A new EDC program seeks to give youth living in Bukavu, a city in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, ways to earn a living while also providing them with tools for preventing HIV/AIDS. The Cross-Sectoral Youth project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (CSY DR Congo) will help young people in the region create income-generating activities that will serve as alternatives to unstable or informal businesses that provide only sporadic income.
In addition to small-scale businesses, such as soap making, street-trading, and sewing, some youth earn money through sexual liaisons with truckers and other transients who pass through this transportation corridor. This puts youth—especially young women—at a greatly increased risk for HIV/AIDS.
“Most youth in Bukavu are engaged in commerce with those who come and go,” says EDC’s Alejandra Bonifaz. “The project is giving youth key skills, including the ability to assess the market, so they can see what businesses are appropriate, what has a future, and what doesn’t. As the market changes, they will be able to adapt and continue being successful even after the project is over.”
CSY DR Congo is a one-year collaborative effort that brings together local and international partners. One hundred young men and women, ages 15–29, will take part in the project, which includes an entrepreneurial skills course and a business plan development competition. Winners of the business plan competition will receive seed money from the project to either launch a new business or expand an existing one.
“If successful, the project will have a greater reach than the 100 youth participating,” says Bonifaz. “It will affect the livelihood of their families and communities as well.”
The 100 young men and women are already taking part in an HIV/AIDS prevention program administered by Family Health International (FHI). The FHI program offers strategies to reduce HIV transmission along with activities that build skills in decision-making, crisis management, communication, self-esteem, and negotiation.
“It is hoped that the young participants will be able to apply these life skills to running a business, and that having a successful business will keep them from making decisions that will have a negative impact on their well-being,” says Bonifaz.
CSY DR Congo also features community service activities that give youth a chance to practice the planning, budgeting, leadership, and other entrepreneurial skills they are learning. Local business people will serve as mentors, helping the youth to develop a sense of civic engagement.
CSY DR Congo project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and is part of a multi-country initiative under the EQUIP3 program. CSY fosters collaboration across development sectors (health, democracy and governance, education, economic growth, and global development alliances bringing in the private sector) in order to meet the holistic needs of youth in developing countries. CSY has also conducted a project in India and a youth assessment in Morocco.
Originally published on April 17, 2009