Citizens’ Voices on Tackling Youth Labor and Employment Services in East Africa

The Incubator for Integration and Development in East Africa (IIDEA) in partnership with YouMatch, a global initiative for youth in Africa implemented by GIZ seeks to promote positive employment for young people, works together with small-scale projects implemented by private sector and civil society organizations to showcase citizen’s experiences on regional integration.

One of the most pressing challenges facing the EAC today is empowering young people with the skills and capacity to reap the tangible benefits of regional integration. I spoke with Mr. Stephen Niyonzima, Mr. Saddam Khalfan Ahmed and Ms. Atim Catherine to hear their thoughts on where we are now on tackling labor and employment issues and the way forward to empower the youth of today to lead East Africa into tomorrow.

Mr. Stephen Niyonzima, Principal Labour, Employment, Immigration and Refugee Officer, EAC
What is your opinion on youth employment services promotion in East Africa, especially on linking labor demand with supply?

There is imbalance between supply and demand in the labor market. This state of affairs occurs when the number of job seekers outweighs the number of jobs available in the labor market, which leads to unemployment. Therefore, the role of employment services promotion would be to develop an information desk, develop a data bank on employment opportunities available and inform the youth to take advantage of the same. It should be noted that the existence of employment services promotion centers is not the only intervention in addressing unemployment.

What do you envisage as some of the challenges in promoting youth employment services in East Africa and how can these be addressed?

It is essential to first appreciate the essence of “promotion of youth employment services”. The employment services such as orientation, linking employers to the employees, creation of employment database, sharing information on job opportunities, etc. being the functions of employment services organizations, is not adequate to address the unemployment challenges among the youth. The critical intervention therefore, is to focus on the challenges of the curriculum where theoretical courses are taught to the youth; government’s capacity to invest in huge infrastructure such as energy, manufacturing and agricultural processing industries; delayed implementation of integration initiatives on total liberalization of free movement of services and labor in the region etc.

The above challenges may be addressed through promotion of review of the curriculum to promote practical subjects such as natural  sciences,  entrepreneurship, ICT, job orientation schemes, government intervention through infrastructure developments and investments, factories, agricultural modernization and value addition schemes; promotion of regional integration to allow free movement of labor and services etc.

What do you think are the roles of the EAC Partner States in addressing youth employment and how can they be supported?

The Partner States are concerned about employment matters and have developed policies, laws and other frameworks in this regard. At EAC level, interventions may be made in terms development of regional policies, strategies and frameworks. This can be made through harmonization of national employment policies and laws or developing a regional employment policy with provisions for creation of national and regional employment services.

What areas do you think the EAC Partner States should give more prominence in promoting youth employment services in East Africa?

As earlier indicated, the crisis of unemployment in the region is not due to lack of employment services or bureau or centers. That could be one of the measures to address the problem. The strategic areas of intervention is in regard to curriculum offered by training institutions, massive investments in infrastructure, industrialization, fast tracking integration projects and programs etc.

Mr. Saddam Khalfan Ahmed, Executive Secretary, Tanzania Youth Vision Association
What is your opinion on youth employment services promotion in East Africa especially on linking labour demand with supply?

Despite the fact that several actors works to promote youth employment services in the region, various youth stakeholders and research reports show that there is still challenges for the youth to meet the labour market demands due to the inadequate job skills or mismatch of skills for the better production that will almost meet employers demand. On the other side, young entrepreneurs claim to have limited access to loans.

Youth employment initiatives are mostly urban based, leaving the rural or local communities behind. I believe if we provide integrated mechanisms to promote youth employment services, we can enhance employability and industrial based trainings for off-farm jobs, equip rural and urban youth with relevant and marketable skills, provide start-ups toolkits loan facility or access to finance and business management in order to be productive and employable.

What do you envisage as some of the challenges in promoting youth employment services in East Africa and how can these be addressed?

The first challenge is unreliable and insufficient data on youth employment services in the region, there is a need to address and ensure availability of accurate and up to date data on youth employment services to avoid potential duplication and overlaps in planning and implementation of youth employment services. This will ensure sustainable coordination of all youth employment services in the public, private and civil society sector.

The second challenge is differences of youth policies, laws and the strategies for supporting the young people in the region; there is need for harmonizing these policies and initiatives since the issue of labour in the region is no longer fixed within one border.

What do you think are the roles of the EAC Partner States in addressing youth employment services promotion and how can they be supported?

EAC Partner States needs to strengthen and harmonize education system, according to the recent IUCEA report most Universities in the region graduate youth who lack employability skills, technical mastery and basic work related capabilities. There is need for EAC Partner States to improve their domestic resources mobilization capacity to finance education as well as development partners to support EAC Partner States to improve their institutional capacity and education infrastructure to achieve better and quality education.

