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Shola’s multi-business cart and the unemployed youth of Africa

Orulunishola Aje, Chief Architect and inventor of the multi-business cart at his workshop. [Courtesy]

In Nigeria, young people are facing a worrying rise in unemployment, the biggest on the African continent.  One man has invented a cart: an effort towards turning the tide of unemployment for Nigerian youth.

“40 million youth in Nigeria are unemployed and I believe that the ISEYA multi-business cart will allow us to start reducing that number”. Orulunishola Aje, Chief Architect and inventor of the cart is not wrong. According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, the country’s unemployment rate is at 27% in the 2nd quarter of 2020. This is 4 points higher than the report 23% as of the 3rd quarter of 2019. 

That number continues to rise with the most affected, in the age group 25 years – 34 years old with a rate of 31%. Risks these age group face includes social vices, depression, and apathy.

Shola as he is known by many built the cart to offer services that range from fruit juice processing, electricity rental, phone charging services, banking, and hair grooming. Services that are much needed in Nigeria, where there has been a long-standing electricity supply crisis. 

Shola and his assistant putting the final touches to the construction of the ISEY multi-business cart at the workshop. [Courtesy]

Making the business cart had its challenges with 60% of the raw material used to make the cart being imported from China during the height of the pandemic but its inventor remains undaunted. 

Shola who quit his day job to fully commit to the ISEYA multi-business cart says, the business can be run by 2 – 4 people depending on the volume of customers. This is just one of the efforts being made to nip youth unemployment in the bud.

How is the rest of the continent doing?

Despite the country’s impressive growth performance with economic growth far outstripping population growth, Rwanda also is facing a rise in unemployment. The Country faces a unique challenge in that its youth do not face inadequacy of job opportunities, but unavailability of decent work according to an ILO 2020 report. 

But more and more Rwandan Youth are remaining unemployed. Why? Francois Ngoboka, Head of the Targeted Labor Market Interventions Department at the Rwanda Development Board says “According to the Annual Labour Force Survey 2020, Rwanda’s Youth Unemployment Rate stood at 22.4% last up from 19.4% in 2019. 

A multi-business cart being assembled at the workshop. [Courtesy]

The increase was because of the effects of mitigation measures to contain COVID-19 such as lockdowns that affected mostly jobs in the service sector particularly in the tourism and hospitality industry” 

But the pandemic aside, let’s talk about the other variables, what else is standing between Rwandese youth and certain employment?  Francois says “The capacity of the private sector to fully employ all-new labour market entrants is still low, there is a mismatch in the skills supplied vis-à-vis the skills demanded in the labour market, there is also 

Inadequate technical and soft skills needed on the labour market and lastly a limited access to finance and market for start-ups.”

The Rwandan government led by President Paul Kagame, partnered with the UNDP to initiate Youth Connekt Programme, a multifaceted youth empowerment model focused on leveraging youth employability, entrepreneurship, and acts as a portal for youth in Rwanda to connect with the peers, mentors, skills, and resources. Since its inception, 284 projects for youth have been supported that have created over 8,600 productive jobs.

A customer getting a haircut at the ISEY multi-business cart. [Courtesy]

The Rwanda development board has also rolled up its sleeves to offer skill development, Employment promotion, Fast-tracking investment projects in and setting up a recovery fund. 

South Africa’s economy has taken a beating and so it seems have its youth. According to stastisa South Africa, the unemployment rate increased from 32.5% in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2020 to 32.6% in Q1 in 2021. Only school leavers who are 24 years of age and under in South Africa are defined as employable youth, but the unemployment rate is an eye-watering 74.7%. 

The irony of marking the recent youth day on June 16th against a background of the current youth unemployment situation is not lost on Nophiso Khumalo, National Youth Ambassador for South Africa. She said “The youth of South Africa have played a pivotal role when it comes to re-shaping the socio-political landscape. What started off as a peaceful march of 10 000 students in Soweto led to a wildfire of uproar nation-wide. 

“The marked stance against their struggle was the march in 1976 against the Bantu Education Act, which was introduced into the education system designed to limit the amount of knowledge and skill of a black South African. The youth of 1976 are the parents of the youth today. Fighting against another struggle - High Unemployment Rate” 

The South African government has had a lot to deal with, load shedding, a contracting GDP, the pandemic but Nosipho says there has been some efforts towards addressing youth unemployment “The government has a body dedicated to youth development - the National Youth Development Agency which is responsible for assisting youth with skills, training and funding for entrepreneurs; NSFAS is the national funding agency for scholars.” However, the programme has been plagued by corruption hindering both the growth of South Africa and Its youth. 

Cart vendors processing juice for customers of the multi-business cart. [Courtesy]

South Africa’s situation sounds dire by all accounts, but the National Youth Ambassador says there is hope. “The solutions are at the palm of our hands and we need to learn how to unite once again towards defeating the struggle of unemployment, like the youth and supporters of the anti-apartheid struggle, see beyond the current problems and always keep a united vision in sight. Hands must be removed from corruption and just taking and placed in development and planting seeds for the fruits of tomorrow. 

All is surely not lost, to the West, Ghana’s youth are seeing an increase in unemployment rates from 4.12% as of December of 2019 to 4.53% as of December of 2020 according to a report by Global Data Body CEIC. 

South Africa’s cousin to the North, Kenya reported an unemployment rate of 2.98% in the least quarter of 2020, an increase from 2.60 last reported in Q4 of 2019 according to a 2020 report by the World bank. Murugi Kamau, a recent graduate from Kenya says, “I personally feel like the main cause of unemployment is due to an increase in population, where the government lacks planning thus leading to unemployment.” 

The government of Kenya has long had an unemployment crisis on their hands and the pandemic seems to have showed their hand. On what she thinks her fellow youth want the government to do about this issue, Murugi said “The Kenyan government should concentrate more on the youth this is because they are the hope of tomorrow… The government should be stricter with retirement to create opportunities for our youth especially in the government sector”

With the largest youth workforce to date and a clock on the crisis ticking away, African governments have an opportunity to turn the tide and salvage the situation. All we can do now, is watch the clock.