"Our youth are not failing the system; the system is failing our  youth, ironically the  very youth who are being treated the worst  are  the young  people who  are going to lead us out of  this nightmare."  Rachel Jackson   

Youth unemployment is one of the most pressing challenges facing Africans countries today. In recent years this has caused young people to get involved in drugs, commit suicide, get involved in crimes and other vices to survive. The economic and social marginalisation as a result of this phenomenon has stripped off young people from any dignity they could have and deprived the continent of making significant economic growth. Unlike in the past, African countries have made huge effort to ensure all people have access to education irrespective of their social background. But despite this, since the economy is slowing down, unemployment is most likely to remain high with Africa having the highest number of young people in the world.

Luckily some African countries have realized that the unemployment factor may indeed end up having a more drastic impact on the continent with thousands of young people graduating from universities every year and unemployed. The informal sector has been on the rise recently with countries such as Kenya, Cote D'Ivoire, Nigeria, South and Ghana taking the lead on the initiative.

A number of key players have developed programmes intentionally structured to support youth employability: ‘Ghana created national youth service and empowerment programmes to equip college graduates with employable skills; Mauritius developed a plan to encourage technical and vocational education for young people; Zambia introduced a national youth policy to encourage job creation; Nigeria introduced a skills acquisition and enterprise development programme as a component of the existing national youth service corps; Cote D’Ivoire has launched an initiative to create more jobs and help youth develop skills while Kenya initiated the Youth Enterprise Development Fund.’

The MasterCard Foundation has also invested most of its resources in supporting financial inclusion, learning and economic empowerment among young people in Africa.  The preamble of the African Youth Charter recognises the imperative for youth empowerment and development and acknowledges that “youth are partners, assets and a prerequisite for sustainable development and for the peace and prosperity of Africa with a unique contribution to make to the present and to future development”. The Duke of Edinburgh International Award Foundation provides young people with confidence, resilience and skills in areas such as communication, problem solving and leadership – exactly what employers look for when distinguishing candidates.  The Duke of Edinburgh International Award also provides a ready-made internal development programme for staff aged up to 24, helping employers to retain their talent.

A lot has been done but the impact of those initiatives remains unfelt with corruption and management at the forefront of the problem. By crawling a child learns to stand; by equipping young people with the skills required to shape their future and the invaluable skills acquired in the workplace, we are building a generation of future leaders.

At Transolution Services Africa Limited, we have ensured that a huge percentage of the people we employ are young people. This is because we strongly believe that they have the will, the zeal and the dedication to work. The creativity of young people and their knowledge of what is happening around them are necessary skills to keep abreast of our world and position ourselves more competitively.

If we want to create, develop and sustain Africa, it is imperative that companies ensure that they hire young people and make it an integral part of their policies.  As leaders, we need to create that change by building the skills of young people and stop requesting for 10 years’ work experience as prerequisite to get employed.