New Report Shows African Youth Nearly Doubling Incomes through Entrepreneurship

As young people face challenging economic conditions around the world, an eight-year program involving 70,000 youth provides lessons in self-employment

Arlington, VA – The Mastercard Foundation and the international nonprofit organization TechnoServe announced that a large-scale program applying a new entrepreneurship training methodology with local institutions resulted in an average 84% income increase among 68,839 East African youth. The Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise (STRYDE) program used a combination of training tools, including a unique “personal effectiveness” module, to help participants in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania create their own economic opportunities.

“The STRYDE program has shown that when young people in rural communities are equipped with the right mindset and entrepreneurship skills, they can take charge of their own futures and build successful farms, businesses, and careers,” said Chris Donohue, TechnoServe’s regional director for East Africa. “We are proud to have partnered with the Mastercard Foundation on a project that created lasting impact on such a large scale and developed a successful model that can be sustained by local organizations.”

The program was developed in response to the critical employment challenge in Africa, home to the world’s youngest population. Every year, up to 12 million young people enter the workforce, without finding nearly enough jobs or opportunities to accommodate them. The problem is particularly acute in the rural areas that are home to more than 70% of the youth population.

The COVID-19 crisis is compounding this challenge, with Africa projected to lose the equivalent of 22 million full-time jobs in the second quarter of 2020 alone, while its economy is projected to retract by as much as five percent by the end of the year.

“Now more than ever, we need to support, and where possible partner with, young people to create solutions that enable the attainment of better livelihoods,” said Daniel Hailu, Regional Head, Southern and Eastern Africa at the Mastercard Foundation. “The challenges emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic are many – and particularly hard-hitting on young people. The lessons learned from this program have strong relevance towards addressing the emerging needs of young people and their ability to access dignified and fulfilling work on the continent.”

Program Approach and Results

The STRYDE program offers a blueprint for helping young people earn better incomes both during and after the pandemic. Launched in 2011, STRYDE provided young people with business and vocational training, mentoring, and follow-up activities in the form of job fairs, business plan competitions, financial clinics, and other support.

One of the key training modules was “personal effectiveness”, focused on soft skills and entrepreneurial mindsets, which helped participants develop the self-confidence, vision, and persistence that are critical to economic success but not always emphasized in traditional business training.

STRYDE then scaled up this model by helping 122 local institutions – such as vocational schools, community colleges, and even prisons – to integrate the training into their own curricula. Seventy percent of STRYDE graduates were trained by these local partners, and nearly 80% of the local entities will continue offering the training on their own. At a marginal cost of $6 per student, it is a cost-effective program for other training organizations to implement as well.

Over eight years, the program achieved the following results:

  • Trained 68,839 young people; 51% of them women
  • Youth participating in the program increased their income by an average of 84%
  • Participants’ average assets increased by 101% and savings by 89%
  • The share of youth not participating in any income-generating activity fell from 34% before the program to 12% after graduation
  • Besides the benefits to their own livelihoods, each STRYDE graduate created an average of one additional job

“STRYDE has completely changed my life”

Jennifer Angee is a young woman whose life was derailed when civil conflict tore through northern Uganda in the early 2000s. “Finding any kind of job back home was not easy, since everyone was trying to get back their lives after the war that ravaged Gulu for many years,” she recounted.

After learning how to analyze market opportunities as part of her STRYDE training, Jennifer realized that she could turn her family’s farm into a livelihood. She now generates hundreds of dollars of profit per harvest, allowing her to pay her children’s school fees, care for her aging parents, and maintain the family’s home.

“We are assured of three meals a day from the farm, something that I cannot say about the past,” she said. “Hunger and starvation were the order of the day, especially during the war, but today we boast of an abundant harvest. STRYDE has completely changed my life and that of my family. My children are now assured a better future thanks to the knowledge and skills that I acquired during the training.”

More information is available in the STRYDE program’s final report, Empowering Youth in East Africa.


About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in Indigenous communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work. It is one of the largest, private foundations in the world with a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. The Foundation was created by Mastercard in 2006 as an independent organization with its own Board of Directors and management. For more information on the Foundation, please visit: 

About TechnoServe

TechnoServe is a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. A nonprofit organization operating in 29 countries, we work with enterprising men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses and industries. By linking people to information, capital and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities.

Founded over 50 years ago, TechnoServe has been named the #1 nonprofit for fighting poverty by the ImpactMatters charity ratings agency.