This Q&A is the first in a new series where we’re exploring the impact of our programs from the unique perspective of the people involved — including young people who have been involved in their design and implementation. First up, we’re looking at Yoma (the youth agency marketplace).
Despite having the largest young population in the world, Africa’s youth makes up 60% of its unemployment, and that figure is only set to worsen as population increases. Yoma is a direct response to this challenge — a digital platform that aims to catalyse young people’s creativity and potential, connecting them with new skills, opportunities for employment, and chances to make a positive impact on their communities and environment. Fondation Botnar is proud to have been an initial partner supporting the platform’s initial design process in 2019. Today, we are excited to see Yoma making an impact on thousands of young people across the African region.
Actively involving young voices and perspectives is critical to Yoma’s approach, with a strong focus on youth governance. We spoke to Thando Hlongwane, one of the young members of the Yoma Steering Committee, to hear about his experiences with the initiative and his vision for the future of Africa’s youth:
How did you first become involved with Yoma?
I previously built a digital skills development platform for university students in South Africa called zaio.io. UNICEF then contacted me to join the steering committee and share my learnings and insights for Yoma.
What has been the most important impact Yoma has made, in your view?
I would say the scale of the impact. Yoma has enabled thousands of young people across various countries in Africa to gain important digital skills.
What have been some key contributions you have made to the project?
Having spent the last six years as a young person building up their digital skills profile, launching startups and small businesses, my key contributions have been my own experiences and perspectives. Yoma isn’t just about employment — it’s about empowering young people with the digital skills they need to become the entrepreneurs of the future.
“It’s about giving young people the digital skills they need to become the entrepreneurs of the future.”
What have been the biggest takeaways from your work with Yoma?
So far, my biggest takeaway has been that even large organisations ultimately rely on collaboration and partnerships to scale the reach of projects like Yoma across the African continent. Every business and organisation can benefit from this approach when trying to solve problems for a large and diverse group of people.
Today, Yoma has had more than 2 million engagements with young people, with upwards of 37,000 signing up to the digital platform. To see more about how Yoma is making a difference, watch our video where Elizabeth from Windhoek tells us more about how Yoma positively impacted her life.
“Due to lack of formal education and work experience, access to information is very difficult due to financial restraints. But YOMA helped me gain work experience, boost my self-confidence, being able to speak in front of other youth groups and sharing my experience with others.”