| September 1, 2006
The Youth Employment Summit (YES) Campaign, an EDC project that works with countries around the world to find and create sustainable livelihoods for young people, is holding its third global summit in Nairobi, Kenya, from September 13-16. The event is co-sponsored by the Government of Kenya’s Ministry of State for Youth Affairs and is expected to draw 2,000 delegates from 120 countries. His Excellency, Hon. Mwai Kibaki, the President of the Republic of Kenya, will chair the event, which is being co chaired by: His Excellency Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal and His Excellency Leonel Fernandez Reyna, President of the Dominican Republic.
The summit is expected to launch a number of new initiatives: a reporting system that will enable YES Country Networks to better track their accomplishments and assets, the Innovation Marketplace which will enable country networks to sell goods and services over the Internet, and a discussion on the Global Fund for Youth Entrepreneurship (the YES Fund), which will provide seed funding for new entrepreneurial initiatives, says EDC’s Poonam Ahluwalia, YES executive director.
“YES Kenya will provide a unique venue for young leaders and entrepreneurs from around the world to work collaboratively with policymakers, donors, UN agencies and practitioners to create innovative, long-term solutions to the critical problem of youth unemployment,” says Ahluwalia.
YES Kenya 2006 builds on two previous global summits of the YES Campaign, Alexandria in 2002 and Mexico in 2004, and two regional forums held in Hyderabad, India, in 2003 and Asuncion, Paraguay in 2005. The theme of this year’s summit is “Creating Markets…Unleashing Entrepreneurship” and will address such issues as eco-entrepreneurship, building trade capacity, attracting foreign direct investment, building an entrepreneurial culture, and youth capacity building for employment generation.
“Building an entrepreneurial culture is essential in order to create employment opportunities as there are not nearly enough jobs in the public and private sectors to absorb the youth in the labor market,” says Ahluwalia.
The problem of youth unemployment is urgent in developing countries where 850 million of the world’s one billion youth (ages 15-24) live. According to statistics from YES, an estimated 94 percent of the world’s youth are either unemployed (actively seeking work but cannot find it) or underemployed (skills are underutilized).
“Without meaningful employment and career opportunities, youth are more likely to be drawn into poverty, crime, violence and civil unrest. All of those forces undermine political stability, international security, and the effectiveness of capital investment,” says Ahluwalia.
A Worldwide Effort
One of YES’s key strategies is to build in-country coalitions. Thus far, 84 countries have created networks that respond to their nation’s unique employment challenges. Each network is run by a country coordinator, most of whom are young people.
“The coordinators are the movers and shakers of the campaign,” says Sarah Whittemore, a member of a consulting team from New Sector Alliance that recently conducted an analysis of the YES Campaign. “They drive our efforts because they know and understand local needs.”
Each of the country networks is registered as an independent nongovernmental organization (NGO), housed in an established NGO, or based in government agencies. This setup gives the networks greater leverage and credibility, Whittemore says. The YES staff at EDC facilitates partnerships and knowledge sharing among the networks in order to strengthen the global movement. The networks each design and implement activities that either build capacity for youth or address employment creation for local markets including renewable energy, HIV/AIDS, water and sanitation, rural development, and information and communication technologies (ICT).
Among the most successful capacity-building activities, says Whittemore, was a mentorship program in South Africa that matched young entrepreneurs with successful local business owners. This program has since been replicated in six more countries across southern Africa.
Elsewhere, YES Ghana implemented a rural development initiative to improve agricultural practices. Using renewable energy from a windmill-powered turbine, farmers in Western Ghana have been able to create efficient irrigation practices giving them time to focus on new practices that could increase output. Today, 180 farmers benefit from the irrigation services and additional residents have learned how to maintain the equipment.
Faced with Latin America’s highest HIV/AIDS infection rate, YES Honduras has dedicated its efforts to prevention. Through a series of safe sex education courses, support groups, and working with reproductive health professionals YES Honduras has reached over 1,000 youth.