THE BLOG

Youth Unemployment Is Everybody's Business

12/10/2015 14:08 BST | Updated 08/10/2016 10:12 BST

This week, I am pleased to share the byline with Ramanie Kunanayagam, Group Head of Social Performance and Human Rights at BG Group

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Young Tanzanians learning about entrepreneurship thanks to YBI's national member Kijana Jiajiri

For approximately 800,000 young Tanzanians who enter the job market every year, finding a good job with decent pay is of paramount importance.

However, many young people struggle to find work, hampered by low levels of education, and lack of relevant skills. Instead, many are forced to rely on whatever informal work they can secure, with most living just above the poverty line.

And this is not just a problem faced in Tanzania.

Youth unemployment is a common challenge across the globe. The reasons might be different but the effect is the same: young people who cannot live a fulfilling life, which increases the burden on society and leads to social instability.

For example, in coastal Kenya, there is a view that young people are at risk of becoming radicalised. When this happens, they start to lose hope of being able to improve their own lives through self-initiative as well as broader, purposeful economic opportunities.

Social instability and despair don't make for a good business environment either. Extractive companies know this all too well. A stable business environment is key to operational and financial performance.

However, abundant expectations for jobs from local communities in often rural areas usually exceed the numbers of people that the oil & gas industry, a capital intensive industry, is able to hire directly.

And those opportunities that do exist often require specialised qualifications, which can be another barrier for local people.

When companies are unable to match community expectations for employment, this leads to frustration amongst communities which in turn then becomes a direct risk to the company.

As the youth population grows in many countries, this problem is set to get worse over coming years. By 2019, the world's economy will need to create nearly 280 million new jobs, just to make up for those lost during the last recession and to give our world's young people work.

A different way of creating employment is needed. If sufficient jobs among existing companies do not exist, what about encouraging young people to create their own jobs?

Supporting entrepreneurship is a key part of BG Group's social investment strategy to promote employment in the countries where we work. We support local people to capture business opportunities created through our presence, help create new businesses, or expand existing ones to create employment and economic growth.

Youth Business International, through its network of members, has long believed that a major way to tackle youth unemployment (and under-employment - as many young people who do have work are in low-paid, insecure, dead end jobs) is through entrepreneurship.

Recognising the synergies in our aims and approach, since 2013, Youth Business International and BG Group have been working together to promote youth entrepreneurship in some of the countries that BG operates in, including Canada, Kenya, Tanzania and Trinidad & Tobago.

Over the next few years we aim to introduce 8,000 young people to entrepreneurship, create 1,500 new businesses and generate 2,600 jobs.

Entrepreneurship has many advantages: Firstly, it gives a person a lot more control over their chosen activity, giving them the tools to make decisions and create their own future. For someone who has had precious little opportunities come their way, this can be a huge deal.

Second, by enabling young people to create their own businesses, they can go on to create work for others. The most obvious form of this is direct employment, through hiring staff for their business.

But the effects can be more indirect, too: perhaps buying raw materials from other self-employed people, selling onto other businesses, or simply breathing new life into a commercial centre. Small businesses are connected, so when one is successful, others in the local community can often benefit too.

Supporting young entrepreneurs in a sustainable way takes time. Simply introducing people to entrepreneurship can take many months - many young people are not familiar with the concept, think that it's not for them: they feel that it is too risky, only for the highly educated, or that you can't be an entrepreneur without a million dollars of venture capital funding.

We work to counter some of the myths of entrepreneurship, showing young people that you can set up your own business with a very small amount of funding, that you don't need formal education to be an entrepreneur, and that failure is part and parcel of learning.

We know that simply providing one-off support in the form of a loan, or a single training session, is not enough - most young people need support and guidance, often in the form of a mentor, to help them turn their idea into reality. It can be over a year before you know if the business will work or not.

But the pay-off comes eventually. Once a young person has become an entrepreneur, there's no stopping them - they have the potential to become real leaders in their community.

Even if their venture does not work out, the confidence and skills that they will have gained will stand them in great stead for the future. And this self-belief can be absolutely transformational for young people.

Youth unemployment is indeed everybody's business, and we are confident that our partnership can make a difference to many thousands of young people's lives.