Accelerator Lab - Exploring Masked Opportunities for Youth

Posted December 20, 2019

Picture cards used on expectation mapping exercise

by Netsanet Mekuria, Head of Exploration at UNDP Ethiopia Accelerator Lab  

As you may all have read in my last blog,  UNDP Ethiopia is offering a collaboration space to inspire change, co-create new opportunities and accelerate our work.

With many thanks to all of you, we were able to officially launch this safe space and make it available for everyone.

So, it is time to talk about our UNDP Ethiopia accelerator lab plan as we start on our journey.

I would say it is an exciting time for our country. Over the past years, Ethiopia’s economy has been among the fastest-growing in the world. Even the relative output share of different sectors has shown change.

Despite an improved economic growth, so far employment patterns have not significantly changed.

Our reality

Ethiopia has an estimated population of over 110.1million out of which 34% is aged 10-24 and 39% is aged 0-14 (UNFPA,2019).

One Blogger, in Africa Renewal, who has seen the same demographic pattern with in the continent, asks Is Africa’s youth a “ticking time bomb” or an opportunity?

I always ask the same question when I think of our reality.

We can see a large share of our population is young which can be our greatest asset as a country. From a positive perspective, the share of the non-working age population to the working-age population is declining.

But, the current unemployment level in Ethiopia is telling us a different story. It is low, fell gradually from 3.7 % in 1999 to 1.8 % in 2018 ( WB, 2018). The rate even varies distinctly between urban and rural areas.

We know today’s children are tomorrow’s young adults. This confirm that a new batch, youth, will join the labour force soon.

As our growing population is getting younger and unemployed, it is leading to different consequences that we are facing today as a country. For instance, high migration crises, social and political instability, pressure on natural resources, infrastructure & basic services.

Of course, we are familiar with these alarming numbers since we hear and read about them all the time. We even feel resigned, we don’t know where to start to address the issues.

Planning to Design and Co-create solutions

I believe that in order to meet the urgent need for employment opportunities, we need to be artistic and create a more conducive environment for innovation by involving the youth themselves.

We are looking at equipping the youth with different support packages—from access to finance to market linkage, from startup kits to growth strategies, and from business plans to sound business models to help them establish and grow their businesses. Yet, we realize that the problem is too big and complex for anyone to do it alone. Hence, the need for collaboration with other actors.

Consequently we, Goh Lab Team, the UNDP Ethiopia accelerator lab, are keen to explore, map and test different approaches and channel effective solutions as a portfolio experiment with the change-leaders with in our local communities.

Internally, we have been conducting  a sensemaking exercise on our projects to explore the opportunities and entry points to accelerate youth unemployment.  Out of this reflection, we have come to the conclusion that through accelerating this agenda we can minimize the  gap between the challenge and our contribution in addressing it.

We have started by learning more about different initiatives within the ecosystem and designing an experiment around it through engaging potential partners and academia who share our value proposition.

 Hence, we are bringing this issue back to the youth themselves by putting them in a bootcamp to co-create and design prototype solutions with us for further development and experimentation It is premised on a simple adage:

 “If we tackle complex social issues without including affected communities, we’re inevitably left with short-lived solutions.”  - James Chan (Article: - what would a city of community-led  solutions looks like)

Would you like to learn more about the solutions that the youth co-create with the lab for further development? Stay tuned to the blog with us to find out more.

To share your insights, contact Ethiopia Accelerator Lab team: ethiopia.acclab@undp.org