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Ask a TechnoServe Expert: Jahazi David on Youth Entrepreneurship

"Ask a TechnoServe Expert" is a series where our staff members, who work on a range of important global development issues, answer questions from you. In this edition, Jahazi David, regional program manager for STRYDE, talks about creating economic opportunities for young people around the world.

With record numbers of young people joining the job market every year in developing countries, TechnoServe helps thousands of youth obtain the skills, connections, and self-confidence to create their own livelihoods. Since 2011, TechnoServe has worked with the Mastercard Foundation on the Strengthening Rural Youth Development Through Enterprise (STRYDE) program, which helps rural youth in East Africa transition to economic independence. The program has now trained and mentored nearly 69,000 young people across rural Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, and has improved their incomes by an average of 84%.

This month, we asked you to submit questions about youth entrepreneurship for Jahazi David, TechnoServe’s regional program manager for STRYDE. Jahazi was part of the team that originally developed the STRYDE curriculum, which is now used on three continents and has trained staff, partners, and entrepreneurship program personnel in multiple countries on the most successful methodologies. He has a strong background in entrepreneurship development, program management, stakeholder engagement, and implementing youth and women livelihood programs. Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Jahazi works all over East Africa.

Why is the STRYDE program focused on rural young women and men in East Africa?
— KRA Fabrice; Côte d’Ivoire

When the STRYDE program started eight years ago, TechnoServe and other nonprofit organizations in the region noticed that there was a lot of donor-focused attention on rural agricultural development programs and urban youth enterprise programs. The few rural youth-focused programs were typically centered on social and health issues, including improved nutrition, HIV/AIDS prevention, and access to clean drinking water. While these are important issues, we saw that relatively little attention was being given to rural youth entrepreneurship in the region. The STRYDE program was developed to focus on providing youth with the self-efficacy and business skills they need to generate their own income and become self-sufficient.

Currently, 70% of African youth live in rural areas. These young people often struggle to find jobs or enter the job market without the necessary skills to be successful. At the same time, the average age of farmers in East Africa is 60 years old. A new generation of farmers will be needed to maintain or increase agricultural productivity in the region. Our goal with STRYDE was to enable a more successful transition of rural youth, ages 18 to 30, into economically independent adulthood through training, opportunity identification, and targeted support.

How do you motivate youth to venture into business when they have no source of income?
— Anonymous

It can be difficult to convince youth to venture into business when they do not have sufficient money to get started. Through the STRYDE program, we provide youth with mentorship and coaching that help them change their behavior and mindset. We always teach young people about the power of starting small. For example, although most banks in East Africa do not fund startups, youth can access resources from those around them, including parents, guardians, relatives, and friends.

We also promote savings and lending groups – organizations where youth can access cheaper capital by borrowing money from the group to start their businesses. In addition, we invite role models and speakers to attend the trainings to share their experiences about the power of starting businesses small and growing incrementally over time.

What are the sustainability interventions of STRYDE?
— Anonymous

Sustainability is a key component of the STRYDE program. We use an indirect model, meaning we develop the capacity of local partners to enable them to take on key functions of the model, even after the program closes. Almost 40% of the participants in the second phase of STRYDE were trained by partner organizations. To ensure quality delivery of these trainings, partner organizations went through their own training process, and their delivery and impact were carefully monitored.

Is youth unemployment a common problem in all developing countries?
— CP Audichya; India

Youth unemployment is a common problem in most, if not all developing countries. In East Africa, rapid population growth has put significant pressure on the job market, leaving many youth unemployed or working solely in the informal sector. One of the key objectives in the second phase of the STRYDE program, which ran from 2014-2019, was to scale the STRYDE model to new geographies, including Tanzania. Elements of the model can also be seen in other TechnoServe programs, and in South Africa, Botswana, India, Latin America, and elsewhere in Africa, such as the Business Women Connect and Catalisa programs in Mozambique.