Inclusive Economy | March 14, 2017

Letter from Tanzania: Fighting Unemployment by Skilling Up for Problem-Solving Startups

The team at


In East Africa, small and growing businesses show promise in kick-starting local economies. A growing group of businesses and initiatives is helping young people acquire the skills needed by the region’s tech-driven social startups.

Members of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), a global network of organizations working to to promote entrepreneurship in emerging markets, are digging in to turn the chronic problem of youth unemployment into an opportunity for talent development.

On the heels of the February’s Sankalp Africa Summit on entrepreneurship and development, Dalberg, a global consultancy with 15 offices around the world, hosted a group of small business support organizations in Dar es Salaam to discuss how they might address youth unemployment in the Tanzanian market.

Building Skills

Dalberg, an ANDE member, has set up a portal to identify solutions to the challenges of youth unemployment. “Countries with the lowest youth unemployment rates have one thing in common: a close connection between education and work,” Dalberg explains in its ’employer partnership’ example. Businesses, governments and educators need “ensure education systems map to employers’ needs,” the site advises. 

An example of a talent-starved startup is Esoko, an agtech company and ANDE member headquartered in Kenya. The company, which uses mobile technologies to connect rural producers with customers, struggles to find the skilled talent to fill business development and Android developer positions, and attract candidates to a bootstrapped startup in East Africa.

To open their office in Dar es Salaam, Esoko turned to Restless Development, a global agency for youth-led development, to find candidates with the right mix of technical and soft skills. Restless Development focuses on core skills-building programs, including developing a culture and youth mindset, financial literacy training and formal enterprise development training. Esoko hopes to use the approach to identify future employees for the growing company.

The skills gap may be matched by a network gap. Harambee, in South Africa, serves as a recruiter for entry-level talent to help companies source the human resources they need. For applicants that need training to fit key roles, Harambee can also help with skill development. Harambee has partnered with LinkedIn to map the influence networks young people use to connect to jobs. This might just be the secret to discovering talent that already exists across East Africa but is “out of network.”

Talent Shortage

Sustainable Development Goal No. 8 calls for sustained and inclusive economic growth in addition to full and productive employment—and decent work for all. Around the world, young people are three times as likely to be out of work than their parents, according to McKinsey. In Greece, Spain, and South Africa, more than half of young people are unemployed; jobless levels of 25 percent or more are common in Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa.

Yet despite this surplus of labor, many employers struggle to fill skilled positions. McKinsey estimates a global shortfall of 85 million high- and middle-skilled workers in the next four years.

“Today’s leading employers are searching for new kinds of skills: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication,” says Dalberg. “These skills reflect a young person’s ability to operate in a connected economy that is continuously evolving, yet these skills are not typically provided through formal education.”

Small Business

In 2016, ANDE ran a career series at four universities in Kenya to connect local university students with job opportunities at small businesses. The series exposed students to a variety of social enterprises and businesses support organizations and made introductions to leading role models including investors and entrepreneurs.

By engaging alumni who are building careers in the small business sector, ANDE hopes to inspire young people—especially young women—to consider entrepreneurship as a viable career path.

In 2017, the ANDE network will produce a talent workshop that will offer job readiness skills to the same students. The workshop will include tips on career planning, presentation skills and resume writing. The goal is to forge relationships between job seekers and employers to close the skills and human resource gap.

Given the size of the gap it will take the commitment of many organizations to help achieve SDG No. 8. The strength of the ANDE network makes us think we can make significant progress.

[seperator style=”style1″]Disclaimer[/seperator]

This is the fourth in a four-part series in partnership with the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurship exploring the role of small and growing businesses around the world in achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. See other parts here:


Photo credit: Andela