AFRICANGLOBE – Sixty percent of unemployed Africans are between the ages of 15 and 24. All too often, university-educated young Africans tell a similar story—upon graduating with a diploma, they discover that either employers don’t have entry-level positions, or their skills don’t match the needs of the job market.
Three social innovations in Africa are rewriting this story. These tech-based strategies are improving the job prospects of young Africans, while sparking stronger local economies from within communities.
1) Powering Young Ambassadors of an Inclusive Digital Revolution – East Africa
Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) activates a network of young university graduates who return to their home communities and deliver trainings in information and communications technology (ICT) skills, business skills, and life skills. DOT Interns enable their peers and fellow community members to “recognize the opportunities around them and to use technology in a local context to address local challenges and solutions,” according to founder Janet Longmore.
Thus, Dot Interns are leading a system-wide shift toward digital citizenship, opening doors to job opportunities, and enabling community members to launch their own social enterprises and socially responsible businesses.
“We have leveraged technology to really create a network of people who are supporting each other’s growth and skills development,” Longmore said, during a recent Google+ Hangout on ICT for social change hosted by Ashoka. “This is a network of creativity and solutions—and importantly, it is a very safe space for young people to collaborate, solve problems, and share knowledge.”
DOT has placed more than 4,000 interns and reached over 800,0000 community members in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. More than 90 percent of DOT Interns globally have found employment, or have started their own businesses upon completion of the program, and 71 percent have reported an increase in income.
2) Attracting Young People to Farming Livelihoods through Tech – Kenya
The average age of the farmer in Kenya is 60 years old—yet, nearly 80 percent of Kenyans are younger than 35 years old. “More and more youths are abandoning the plough,” according to M-Farm, a tech startup (founded by Ashoka Fellow Jamila Abass) whose mission is to make farmers more profitable through mobile tools.
M-Farm allows users to check real-time market prices for various crops—information that was previously very difficult to access. The transparency tool removes middlemen from the process and ensures that farmers get a fair deal. The service also connects small farmers to jointly market goods at volume and to use their collective buying power to get discounts on inputs like fertilizer. By equipping farmers with better access to markets and information, M-Farm is making agribusiness a more attractive option for young people – and dispelling the popular myth that farming is a “poor man’s profession.”
The first 686 farmers to use M-Farm’s platform in 2012 doubled their profits on average. Today, nearly 7,500 farmers currently use M-Farm, which has an ambitious goal to reach 180,000 users by the end of 2015.
3) Co-Working Tech Hubs Spark Entrepreneurship & Team-Led Innovation – West Africa
Jokkolabs, founded by technology entrepreneur Karim Sy, is a network of collaborative working spaces where young entrepreneurs in West Africa come together to create social and business ventures. Why do co-working spaces fuel great ideas? According to Jokkolabs, “entrepreneurs are often considered crazy for engaging in such risk taking, and are generally discouraged” in the region. However, coworking spaces like Jokkolabs provide a community of support for entrepreneurs and interweave the spirit of entrepreneurship with the region’s traditional values of interconnectivity. Thus, Jokkolabs’ model is rooted in the African proverb: If you want to walk fast, you walk alone; if you want to walk far, you go together.
Inspired by many tech communities’ open-source culture, Jokkolab entreprenuers are encouraged to share resources and pursue even greater visions through joint ventures. “Jokkoworkers” are starting businesses and tackling pressing social issues in health, education, agriculture, open technology, media, and governance. For example, during Senegal’s contentious 2012 presidential elections, “Jokkoworkers” organized an IT system (using the election monitoring platform, Ushahidi) that allowed community organizers to report on the safety and fairness at polling places in real time. As of 2014, Jokkolabs has welcomed more than 142 young Jokkoworkers, and Jokkolabs have been established in Mali, Burkina Faso, France, Senegal and Nigeria.
For more on what experts are saying about the power of ICT for social change, watch this Google+ hangout featuring Janet Longmore of Digital Opportunity Trust, Alexandra Bernadotte of Beyond 12, Cristi Hegranes of Global Press Institute, Joseph Nsengimana of Corporate Affairs Group and Strategic Alliances – Africa, and Claire Fallender of Global Venture & Fellowship at Ashoka.
Discover more successful strategies for unlocking ICT’s power for positive social impact in Ashoka and Intel’s new report, Social Entrepreneurs Changing Lives Through ICT. Tune in to our next Google+ hangout, Tech Innovators as Changemakers – Unexpected Opportunities, Fresh Insights for Changing the World, on November 5th at 12pm ET at http://bit.ly/tech2changemakers.
Calling the next generation of changemakers addressing employment in Africa! Submit your solutions to the Future Forward: Youth Innovations for Employment Challenge by the entry November 5th. Ahead of the deadline, let us discuss solutions on November 4th at 8am ET on the #AfricaYouthFwdhashtag: http://bit.ly/1uuBkON.