With sixty percent of the population being under the age of 25 Africa is the youngest continent in the world – and it’s growing fast. The majority of its population being young offers huge potential across all of society – from health to education to business – but at the moment it is being hindered by a lack of opportunity. For example, today, young people account for 60% of Africa’s unemployed. This figure is expected to worsen as the population further increases.
In response to this challenge, Fondation Botnar and UNICEF are collaborating on the African Youth Digital Innovation Platform which aims to catalyse young people’s creativity and ideas on how to create economically viable business models and employment opportunities for young people across the African region. The partnership focuses on designing programs not just for but with young people.
The African Youth Digital Innovation Platform works to create change at three levels:
- System change
- Individual change
- Agency change
The design process seeks to better understand and address bottlenecks young people face when innovating and designs systemic responses with them, putting the young person at the center. A particular emphasis is on identifying ways to support young people with high potential in the digital realm but that may not have access to opportunities and to equip them with 21st Century skills so that they can better participate in and lead the transformation in African societies and businesses.
The Youth Agency Marketplace
One of the first projects to be rolled out under the platform is the Youth Agency Marketplace. It will engage young people in online and offline communities to build digital as well as soft and hard skills. Young people who enroll in the marketplace will be given tasks to complete to contribute to social work. These can include volunteering, U-Report polls, internships, apprenticeships, and other challenges. As tasks are completed, young people will earn digital tokens that can be exchanged for digital coins, workplace vouchers, and shopping vouchers.
In response to the specific challenges that COVID-19 is having on young people, the African Youth Digital Innovation Platform is also launching a design challenge which will target 100,000 young people in Africa. In the initial stage it will seek ideas from young people on how to protect themselves’ and their communities from the virus. While responding to the current needs this challenge also presents an opportunity to attract young people to the digital marketplace, potentially giving it a stronger head-start.
UNICEF works to innovate for children. They work with finding new approaches, partnerships, and technologies that can support realising children’s rights that are critical to improving their lives.