different micro-finance institutions to provide access to credit for BCEs and is linking these enterprises with dairy projects in order to expand their potential customer base.
In addition, the new Gender and Youth Empowerment in Horticulture Markets (GYEM) project funded by Comic Relief and the Livelihoods Improvement for Women and Youth (LI-WAY) project funded by Sida will further contribute to increasing youth employment in the country.
By enhancing young people's and women’s capacities to integrate their horticulture businesses into commercial value chains, GYEM aims to impact the lives of 20,000 households and 500 young people by 2019.
Through the LI-WAY project, we are working in Addis Ababa to identify sectors with high potential for inclusion of women and young people as employees or entrepreneurs, understand employment barriers for women and youth, and subsequently implement tailored market-based approaches to strengthen these sectors and generate employment for 200,000 people, of whom 75% are youth.
Stay tuned for more developments in these projects.