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The Role of Civic Service in Enhancing Youth Employability: Reflections on National Youth Service Programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa
Aislinn Delany and Helene Perold
Young people make up the largest share of the population in most sub-Saharan African countries, where the youth population continues to grow in contrast to other regions where populations are ageing. Often referred to as the ‘youth bulge’, these young people represent great economic and social potential for the region, if they are able to find decent work opportunities and engage in productive activities. However, the reality for large numbers of young people is that they face difficult and lengthy transitions into the world of work. Informal employment is pervasive, and many face the prospect of long-term unemployment.
Addressing youth unemployment is a concern for most African governments, given the negative impact it has both on the development of youth as individuals and on the region as a whole. Since young people have diverse needs and aspirations, it is important to develop and strengthen multiple ‘pathways’ to employment and selfemployment. Examples of how this can be done include improving the quality of education, broadening access to post-secondary education, opening up apprenticeship and internship opportunities, and providing financial and mentoring support for self- employmen t.
Another possibility is through formal civic service programmes. These programmes can prepare young people for the labour market by building appropriate skills and attitudes, and offering opportunities for experiential learning in the workplace. This chapter considers ways in which civic service, in the form of national youth service programmes in sub-Saharan Africa, can enhance young people’s employability and support them to develop future livelihoods.
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