Most people don’t know this, but Ethiopia is one of, if not the largest honey and beeswax producing countries in all of Africa. And the silkworm industry is huge. Another, less obscure fact about the country is that an estimated 74 percent of Ethiopia’s youth population works in the informal agricultural sector, with most of them being self-employed. This may be new information to most, but its old news to The MasterCard Foundation. Another piece of old news—Africa has a serious youth bulge problem and of those hundreds of millions of young people an estimated 60 percent are unemployed.
The MasterCard Foundation isn’t only aware of the continent’s burgeoning youth population, it’s also cognizant of the problems that arise when large swaths of young people can’t earn a living.
The MasterCard Foundation isn’t taking on the alarming youth unemployment problems for all of Africa. Its latest partnership is homing in on Ethiopia, which has an estimated youth population of between 30 and 35 percent. There are more than a few major reasons why investing in Ethiopia’s young people is a solid bet here. More on that later.
The MasterCard Foundation has joined forces with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology for a total $10.35 million commitment to help create increased employment opportunities for Ethiopia’s young people. The five year partnership is targeting the beeswax, honey, and silk industries and is projected to benefit at least 12,500 out of school youth while at the same time, offering up job opportunities for an additional 25,000 people across the country.
Reeta Roy president and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation explains the joint venture further, saying “By creating opportunities in beekeeping and silkworm farming, thousands of young Ethiopian women and men will take the first steps towards becoming successful entrepreneurs and contribute to their country’s continued economic growth.”
The initiative is taking aim at people ages 18 to 24 who are out of school, but have completed at least a 10th grade education. Geographically, it’s targeting those living in the East and West Gojjam of Ethiopia’s Amhara region and in Goma Gofa in the Southern Nations.
So, why zero in on Ethiopia? The reason are plentiful, not the least being that studies indicate that young people play a pronounced role in political violence, like the Arab Spring, for example. Another scary statistic: when the youth population increases by one percentage point, its risk for conflict increases by more than four percent. Additionally, when young people comprise more than 35 percent of the adult population, the country’s risk of armed conflict is “150 percent higher than in countries with an age structure similar to most developed countries.”
The MasterCard Foundation isn’t just now jumping in to help the world’s young people, it’s been dialed in to this space for a while now. Inside Philanthropy readers are by pretty well aware that we highlight the foundation’s work often, and for a number of different reasons. Not the least of which being The MasterCard Foundation’s deep pockets—at last count, it reported over $8.2 billion in assets. Also, this foundation is exceedingly active in the global development space and directs nearly all of its funding to lift some of the world’s most vulnerable, marginalized, and disadvantaged populations out of poverty and helping set them on the path to prosperity.