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Youth Livelihood and Empowerment | SANREM

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Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Africa
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Youth Livelihood and Empowerment

Background of the Programme

Today’s generation of young people is the largest in history. Over 3 billion people – nearly half of the world’s population are under the age of 25. Almost 90% of all young people live in developing countries. Young people are a valuable asset to their countries and investing in them brings tremendous social and economic benefits. Youth (aged 15 to 24) constitute slightly more than 20 per cent of Africa’s population.  In 2050, youth will constitute:

  • 6 per cent of the population in Central Africa;
  • 5 per cent in Eastern Africa;
  • 8 per cent in Western Africa;
  • 6 per cent in Southern Africa;
  • 9 per cent in North Africa.

About 36.8 per cent of Africa’s workforce is youth.  In 2009, the youth unemployment rate was at 11.9 per cent in Sub Saharan Africa and 23.7 per cent in North Africa; particularly affecting particularly young females. Literacy rates in the region have generally improved. In Over the last two decades, rates for young females rose from 58 per cent to 66.6 per cent, compared to 72 per cent to 78.4 per cent for young men. In 2007, an estimated 3.2 million young people were living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa alone. More than one out of two deaths among young African females is as a result of AIDS or AIDS- related illnesses.

Worldwide, youth face myriad challenges in terms of access to equal opportunities to jobs and having a voice in decisions which affect their lives.

In response to the worldwide phenomenon of young men and women calling for meaningful civic, economic, social and political participation, ERMCSD’s Youth Strategy identifies development challenges and issues facing youth today, and more importantly offers forward-looking recommendations for strategic entry points and engagement of a broad range of partners, including young people themselves, in addressing youth empowerment issues around the world.

Issues and Challenges Facing the Youth Today


There has been significant improvement in access to primary education and literacy across Africa in the last decade. However, the increase in primary education enrolment rates has not necessarily been followed by an equivalent increase in secondary and tertiary education rates, especially for young women and girls. When it comes to tertiary education among youth populations in Africa, the gross enrolment rate is very low.


Employment remains the main concern of youth in the region. Two of the principal reasons for Africa’s high unemployment rates are: a mismatch between educational systems and the skills needed in the labour market, and the saturated public services and small private sector bases that are unable to employ large numbers of people.


HIV/AIDS remains a major cause of death among the African youth, and is one of the biggest youth public health issue facing the region, especially for girls and young women, who are more vulnerable to contracting HIV than boys or young men. AIDS is responsible for more than one out of every two deaths among young girls, compared to one out of four deaths among young boys. Young people are still vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS because of lax prevention strategies.

Participation in the Decision-Making Process

Efforts to engage youth in policy formulation have increased over the past few years at all levels. Youth participation across Africa occurs through various forums, such as through youth organizations, national youth councils, and youth parliaments set up at the national or regional levels. However, the work of national youth councils and youth parliaments is often limited to one-off events. Evidence of current and ongoing activities tends to be lacking.

Their opportunities for communicating, acting and influencing are unprecedented. The challenges they face are unprecedented, too, from climate change to unemployment to multiple forms of inequalities and exclusion, in particular for youth belonging to vulnerable or marginalized groups.

The absence of livelihood develop­ment opportunities for youth can impede a nation’s development in the form of increased crime, violence, poor health, disease, extrem­ism, and both social and political instability.

ERMCSD’s Guiding Principles

We at ERMCSD believe that the following principles, aimed at ensuring the well-being of young women and men and their full and active participation in the society in which they live, are fundamental to the implementation of the Youth Programme of Action and beyond: Central to this program is its focus on working with excluded sub-groups of young people, and the importance of building partnerships between adults and youth in a culturally sensitive manner. This is the foundation for all youth programs.

  • Human rights
  • Gender equality
  • Sustainability
  • National ownership and leadership
  • Participation
  • Innovation
  • Volunteerism
  • Inter-generational knowledge-sharing
  • Working by, with and for young people;



ERMCSD aims to support youth development as a major contribution to sustainable human development.

ERMCSD’S Approach

As an organization we recognize that young people are innovative and creative in problem solving and solution finding: they are the key to helping communities meet their subsistence needs, and in doing so, improving local people’s long-term security and control over their own lives. Our approach follows an engaging process whereby we work with youth groups as;


Capacity development of young people and youth organizations, including youth caucuses in government, parliament or other representative bodies

Outreach, Advocacy and mainstreaming of youth issues in all spheres of development planning;

Thought leadership: influence global policy debates and networks that include the voices of marginalized youth.

