Youth employment is a problematic issue in many developing countries such as Tanzania. The education system in Tanzania compels children and young people to seek out white-collar jobs. This results in a skills mismatch with employment opportunities that has fuelled high youth unemployment rates.
Recently, I was based in Tanzania for a two months period as the interim project manager for OYE Tanzania, alongside my role as the Global Youth Coordinator. The OYE project in Tanzania started in 2016, in partnership with Mastercard Foundation (MCF) and Swiss Development Corporation (SDC). The project specifically targets rural-based out of school unemployed and under employed young people.
During my short tenure, I had the opportunity to engage with youth in different parts of Tanzania such as Singida, Babati and Manyara, to mention a few. I witnessed the enormous potential that young people have. With a little support and training, they are able to transform their lives and those of the communities they live in by creating jobs and (self-) employment for themselves and others. As evidenced by the many case studies developed from this OYE project.
The SNV OYE approach uses a unique push-match-pull methodology that is market driven to address this long-term employment challenge – it provides the link between the skills mismatch and opportunities in the labour-market. Our approach relies on cooperation with private and public sector actors, and the long-term success of our projects’ results depends on it.
The private sector
Business skills training and technical training is mandatory for young people participating in OYE projects. They are matched with private sector companies based on their business interest right after the business skills and life skills training. We provide follow-up coaching and mentoring to economically empower youth, help them identify market opportunities and secure and retain employment or entrepreneurship.
We engage with market players who have the potential to provide opportunities for (self-) employment for young women and men. This way, local private sector actors gets to appreciate that well prepared and trained youth can bring value to their business operations. It needs to be a win-win situation, to be sustainable. Several private sector companies such as FINCA; Sun King Solar Lights, Rijk Zwaan/Afrisem, Polymachinery, NINAYO, Sun King and YARRA are good examples of institutions providing opportunities for technical skills training and internships for OYE youth in Tanzania.
The OYE trajectory goes beyond skills training - to nurture and develop youth confidence that enables them to identify business opportunities as well as, starting their own businesses through mentoring and coaching programmes. This process enables youth to also register their businesses (individual or group based), development of business plans, learn record keeping tips as well as practice saving and lending and opening of bank accounts. The OYE team facilitates partnerships between OYE beneficiaries and partners including local government authorities and private sector companies to ensure sustainability beyond the project cycle. Some of the local service providers (LSPs) in the Tanzania project include Tanzania Career Development Consultants, Manyara Region Civil Society Network and Millennium Promise Tanzania.
The public sector
Governments also need to implement youth-friendly policies and can provide scale up opportunities such as land, increased access to loans, government grants and access to agricultural technical support mechanisms to youth. In Tanzania, the government has acknowledged that the OYE model works. As a result, OYE youth have access to government agricultural extension workers. We are also seeing that the government adopts the OYE training trajectory and curriculum in several technical institutions in the country.
Evidently, youth unemployment is a challenge that requires systematic approaches and inclusive systems and market development. Access to start-up capital and scale up, as well, market opportunities and linkages remain a hindrance even to those young entrepreneurs aspiring to grow or even to start a business. Systems change does not happen overnight, but consistency in interventions and partnerships with the public and private sector will for sure result in smart development and long-lasting impact for the people and communities we work with.
Our first International Opportunities for Youth Employment Conference will focus on these issues. The forum will also provide a platform to seek gradual but lasting solutions for issues hindering opportunities for jobs and (self) employment among youth in Africa and across the globe.