Posted by Samba Guissé
Education Lead, Microsoft West and Central Africa Region

You might have read about the report Microsoft commissioned last month - ‘Opportunity for Action’ - released by the International Youth Foundation. It highlighted the different sorts of ‘opportunity divides’ that exist for youth in different countries across the world – and outlined the kinds of things that need to be done to close these divides.

In sub-Saharan Africa, it found that youth unemployment rates are actually considerably low – standing at around 12.4 percent, compared with a 25 percent youth unemployment rate in the Middle East, for example. But what’s interesting is that the numbers point to a different kind of opportunity divide. Rather, in sub-Saharan Africa, extreme poverty means that most young people are forced to find work to help their families survive.  According to the report:

“Rather than being unemployed, young Africans are underemployed. The overwhelming majority of workers in sub-Saharan Africa – 76 percent – are working at low-skilled, low-quality jobs that do not pay enough to lift them out of poverty. The need to work long hours to earn enough to survive prevents young people from investing their time or resources in acquiring the education or training that could prepare them for better for a better-paying job in the future”.

Young Africans are caught in a catch 22 – without some sort of intervention, it’s unlikely they will be able to lift themselves out of the cycle of poverty.

Looking at solutions: Shape the Future

It is these sorts of dilemmas that the Shape the Future initiative in Africa, which we launched this week at the eLearning Africa conference, is aimed at addressing. Shape the Future helps governments implement programmes and solutions to increase digital inclusion through strong public-private partnerships. These partnerships are critical in providing good quality education to prepare young people for skilled jobs; and in creating enough well-paying private sector jobs for them to fill.

Our commitment

We have been planning for the launch of Shape the Future in Africa for a very long time, and our focus on creating sustainable public-private partnerships has already resulted in successes such as Project Badilko. The official launch of the programme is our way of fully committing to the objectives of Shape the Future in Africa, and aligning our efforts to the global best practices we have established over the years.

Leaders, policy makers and visionary champions looking to advance their societies through education, contact your local Shape the Future or Microsoft team member to begin the journey forward.

Stay tuned for updates, and visit our Shape the Future project on Facebook, Twitter, or on our website.