During my years in college, the number of unemployed graduates in my city made me want to study harder, and seek the skills required in the workplace while I was still a student. Luckily, in my fourth year, I began volunteering for a local NGO. That volunteerism really scaled up my skills and later helped me get a fulltime job.
The general lack of vocational training and a still-nascent volunteerism culture remain the main reasons why the majority of Somali youth are unemployed. We can boost youth employment opportunities by not only building up their skills, but also by encouraging volunteerism as a pathway to employment.
When the central government of Somalia collapsed in 1991, everything collapsed with it. Infrastructure was destroyed. Basic services, such as electricity and clean water, were no longer provided. Government institutions were looted. As a result, the economy disintegrated and the Somali people’s contract with the State became void. In the following years, the civil war and recurrent droughts forced many people to migrate or join extremist groups.
In recent years, however, the situation has gradually changed for the better. Government institutions are slowly recovering and becoming stronger, people are enjoying relative peace, and the economy is being revitalized by capital from the diaspora. Nonetheless, many challenges remain, including the most chronic one: youth unemployment.
How can we create job opportunities for the youth? One possible solution is establishing Small Production Businesses (SPB) in the country.
Joblessness among young Somali adults is a chronic issue confronting Somalia. Their unemployment rate is at staggering 67%. And the issue of youth joblessness is exacerbated by the large number of Somali students who graduate—from secondary schools and from tertiary organizations—with skills that are neither appropriate for Somalia nor competitive elsewhere.
Nonetheless, this aside, after almost three decades of turmoil—and of protracted conflict, terrorism, and piracy—Somalia is making huge entrepreneurial, socioeconomic, and political strides. This progress is encapsulated in a famous hashtag, popularized in 2017 and known as “#SomaliaRising.” In keeping with the spirit and momentum of this, we turned “Rising” into “iRise”—to demonstrate both how Somalis can improve narrative, and bring our innovative and entrepreneurship ingenuity into play.
Our brand name is a catalyst for this hashtag and aims to popularize the movement.
The dramatic decrease in the cost of renewable energy technologies seen in recent years presents an unprecedented opportunity to improve our access to energy—and create employment in the process. This is especially true in Somaliland, where more than 80% of the local population of 3.5 million does not have access to modern electricity.
Somaliland’s small economy cannot afford large investments in the infrastructure needed for generating energy in the more traditional, 20th century sense. Running electricity lines over long distances to reach a geographically dispersed, off-grid population is simply uneconomical. Moreover, at US$0.85 per kilowatt, the cost of electricity in Somaliland is among the highest in the world.
Developing countries like Tanzania are experiencing an unforeseen youth bulge—a high proportion of young people aged 15 to 24. Sadly, this growth is not matched by an equivalent rise in economic opportunities for the youth. Thus, most youth are either unemployed or engaged in activities with low productivity. There are solutions to this problem.
Meet Ibrahim, 27, a 2015 Agronomy graduate from Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture, one of the leading agricultural colleges in Sub-Saharan Africa. You would expect him to be dressed in blue overalls, working on one of the largest plantations near Arusha, in Basutu or Ngarenairobi, where they grow barley and wheat.
However, Ibrahim sits in a comfy chair at his office in Morogoro, supervising three ICT graduates employed by his company. Indeed, it is becoming normal to major in chemistry at university only to practice “algebra”—as they say—in real life.
Agriculture is the backbone of many African economies, employing the most citizens in most countries, citizens who produce food for consumption and raw materials for industries. With the current data revolution, and the explosion of new data sources available in Tanzania, we can push for the integrated use of mechanization, fertilizers, and digital technologies to get more efficiency and productivity in our agriculture.
The 2015 Economic Report on Africa by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) put Tanzania’s unemployment rate at 10.3 percent. It also reported that the number of unemployed women in the country is higher than that of unemployed men.
But there are a number of ways in which we can boost job opportunities for youth in Tanzania.
Let me answer it this way: If you are a youth, you are damned if you farm, and you will be equally damned if you don’t. Farming as an option is very key to enabling the continuous production of food to meet our consumption demand. We are in an era where we have to attract the young people to join food production, since majority of them think it is dirty work. Interacting with young farmers has only left me understanding that, besides the lack of mechanisation, we lack the best farming practices that would otherwise increase our earnings.
Getting more youth to engage productively in agriculture is not, and won’t be, an easy job. As an aspiring goat farmer and student in agribusiness management, I know that it takes real passion and commitment to make a living from agriculture. I am currently rearing 40 free range goats on a small farm in my village. On average, I spend about Uganda Sh30,000 to rear each goat—which I normally sell off during the Christmas season at Shs 200,000. This year, I intend to use the money to expand the business, and invest in high value crops to take advantage of the free manure from the goats.