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Farming out work: Strategy to ensure ‘young Africa’ works

BY: Helen White
Ms Reeta Roy (2nd left) with some of the beneficiaries of the Solar Taxi initiative
Ms Reeta Roy (2nd left) with some of the beneficiaries of the Solar Taxi initiative

Emmanuel Ansah-Amprofi did not plan to be a farmer.

He was content practising immigration law until he stumbled on an insight that stunned him. 

He learnt that the onions sold in his local market were imported and that bothered him.

“How can we have all this land, good weather, water and still import onions?”he wondered.

At home, he googled “how difficult is it to farm?” That search query launched him into “agriprenuership".

Today, Emmanuel is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder of Tro Tro Tractor, essentially an “Uber for tractors” that allows farmers to use their phones to rent sharable tractors.

Tro Tro Tractor

Tro Tro Tractor is putting people to work, helping farmers cut costs and enabling consumers to get more value for their money.

Emmanuel’s story has been told across the world and it is inspiring because it represents what is possible when young people are equipped to see the latent potential around them and turn it into opportunity, especially on a continent whose greatest asset is its young people.

Considering that Africa is home to the largest population of young people in the world - and it is only growing -, whether and how these young people plug into the economy will determine the future of the continent.

Securing dignified work for young women and men is Africa’s defining challenge and opportunity. The burning question for policy makers is: how do we unlock the opportunity?

Surely, it will take bold action and multi-sectoral partnerships and investments. After all, there is no silver bullet.

Partnership

Under the banner of an ambitious new strategy, Mastercard Foundation is forging those partnerships and underwriting those investments.

In the challenge of youth unemployment, the foundation sees an opportunity to transform the continent and the world, the President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation Ms Reeta Roy explained.

Developed in consultation with young people, policy makers, educators and entrepreneurs, the ‘young Africa works’ strategy aims to extend dignified work to 30 million young people in Africa, including 21 million young women over the next 10 years.

Across the continent, one of the key sectors of focus is agriculture, which by some estimates has the potential to reduce poverty by nearly twice as much as even the most promising alternative sectors.

Young Ghana working

In Ghana, the Mastercard Foundation aims to see three million young women and men access work opportunities by supporting small enterprises through business development services, access to finance and access to markets to encourage their growth and expansion, as well as enabling young people to acquire skills that are needed by employers in growing sectors of the economy.

Additionally, the foundation seeks to strengthen the quality of education to prepare students for the future of work and also scale digital training and enhance technology-focused work opportunities.

In-country office

To effect Young Africa Works in Ghana, the foundation has established an in-country office in Accra.

They will focus on a number of sectors, with special emphasis on opportunities that impactfully leverage new technology to address a range of challenges.

As Ms Nathalie Akon Gabala, Mastercard Foundation’s Regional Head for Western, Central and Northern Africa, and Country Head in Ghana, says, “Technology is changing the nature of work in Africa, with the potential to create significant growth and work opportunities.”

Solar Taxi

The foundation has already started in the country with the introduction of Solar Taxi, one of the enterprises it supports.

Solar Taxi is an example of an innovative business that is solving multiple challenges and creating work in the process.

The initiative provides solar-powered transportation service to the city. In six months, Solar Taxi successfully completed more than 200 rides and deliveries across Accra.

During its pilot phase, the programme created 24 jobs, half of whom absorbed previously were unemployed individuals.

In Ghana, the foundation is implementing its strategy through partnerships with the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), CAMFED, Ghana Tech

Lab and Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology.

The foundation also intends to leverage an existing network of hubs across the country to conveniently deliver entrepreneurship, digital skills training and business development services to youth and at scale.

The foundation

Since 2009, the Mastercard Foundation has invested more than $200 million in programmes that have impacted the lives of more than nine million Ghanaians.

The foundation’s partnerships with CAMFED, Ashesi University College and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) have enabled young women and men to access secondary and tertiary education and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Programmes under the foundation’s Youth Forward Initiative, such as Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment (YIEDIE) and MASO, are improving the capacity of young people in Ghana to be connected to jobs, grow their businesses and access finance to expand opportunities available to them in the construction and agricultural sectors.

The writer is the Mastercard Foundation Lead Programme Communications, Eastern and Southern Africa.