What skills do young people need to improve employability? How can we ensure youth are equipped with the right capacities and expertise to drive Africa’s economy in the future? These are just some of the questions that will be discussed in a series of ‘Youth in Action’ sessions at eLearning Africa 2015.
Merel Van Der Woude from Butterfly Works, a creative and strategic partner in social innovation projects in Africa, who will be chairing the Youth In Action sessions, explains the importance of addressing these issues:
“Since the population in Africa is very young, it is mostly the youth that are affected by unemployment. I believe that it is crucial for self-esteem and identity development to be able to generate your own income. I do feel that the informal sector is also important, even though it is hard to measure – it is where many young people create their own businesses and use their creativity to find opportunities.”
Advances in technology together with the burgeoning ICT sector are providing a means for young people to exploit this creativity in entrepreneurial ways. As Van Der Woude elaborates, ICT opens up possibilities for enterprise by levelling the playing field and removing the traditional obstacles to entrepreneurial creativity.
“I think it creates a wealth of access, because it eliminates the physical barriers (at least when people have equal access, both in connectivity and in language). It also provides a structure where the rules can be changed quite easily – people create new jobs and job markets all the time.”
Various pioneering ICT projects have been put in place to instill young people with the digital skills needed to increase their employability and entrepreneurial abilities, many of which will be explored in these sessions. A recent project that is exemplary of this took place in Uganda where teachers at the Gayaza High School came up with an innovative means of using ICT to close the gap between schooling and community development.
The initiative sought to equip students with practical community business knowledge and technology skills, whilst simultaneously introducing ICT into community enterprise. Twenty six teachers were trained in Microsoft Office as well as photo and video editing software. They were then divided into groups, each with 10 students. Each group visited a local enterprise and the students were given the task of marketing the business by designing receipt books, posters, flyers, a video of the business’ production processes and a blog. The students also organised a trade fair in which 10 of the enterprises showcased their businesses.
The project had many positive effects. In addition to being trained in useful ICT tools for business, students were given an insight into the skills needed to be productive entrepreneurs in their communities; skills which their formal education did not equip them with. Community members, on the other hand, were exposed to modern technological tools that could help them to innovate and improve their businesses. Moreover, there are now 23 teachers and 120 students who are trained in the use of ICTs meaning they, in turn, can go on to train their peers.
Projects such as this one in Uganda highlight the real potential of ICT to harness the entrepreneurial creativity of Africa’s youth. It is not without its challenges though, as Van Der Woude explains: “Connectivity problems and the fact that many platforms and a lot of the content has been created with European and American users in mind pose a challenge. There is also less context-specific content and less infrastructure in local languages, which is a barrier.”
But with Africa’s connectivity rapidly on the increase and the number of Internet users on the continent growing at seven-times the global average, these challenges are likely to be short-lived. Within the next few years, ICT could prove to be the key to many young Africans unlocking their entrepreneurial potential.
Find out more in The Youth in Action sessions at eLearning Africa 2015 taking place on Thursday, 21st May and Friday, 22nd May.