The global Board of JA Worldwide met in Johannesburg, South Africa on 4th February, 2020 for their first of three annual board meeting. The meeting, hosted by JA South Africa, brought together global leaders of JA including JA Worldwide staff, members of the Global Board of Directors, JA Africa Board members and other stakeholders
The two-day meeting, which represented the first meeting on the global board in Africa, featured conversations about the central role of Africa’s youth in the future of the global workforce. This included a panel with JA Africa Board Chairman and the newest addition to the JA Worldwide board, Mr. Peter Njonjo, founder and president of Kenya-based Twiga Foods. In his comments on the panel, Mr. Njonjo highlighted the need to change the narrative in Africa where many young people know very little about entrepreneurship. He also spoke about the need for a more enabling environment for entrepreneurship on the continent. Referencing his own experience, he said,” We need to build an ecosystem around how to access capital. For me, starting my business, my wife and I had to sell our house to fund our business.” He charged JA to leverage its regional influence with young people across the continent to build a movement of social change makers by creating youth employers rather than allow schools to teach students how to search for jobs that may not exist.
In a different feedback session, JA South Africa alumnus and CEO of Hesed Consultancy, Vumile Msweli, emphasized that more opportunities should be created to enable students to interact with established entrepreneurs. She said, “The communication of the reality of entrepreneurship is important because it can be rough. I would appreciate to hear that one day the millions will come but the journey looks like this. I think having that authentic conversation with people who have been through it and became successful would make the JA experience more impactful.”
In exploring options for expanding the reach of programs, JA Nigeria CEO, Simi Nwogugu said it is important to digitalize JA programs to enable more young people to access them. She said, “We realized that in Nigeria, especially, we are not going to be able to reach the millions of students if we don’t leverage on technology.” She added that JA Nigeria has introduced digital skills as a fourth pillar to JA’s core pillars of entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy and explained that leveraging digital educational skills are essential for the 21st Century workforce. Africa’s youth are becoming more technology savvy and the most effective way to engage them is through digital channels and platforms.
According to African Development Bank’s report, by 2050 Africa will be home to 38 of the 40 youngest countries in the world, with median populations under 25 years of age. This will result in an estimated 10-12 million new people joining the labour force each year. With this anticipated population boom, it is expected that Africa’s youth will shape the future of work.
Speaking during the Board meeting, Mr. Ade Ayeyemi, the Group CEO of Ecobank said “We have to address the challenge of youth unemployment,” adding that “if we don’t give them opportunities we will become their opportunity.”