Creating solutions to tackle Africa’s youth unemployment

10 Dec 2019

Today, youth unemployment is one of the most pressing challenges in Africa. According to the World Bank, youths make up 60% of all of Africa’s unemployed. Over the next three decades, about 15 to 20 million young people will reach working age each year. But the lack of proper jobs will increase the unemployment rate each year.  Given this, there is an urgent need for an ecosystem that can offer quality jobs as well as matching skills. TNO has been tackling unemployment in the Netherlands and wants to apply its expertise in sub-Saharan Africa while forming new partnerships to increase employment opportunities for the region’s youths and women.

TNO is currently looking for partners who want to collaborate and develop similar projects in sub-Saharan Africa, specifically Uganda, to tackle youth unemployment.

If you want to join forces, contact our team by sending an email

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Africa is an enormous continent and each region faces its own specific challenges with regard to youth unemployment. In the Middle East and North African (MENA) region, there is a mismatch between supply of and demand for skills, a lack of decent and sustainable jobs as well as private sector investments, and there are high unemployment rates among young women. Other parts of Africa tend to be challenged by the fact that youths lack skills, due to low education enrolment and completion rates. The majority of youths in these regions work in the informal sector, especially in agriculture. TNO wants to use its knowledge and experience with projects that address similar challenges in the Netherlands, to improve youth employment in sub-Saharan Africa.

Focus on skills

In the past several methods have been developed internationally to successful combat unemployment levels. Based on research TNO further fine-tuned the approach, valid for the Netherlands and Africa. The TNO methodology employs an integral approach built on three pillars:

  • Equip potential employees with skills that match the future demand of employers or support starting a business themselves, such as career skills and entrepreneurial skills. The main feature is to strengthen motivation and perseverance to make people resilient to inevitable setbacks;
  • Strengthen the growth expectations of employers by defining skills for development of the company and skills for development of the human capital. Instead of focusing on the level of education, employers should look at the skills and competencies of the applicants. This is experienced as an important component to boost sectors and value chains;
  • Proper matching of individuals to jobs based on competencies. This reversed approach innovates the way the labour market works and increases the chances of the unemployed in finding a job.

Application in South Africa

The first step in this approach has recently been adjusted to and tested in a South African context together with our partners from Optentia North West University and Katholic University in Leuven.  To tackle the challenges Africa faces with regard to youth unemployment, TNO wants to apply similar skill approaches in the region. By focusing on strengthening the prospects of young workers in finding jobs and creating their own businesses and by supporting employers to grow their company through HR development and innovation.

TNO can help companies to create more jobs by launching innovative products and services, like rearing crickets as nutritious food, cold ceramic bricks to combat deforestation and valorising residual products. Each project will be contextualised and adapted to fit the specific area with respect to the employees, employers and matching activities. It is essential to engage the private sector because it is businesses that can drive sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

This TNO project supports the following Sustainable Development Goals

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Lennart van der Zwaan MSc

  • work
  • health technology

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