The Clinton Global Initiative’s (CGI) Middle East and Africa Meeting earlier this month resulted in nearly 30 new Commitments to Action in its areas of focus, including investing in youth, securing access to energy, food, and water; and expanding infrastructure for communities throughout the Middle East and Africa. Over half of those commitments involved investing in young people, one being a $4.5 million pledge from the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation (TCCAF).
It’s true that that the Middle East is home to some of the world’s wealthiest countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, and that Africa is home to the majority of the fastest growing economies in the world. But there’s a good reason why TCCAF and other organizations making recent CGI commitments to action are so heavily focused on young people.
In Africa, young people account for approximately 60 percent of the entire continent’s unemployed population, and the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), has one of the highest percentages of unemployed people under the age of 25. Both the Middle East and Africa are looking at the significantly increased possibility of political and civil unrest, higher crime rates, and increasing poverty due to high youth unemployment rates. The Arab Spring has already given us a major taste of that, but bigger disruption may lie ahead.
Given that both Africa and the Middle East are in the midst of a youth bulge in their respective populations, the societal implications of having large swaths of unemployed young people are dire.
TCCAFs $4.5 million will be spread out over the next three years to underwrite the design of the Youth Empowered Success Program. The program will integrate training and technology to connect young people with job opportunities, businesses, financial services, and help them develop marketable skills. The overall goal of the YES program to create sustainable and productive jobs for the burgeoning youth populations in both regions.
The Coca-Cola Company has been operating in Africa for nearly a century, but it didn’t establish TCCAF until 2001. Originally, TCCAF worked exclusively in the HIV/AIDS arena, but it has since expanded to include work in water, health, education, youth development, entrepreneurship and humanitarian assistance efforts.
Although Coke has invested in various projects in Africa since it was founded, it has been ramping up those efforts rather significantly as of late. Most notably, the $5 billion in investments it's making across the continent over six years, which will go toward:
- Creating additional jobs
- Supporting key sustainability initiatives
- Supporting programs focused on safe water access
- Supporting women’s economic empowerment
- Forwarding community well-being
As of now, Coke's total investment in Africa will hover at just under $20 billion by 2020. Something tells us, though, that as big as that number is, it will continue to climb in the coming years.
One last note: TCCAF is just one of a number of funders thinking about young people's economic success in Africa. The Rockefeller Foundation, to take one prominent example, is also very focused in this area.