An Innovative research released today by The MasterCard Foundation is making the case for a new approach to youth employment training strategies in Africa.
The research, Invisible Lives: Understanding Youth Livelihoods in Ghana and Uganda, released today at the Young Africa Works Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, shed light on the working lives of African youth.
The report, produced in collaboration with Low-Income Financial Transformation (L-IFT), argues that international development programs favour skills training for formal sector careers over training that can be applied to multiple jobs in the informal sector. The result is that their efforts fall short of reaching the millions of unreached youth on the continent who engage in mixed livelihoods.
According to Director of Learning and Strategy, The MasterCard Foundation, Lindsay Wallace, “To reach a critical mass of young people, fundamental shifts in our approach to skills-building, access to finance and entrepreneurship support are necessary.
“Development efforts must strengthen social, education and economic systems, and promote inclusive growth that will provide the most vulnerable and marginalized young people with opportunities to improve their lives,” he said.
Invisible Lives is designed out to explore how young people integrate mixed livelihoods into their working lives, what challenges this approach poses, and how best to design interventions for young people in the informal sector.
The research used a diaries methodology to document the working lives of 246 youth ages 18-24 from Ghana and Uganda over a one-year period, honing in on questions around behaviour, income, economic activities, and time management. While these data speak to the realities of employment in Ghana and Uganda, the research suggests that these also reflect emerging trends across Africa.
Further, the report stated the extraordinary lengths that young people go to in order to achieve sustainable livelihoods. Findings of the Invisible Lives research indicate, among others that young people in Africa diversify their livelihoods, undertaking a mix of informal sector employment, self-employment, and agriculture-related activities to sustain their livelihood.
While reacting, lead researcher on Invisible Lives from Low-Income Financial Transformation (L-IFT), Anne Marie van Swinderen said: “Respondents who participated in this study generously shared experiences from their lives over the course of a full year.
“Data from the study shows us that these young people readily take up all opportunities that come their way, with enormous energy and positive spirit. Through the L-IFT diaries methodology, these young respondents and the young researchers who interviewed them, also grew a great deal, simply through the act of asking and answering questions about their diversified livelihoods,” she emphasised.
In addition to providing new information on the employment and risk-mitigation strategies of young working Africans, the research maintained that youth who participated in this study were largely invisible to both development organizations and their own governments, and did not have any access to support services, training or finance capital.