Tackling Youth Unemployment in Ethiopia

Samuel Yenesew's Mission

Thanks to IOM the Netherlands, I was sent to Ethiopia - the country where I was born and grew up in. 

I had for mission to increase entrepreneurship and business skills to create jobs for unemployed youths. The first 3 months of the project were dedicated to doing research. I looked at how business models for newly starting businesses, with the objective of creating jobs, could be successfully applied to the agricultural sector. For the next 3 months after that, I worked on the practical aspects of the research because it is vital not only for the development of the document but also for the implementation process.

Mr. Samuel Yenesew 

The Rural job opportunity Creation Directorate was only recently established, the project is therefore at the initial stage of its implementation. Capacity building is in this case much needed to create jobs in the agricultural sector. 

Although, there is economic growth, the increasing population has led many youths to meet the demands of the job market. A recent census indicated that the population of Ethiopia is more than 93 million people. In the last two decades the population of Ethiopia increased by around 17% for example. In 1950, the total population of Ethiopia was 19.6 million and in 1970 it almost tripled to 70.9 million. According to UNEP it is predicted that the number will double by 2050. Of this increase in population, 30% of the total population of Ethiopia is aged between 15 to 29 years old, leading to high youth unemployment rates.

The provision of experience and focus in building businesses in the rural sector lacks training in management skills.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MoANR) has taken full mandate to look after the rural job opportunity creation. As seen in many countries, one of the effects of unmet job demands is social unrest by unemployed youth, this is also the case in Ethiopia. The government, therefore, strives to address unemployment issues urgently. The Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategy book on the challenges of job creation, identified the problem and needs to be solved in this area. For example, the sector is weak in terms of capacity. What's more, the provision of experience and focus in building businesses in the rural sector lacks training in management skills. Before starting a micro enterprise business, a comprehensive business plan should be required in which management skills is taken into consideration. These observations led to my required output in this project: to increase entrepreneurship and business skills.

Unemployed women in rural Ethiopia buy tomatoes form farmers and then resell them on the market.

I thus supported the MoANR by giving capacity building business trainings to employees. I further implemented the project by going to remote parts of Ethiopia's countryside and using a bottom-up approach to identify any problems, to give consulting advice or recommendations. By seeing what they produce , how they work, what challenges they face and by conducting many interviews among the people, I was able to build a picture of what the work place of these enterprises resembles. Through this I gave recommendations and trainings on how they can improve their marketing and logistical tactics.

Ethiopian farmer using a traditional form of farming which requires an ox.

For example, some farmers still farm in the traditional way with Ox. They borrow them from other farmers and in return work for them as they do not have the money to pay for the Ox. It is a very unique and physically demanding way of farming – I even tried myself. I encouraged these farmers to switch to newer forms of technology like tractors. I taught them to include the use of small tractors imported from Europe in their business plans. Through this, they can appeal to the government for funds.

We also faced some challenges when travelling to the countryside like rough roads, and political unrest - we feared that our car could be burned by frustrated young people. Or on another occasion for example, soldiers came to my hotel in the middle of the night. Ethiopia was in a state of emergency. The soldiers carried intimidating looking guns whilst searching for my ID. I was terrified and missed a night of sleep, thinking about them and what they could do with those guns.

Car driving into limestone desert. 

Despite these challenges, I enjoyed working with the team to create jobs for unemployed youths. A definite highlight was seeing that some people are able to change their life from being very poor to growing a business and providing basic needs to their family. Including sending their children to school. Creating one job for poor people means helping the whole family to survive. I am now waiting for the next 3 month assignment to begin soon.