Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Representative of the entire African continent, Senegalese people under the age of 35 make up the majority of the population and are victims of unemployment and underemployment. According to the International Labor Office, the unemployment rate in the labor force aged 15 to 35 years is estimated at 12.2% while the unemployment rate for graduates was 31% in 2011 against 16% in 2005. The difficulty arises from the limited employment opportunities and growing flows of graduates who come into the labor market annually. In addition to this, there is a discrepancy between the opportunities and the products of higher education. Universities see their role as educators but don’t necessarily feel the responsibility of helping students get jobs or succeeding in the workforce. Youth who graduate each year cannot seem to fit into the labor market or create their own employment opportunities. Thus, they become a societal burden whose management represents a real development issue.
Approaches have been developed to facilitate the employability of young people, such as Junior Achievement, which helps children to value free enterprise through educational programs and AIESEC, a global youth network for the promotion of leadership development through conferences and trainings; business plan competitions are organized to help students gain real experience while developing and growing new ventures. The Government has implemented several structures including FNPJ (National Fund for the Promotion of Youth Employment) and ANEJ (National Youth Employment Agency) that provide the youth with low-interest loans for projects so as to help them start their own initiatives. However, there is still a big disconnect which, according to ADEPME (National Agency for Small and Medium Enterprises), is due to a lack of clearly defined objectives, to poor management and a lack of expertise and experience among young promoters. Youth do not receive practical education and therefore are not well-trained or prepared to exercise entrepreneurial functions.
Further, the Senegalese Minister of Higher Education has developed new curricula with a competency-based approach. And to comply with the request of the CAMES (African and Malagasy Council for Higher Education) for modernization and adaptation to international standards, universities have embarked on a process of reform. To this end, the LMD "bachelor- master- doctorate" system was adopted and inter alia recommends a knowledge acquisition to 60% through teachers and 40% by students through internships and research. Even still, however, private sector organizations are not satisfied with students, claiming that their education has been entirely theoretical and that they do not have the right attitudes, mindset, and capacities to excel in the workforce.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Latif is developing an inclusive approach to bring entrepreneurship-based and practical training to complement Senegal’s theoretical approach to university education. Following the principles of learning by doing, Latif’s work enables students to experiment in real time the same obstacles faced by entrepreneurs. With a safe space to practice and yet still gain hands-on experience, students take control of their own learning, acquiring skills that help them work in interdisciplinary teams, find creative ways to problem-solve, and build confidence in their own leadership and entrepreneurial endeavors.
Core to Latif’s work is having the students identify community partners with whom they can work on pressing projects with an economic purpose and social impact. The attitudes and skills that the students learn paves the way for them to succeed in the workforce after graduation, changing the status quo of the majority of Senegalese youth entering the workforce without any actual work experience to a generation of prepared, skilled, and resilient youth.
Using the international CSO, Enactus, as a strategic platform to launch his initiative, Latif works closely with universities, communities, government officials, media, and private sector organizations. Unique to Enactus Senegal is the work that Latif does to mobilize each of these key players. He brings them into three different initiatives—the University program which consists of an entrepreneurial competition of undergraduates, the Career Connection program for graduates, and the Entrepreneurship Development program. In so doing Latif plays a critical role as an activator. By enhancing the entrepreneurial mindset in students, communities, companies, and governments, Latif is creating hubs of innovation.
Already in 15 universities and high schools in Senegal, Latif has plans to replicate his work throughout Francophone Africa, starting with Côte d'Ivoire and Togo.