Currently, 90% of African youth are projected to work in the informal sector. While previously many advocated to transition youth from informal contexts to formal jobs, Making Cents International’s recent Global Youth Economic Opportunities (GYEO) Summit revealed a shift in thinking that closely aligns with our belief in creating a grassroots movement of young leaders and entrepreneurs to drive sustainable development. Summit participants explored the “future of work,” particularly for youth in developing contexts, grappling with the same issue that has engaged us from the beginning: the mismatch between education and life after school.

Realizing that informal employment is here to stay, and may even increase, social enterprise organizations are beginning to embrace the sector by seeking ways in which youth can participate successfully. There were several key concepts highlighted at the Summit that have long informed our youth-focused initiatives:

  1. Teach practical skills. There is a “critical blend” of soft skills, STEM concepts, and digital competencies that are required for entrepreneurs to successfully develop and adapt to a swiftly changing economy. Focusing on instilling and honing “problem solving, critical thinking and creativity, communication and negotiation, and the ability to manage time and finances” in young people is critically important.
  2. Learn from the trailblazers. Rather than trying to dodge the reality of the informal economy, it is more beneficial to learn from the resourceful entrepreneurs who already occupy this sector. These trailblazing individuals can teach us from their experience about what works best.
  3. Support forward-thinking systems. For youth who are not naturally drawn to entrepreneurship, “more is needed to support systems that cultivate success for youth in the informal economy. This includes education and training programs that prepare youth to navigate the informal sector…” Attention must be given to growing educational projects that prepare youth for success in the informal sector, even when this is not naturally their strong suit.

To learn more about how Educate!'s model supports youth in taking leadership initiative, starting small businesses, gaining employment, and improving their livelihoods, check out our programs and their results. For the Making Cents blog post that summarizes the GYEO Summit, read here.

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