National policy: Come up with more effective strategies to protect young men and women from exploitation and neglect, and support their informed and active participation in all spheres of society

ERMCSD’s Core Activities

Building Human Capital

This is best achieved by a combination of skills training (usually no formal education), men­toring, and guidance, combined with helping credit-ready young entrepreneurs gain access to financial capital.


Building Social Capital


Young people frequently rank access to men­tors, peer support, new ideas, and a sense of service learning, whereby youth combine community service work with a form of human capital development (literacy, life, or work skills development). Service learning engages and retains youth not by emphasizing their deficits, but by inviting them to make a positive contribution to their communities.

Another promising catalyst for the develop­ment of social capital is the use of sports-based interventions.

Building Financial Capital

Build alliances with community microfinance provid­ers who can provide loans to the youth. Also, adding a sav­ings and financial literacy component to a short-term youth employment scheme


Building Physical Capital

Outright grants to help youth sustain their livelihood activities are sometimes necessary. For instance, frequently help youth in rural areas or in fishing communities get back on their feet by providing them with equipment or supplies after an armed conflict or natural disaster.

Capacity Building

ERMCSD encourages the development of youth through education and training systems in line with current and future needs of young people and the society. The main thematic areas are as follows:

  • Market research-type appraisal and assessment tools.
  • Develop cross-sectoral programs that equip youth with multiple types of capital.
  • Collaborate with traditional adult-serving micro-enterprise/microfinance providers and build on current programs.
  • Ensure youth livelihood programs complement and do not replace family livelihood strategies.
  • Develop youth development assets as part of livelihood development programs.
  • Understand the legal framework that governs livelihood activities (e.g., licenses, control of savings, and use of public spaces) and advocate for pro-social changes and resources to serve youth in the informal sector.
  • Develop a program budget and revenue plan along the full continuum of livelihood investments—from governmental assistance to commercially-viable products and services (such as microfinance products and services and skills training) where households and youth co-invest by paying user fees or interest.
  • Develop and use M&E tools that capture sector-specific and cross-sectoral outcomes at the individual and cohort levels.

ERMCSD’s Outcomes

Increased Economic Empowerment of Youth

Decent work and livelihood creation are chief determinants in the socio-economic empowerment of youth; they also contribute to sustainable human development overall. Success means increasing the quantity of jobs for young people. It also requires enhancing the quality of jobs by improving their productivity, facilitating movements of young people to more productive sectors, and increasing access to social protection. Access to finance and markets is one area for action—with skill building for young entrepreneurs, in particular young women entrepreneurs, support for social enterprises, and public-private employment opportunities. Non-formal education will build skills for employability, internships and apprenticeships, and better access to job market data and job centers. Another important area will be fostering a policy environment conducive to job creation for young people.

Enhanced Youth Civic Engagement and Participation in Decision-Making and Political Processes and Institutions

When young men and women understand their rights, they can become empowered to engage in civil society, public service and political processes, at all levels. They need to know the channels through which they may exercise their civil and political rights and contribute to decision-making processes that impact their lives. Channels for engagement include formal political processes such as youth advisory boards at local level, youth parliaments or shadow councils at national level, and engagement with United Nations processes at the global level, for example. Other entry points include volunteerism, access to civil service positions and decision-making processes in the public administration, initiatives for transparency and accountability, promotion of human rights, legal reform, and support for youth organizations, policy review and use of media, including social media, to increase access to information and collect and report on relevant data.

Strengthened Youth Engagement in Resilience Building

Youth can be positive agents of change in their communities in time of conflict and disaster. Early action to stabilize their livelihoods builds resilience and supports social cohesion; it also provides alternatives as conflict prevention for at-risk youth. Strategic entry points focus on mobilizing and empowering youth as positive agents of change in their communities, including emergency employment and entrepreneurship and recovery of critical livelihoods assets such as skills development and access to finance. Youth also can be mobilized in disaster preparedness, education and post-disaster efforts—e.g. managing natural resources, mobilizing communities via new technologies, acquiring peace-building skills, or supporting efforts to reduce gender-based violence.

ERMCSD’s Partners

  • Civil Society Organizations
  • International Development Partners and Donors
  • Youth-Led and Youth-Based Organizations
  • Networks and Movements
  • Governments at National and County Levels
  • Development Communities
  • Private Sector