The MasterCard Foundation has had its hand in breaking down barriers to employment for young people in developing countries for a few years now. This past year, however, the foundation has been on a tear to help the youth population living in sub-Saharan Africa develop their skills and knowledge sets to find gainful employment and improve their livelihoods. The foundation's latest investment in Africa’s young population is the Youth Forward Initiative, launched last month.
Youth Forward is $74 million employment program formed by The MasterCard Foundation and its partners, the Overseas Development Institute, Solidaridad, GOAL, NCBA CLUSA, and Global Communities. The initiative is launching in Uganda and Ghana and will zero in on young people ages 15 to 24 living on less than $2 per day who are unemployed, underemployed, or out of school and looking for quality work or interested in starting a small businesses.
Youth Forward is focusing its work on the agriculture and construction sectors, two industries that are expected to have the highest growth potential within the next several years. By the program’s end, the foundation wants to help some 200,000 young people find sustainable jobs. There are a couple of good reasons why the foundation is concentrating on lifting young people out of poverty, particularly in Africa.
Around the globe, there are some 1.1 billion people aged 15 to 24. In Africa, an estimated 60 percent of the continent’s young people are unemployed. In sub-Saharan Africa, the unemployment problem is particularly acute, as it has the fastest projected youth population growth between now and 2050.
Youth unemployment in sub-Saharan Africa is a multi-pronged problem that goes beyond the ratio of jobs needed to jobs available. Additional problems such as widespread illiteracy, failures in basic education systems, conflict, and lack of skills training programs are also major contributing factors, here. Most of which the MasterCard Foundation is hoping to mitigate with its youth-focused funding either by partnering up for projects like Youth Forward, or through the foundation’s Youth Livelihoods program.
The MasterCard Foundation's Youth Livelihoods program aims to help young people overcome the multitude of hurdles they face to sustainable employment and improved livelihoods. Through the program, the foundation is providing skills training, practical skills development, financial literacy, and soft skills development in marginalized youth populations, mainly in Africa.
The MasterCard Foundation isn’t the only big funder investing in the potential economic success of Africa’s young people. The Rockefeller and Coca-Cola Africa foundations are also prominent players, here.