The need for a fundamental shift on Youth Employment Training strategies

Day two at the Young Africa Works Summit held at the Kigali Marriott Hotel was kicked off with the release of a rather insightful research report titled, INVISIBLE LIVES: UNDERSTANDING YOUTH LIVELIHOODS IN GHANA AND UGANDA.

The report basically looked into the lives of young people in the two countries with the aim of better understanding the dynamics they face and how this new knowledge can be harnessed in addressed the challenges they face in finding employment or creating employment for others.

According to the report, international development programs are guilty of favouring skills training for the formal sector careers over training that can be applied to multiple jobs in the informal sector. This approach ignores the millions of youth on the African continent who are engaged in mixed livelihoods. In other words  the current approaches to skills training are not holistic enough as a solution.

The Invisible Lives research used a diaries method methodology to document the working lives of 246 youth aged between 18 – 24 from Ghana and Uganda over a period of one year. Areas covered were on behaviour, income, economic activities and time management. The report offers deep insight into what young people today have to do so as to achieve sustainable livelihoods and although two countries were sampled, it is considered that there emerging trends can be recognised across the continent.

In brief it was established that young people do diversify  their livelihoods by taking on a mix of informal sector employment, self employment, and agriculture-related activities to sustain their livelihood. Support networks are also crucial for young people as they serve to address issues of business guidance, financial support, skills development and general tips on where to find employment.

Both formal and informal wage employment are not easy to come by in Africa. However informal employment accounts for over 80% of the available opportunities for Uganda people. Although agricultural production is central to young people’s livelihoods  the incomes remain meagre. Even here the young people diversify their agricultural activities. Even with all this, young people remain largely invisible to both development organizations and their own governments which makes it difficult for them to access support services, training or finance capital.

‘Invisible Youth’—those who are mostly invisible to development organisations and their own governments— can become engaged as drivers of agricultural transformation.


Day two had more in store like the session on engaging the private sector in a bid to understand the barriers to the creation of employment  and self-employment opportunities. There was a deep need to understand what companies are doing to harness youth potential in driving the transformation of the agricultural sector.

Thereafter a plenary session with panelists delved into the issue of unlocking agrifinance for youth. Issues around risk, access and the perception that youths have no collateral, savings, or the credit scores implying that  they will most likely default on their loans.

As is now the trend, the debate sessions were the most exciting with the proposition being that  off-farm activities will yield more opportunities for the youth. This was followed by the breakout sessions on climate change, breaking down gender barriers and use of mechanization or ICT to transform agriculture.


“Agriculture doesn’t have to be sexy…it has to make sense” – Prof Oniang’o at #YAW2017

Professor Ruth Oniang’o, the Board Chair of Sasakawa Africa Association and Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education spoke passionately about understanding the gender obstacles women continue to endure in this line of work as the summit drew to a satisfying close.

About The MasterCard Foundation

The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skill straining, and financial services for people living in poverty , primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world.

About The MasterCard  Foundation’s Youth Livelihoods Program

The Youth Livelihoods Program seeks to improve the capacity of young men and women to transition to jobs or create businesses through a holistic approach which combines market-relevant skills training, mentorship, and appropriate financial services. Through our partnerships, our program is supporting innovative models that help young people transition out of poverty  and into stable livelihoods. Since 2010, the foundation has committed $402 million to 37 multi-year projects across 19 countries in Africa.. More than 1.8 million young people have been reached through the Youth Livelihoods Program.


About Allan Ssenyonga

I am a Ugandan freelance writer/journalist based in Kigali, Rwanda. I have an insatiable desire for understanding and trying to explain media, political, cultural and social dynamics.
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