How Young People in Africa Can Succeed and Drive a New Future of “Work” - Insights from the #AfricaYouthFwd TwitterChat

How Young People in Africa Can Succeed and Drive a New Future of “Work” - Insights from the #AfricaYouthFwd TwitterChat

John Converse Townsend's picture

If you’ve ever been in sub-Saharan Africa, you’ve probably seen a chicken crossing a road. The funny thing is, that chicken might be key to solving one of the world’s most pressing problems: poverty.

For starters, they’re inexpensive to take care of, as Bill Gates wrote in his development blog. They’re also a good investment, helping chicken breeders make hundreds of dollars extra every year. And anyone—women and young people included—can get into the business.

Look at the impact the chicken-centered social enterprise Poult Vault, Inc. is making. Poult Vault, located in Camaroon, helps individuals become poultry entrepreneurs.

“When it comes to addressing the increasing gap between youth and employment opportunities, Poult Vault Inc, in Cameroon, is leading the way,” Reem Rahman, Associate Director of the Learning Lab at Changemakers, explained.

“Poult Vault provides training on poultry keeping, marketing, and entrepreneurship, including business development and hiring. And that’s in addition to increasing access to nutritious local foods, turning poultry manure into biogas for households, and producing organic fertilizers for more than 500 farms.”

Better health, better environment, stronger communities. There is a chicken “but,” however. 

“No single chicken business alone can be a silver bullet for solving the future of youth employment,” Rahman said. “But the creative drive to turn a local community’s greatest challenges into widespread opportunity just might be.”

Beyond the chicken coop, there are many possibilities for young people to change the definition of “work” and drive a future with more opportunity in Africa. To explore these possibilities, @changemakers hosted a #AfricaYouthFwd Twitter chat with Future Forward network members from across Africa. What follows are the major takeaways, in case you missed the discussion.

What opportunities are unique to young people growing up in Africa?

There are many, given the continent’s bulging youth population. Agriculture is a major one, as many farmers are in their later years and Africa’s smallholders will be counted on to produce the bulk of the world’s food in the coming decades. But as panelist and Soronoko Solutions founder Regina Honu said, “From agriculture to technology to tourism, healthcare and entrepreneurship, the opportunities are endless.”

“The fact that there are problems of youth unemployment means there are great opportunities for employment creation,” added Grandson Shipangula, panelist and founder of Youth Employment Creation Initiative.

Making a difference in your spare time? “You can even turn a hobby into an income generator, as long as you provide value that is in demand,” said Honu.

What are ways for young people to build their 21st century resumes?

Real-world experience counts, especially considering the state of so many school systems (which, according to employers, graduate talent unprepared to meet their hiring needs).

The best way to get this experience? Volunteer, by unanimous decision by the panel and the participating chatters. Internships, apprencitechips, and similar opporunities can open doors in the future—not only because of hands-on work, but also because of the networks you’ll join. 

Another angle: “Pursuing online education (MOOCs) and translating that knowledge to skills through practice in projects,” said Alwaleed Abdeen.

Whatever your path, seek out a mentor and don’t sleep on startup services, whether hubs or incubators, which can provide you with the guidance and feedback you need to succeed. Some may even point you in the direction of financing. 


Advice to young people who still yearn for affirmation, or expect fulfillment, from a traditional job title?

You can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t believe it? Check out the Future Forward blog, which has stories of young people new to entrepreneurship who took it upon themselves to take on a social challenge—and succeeded.

Frustrated by long-time unemployment?

“Dont wait to be 'picked' to get a sense of your value,” said self-described recovering lawyer Kudzi Siphiwe. “‘Pick’ and value yourself.”

“Look beyond the title on your way to define your expertise and the solution you seek. Titles are temporary and changing,” added TechChange.

MobileAccord President Steve Gutterman chimed in with this: “Think more about the impact you are making in a company than an official title and take on tasks that set you apart.”

And never hesitate to reach out to your peers. Seek out like-minded, aspiring innovators and be the change.

“The more youth work together, the more difficult it becomes to ignore them,” said Simon Wachieni, the social entrepreneur behind Nutri-Fresh and AgriHub.

A final thought from ​Sianeh Heanneah Farwenee, a panelist and advocate for children’s rights:

“Let's begin to look at things from new perspectives as young Africans and leave the old systems that have failed Africa.

 “When we expand our horizons and immerse ourselves in the unfamiliar, we create lasting solutions to problems.”

Did you enjoy the #AfricaYouthFwd Twitterchat? Are there more topics you wish to discuss? Keep the conversation going on Twitter and share your feedback with @changemakers!

Top image by Ben Grey