EAC Partner States and development partners should promote public/private partnership programs or initiatives that will create more economic opportunities and sustainability for all.

What areas of focus do you think the EAC Partner States should give more prominence in promoting youth employment services in East Africa?

The EAC Partner States should focus more on promoting agriculture and especially agribusiness where the youth are predominant, prioritize and regulate Informal economy to create favourable working environment, promote sports, arts, creative industry and talent development and foster the linkage between education/trainings systems and labour market needs.

In your view, what are some of the best practice or success story on employment services promotion initiatives in East Africa?

Youth Employment Initiative in (Dar-Es-Salaam, Nairobi, Kisumu And Mombasa) - This is a multi-country partnership project implemented by Africa Youth trust (AYT)-Kenya Tanzania Youth Vision Association, Open Mind Tanzania and Youth for Africa-Tanzania to create awareness and to advocate for increased and improved job opportunities for the youth. This has contributed to better conditions for youth to establish sustainable businesses and an increased success in their job seeking.

Furthermore, Young people strengthened their employability capacity through business skills trainings, career guidance, business mentorship, networking activities and advocacy for better policies and practices to support youth employment and entrepreneurship. The focus of the initiative was the National Youth Council, National Youth Development Funds and Internship policy.

This initiative can be scaled up at the national level since it covers only urban based regions in Kenya and Tanzania. It has proved successful in both countries since it is implemented in a coordinated and integrated way to target both stakeholders in the labour market and policy level.

This initiative can be replicated to other EAC Partner States such as Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan, since the countries have similar skills mismatch or youth unemployment challenges but it can be adopted with consideration of contextual analysis to support the implementation.

Ms. Atim Catherine, Founder and Managing Director, Catwing Hammocks
What is your opinion on youth employment services promotion in East Africa especially on linking labour demand with supply?

Personally, I think the career development programs implemented in the respective EAC Partner States are quite helpful as they improve the knowledge and skills of students in their professions thus making them more relevant for labor market. This career development programs alone can-not link youth with the labor supply and demand. There is need for the East African Community Partner States to promote an integrated and multifaceted initiative to address youth employment services in the region if we are to meet the forces of employment demand and supply.

What do you envisage as some of the challenges in promoting youth employment services in East Africa and how can these be addressed and made sustainable?T

The biggest challenge in my opinion is the inefficient education system that breeds today's youth with irrelevant skills which do not match the required skill for market today and future. There is need for implementation of harmonized education curriculum and policies in East Africa.

What do you think are the roles of the EAC Partner States in addressing youth employment services promotion and how can they be supported?

The role of the EAC Partner States is to constantly meet the need of the changing trend in their respective countries suitable for their youth and design and implement policies that can tackle youth employability issues accordingly. They should promote investment in strategic sectors that promote youth employment and development in the country.

What areas of focus do you think the EAC Partner States should give more prominence in promoting youth employment services in East Africa?

The main focus area for the EAC Partner States is on the revival of the current education system which is more theoretical than practical. The Partner States should promote strong partnership with the private sector in order to establish opportunities for training and mentorship to the young graduates in East Africa with the view of enhancing their skill level that match the available jobs.

In your view, what are some of the best practice or success story on employment services promotion initiatives in East Africa?

The best employment service promotion initiative I have come across is Activating the Leadership Potential of Young People (AIESEC) a global youth empowerment company that was established after the Second World War to promote peace and understanding globally.

This company has registered so many success stories since its establishment. The youth that are members of AIESEC are trained with relevant leadership skills as well as working skills that fit the labour market. Consequently over 1000 youth have been employed from this program. They also carry out exchange programs which allow the youth to work in different environments with different people from all over the World. I think the EAC should replicate this example

Conclusion

IIDEA and YouMatch are supporting projects that give young East Africans access to the opportunities created by regional integration. Two organisations that have received financial and technical support from IIDEA and YouMatch are NACOFU and CEFORD.

NACOFU is an organisation based in Uganda that promotes cultural preservation and has recently expanded their vision to empowering youth entrepreneurial skills in East Africa through ICT.

Similarly, CEFORD is developing and EAC internship app to interconnect students, universities, and employers. This will facilitate youth in East Africa access to internships and enhance their skills while simultaneously increasing university support and supervision of internship activities.

Although there is much work to be done towards the full inclusion of youth in the integration process, these important first steps place young people on a good footing to reap the economic and social benefits generated by the EAC and to lead them into playing proactive role in the integration process.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment