True to the African saying, “It take a village to raise a child,” the word child in retrospect as a metaphor can be replicated to many things in society today. For example, a child can be used to envisage the challenges that society faces in the everyday life and the village in turn can be the various action takers that ensure lasting changes are met in the challenges of the day.
These action takers can come in different forms. For example, they can be international not- for-profit organizations who champion a certain cause. Amongst these international NGOs is SNV Netherlands Development Organization- a non-profit international development organization, established in the Netherlands in 1965.
Driven by the Sustainable Development Goals, SNV makes a lasting difference in the lives of people living in poverty by helping them raise incomes and access basic services. The organization currently works in more than 25 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Capital drew links with Dr. André de Jager, Global Managing Director of Sectors for the SNV Netherlands Development Organization based in Nairobi, Kenya, for an inside view of the lasting changes being made by the organization.
Capital: Tell us about yourself and the company you are running /SNV/?
Dr. André de Jager: My name is Dr. André de Jager, I am the Global Managing Director of Sectors for the SNV Netherlands Development Organization based in Nairobi, Kenya. SNV is a not-for-profit international development organization that makes a lasting difference in the lives of people living in poverty by helping them raise incomes and access basic services. We focus on three sectors Agriculture, Energy and WASH with youth employment, gender equality and social inclusions as well as climate change are cross-cutting thematic areas across these sectors. We have a long-term, local presence in 24 countries in Asia, Africa and Central America. Our team of more than 1,400 staff is the backbone of SNV’s work.
Capital: What is SNV doing in Ethiopia as well as in Africa? What kind of projects does it have, and how is it progressing?
Dr. André de Jager: In Ethiopia, SNV’s work started in 1974, in response to the devastating drought the country faced. In the early 1980s, SNV transformed itself from a voluntary organization to a professional institution in providing technical assistance to many stakeholders in a number of sectors. The programme in Ethiopia consists of about 16 projects funded by a variety of donors. Common approaches include linking farmers with the market by using the value chain and market for the poor approach; working with local organizations; addressing systemic issues; and results-focused interventions. With this portfolio we target about 5 million households in all the three sectors.
Capital: What is OYE? Recently, for two days there was an international conference of OYE, how was it? What kinds of outcomes are expected from the conference?
Dr. André de Jager: SNV’s Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) approach continues to transform the lives of young men and women, as well as their communities, in over 10 countries across Africa. We apply an integrated market systems approach to contribute to systems change. OYE interventions facilitate linkages between the labor market (demand side) and skilled youth (supply side) and stimulate employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in countries and markets where we work. In other words, OYE focuses on enabling business environment, collaborating with national governments, civil society organizations, local service providers and private sector companies, assuring sustainability and scale. Young women and men gain sustainable employment and entrepreneurship opportunities through business development support services such as mentoring and coaching, market linkages and access to finance.
The theme of the International OYE conferences was; “Innovation, Inclusion, Inspiration” and that is exactly what happened. We organized a hybrid meeting with approximately 50 participants present in Addis Ababa and 160 people joining virtually from various corners of the globe. We got inspired by testimonies of young female and male entrepreneurs learned of success and failures in various projects of different project and prioritized a number of actions for future interventions.
Capital: How do you see youth empowerment and entrepreneurship in Ethiopia also in Africa?
Dr. André de Jager: Ethiopia is a fast growing economy with many opportunities for young women and men to play an important role in that process. At the same in SSA every year 12 million young people are entering the job market, in Ethiopia 2 million every year. That are huge numbers. Currently numerous barriers limit youth to start of business or find a job: mismatching skills, focus on formal employment only, ease of starting a business, no incentives for businesses to engage young women and men, insufficient job-intensive economic growth to name a few. Yet we need the enthusiasm, creativity, innovativeness of the young generation to transform towards a sustainable and greener economy and livelihood. They are also the consumers of the future making different demands on how food is produced, energy is generated.
Capital: Even if the government is working to curb unemployment, it is still a big challenge in the country from day to day. In your assumption what should be done to improve the situation?
Dr. André de Jager: I propose a few actions: – Private-sector to open-up for the youth through creating jobs, internships, learning space, supporting innovation hubs.
Government and Private sector jointly supporting practical and vocational training meeting the demands of the society today as well as for tomorrow (low-carbon; green economy).
Governments, investors and international organizations to establish localized access to finance and digital tools.
Facilitating enabling environment to stimulate an inclusive and equitable economic growth in traditional and ‘new’ sectors.
Pro-actively design targeted instruments to integrate young women in all aspects of the economic transformation.
Engage youth actively in all these trajectories.
Capital: Do you think SNV could have role on this?
Dr. André de Jager: Only a limited number of young people have the potential of becoming a successful entrepreneur, but those few should be supported to create many new jobs in the new economy. A few examples: weather forecasts, soil sensors, mobile money, eco-friendly products, plastic recycling, digital markets etc.
SNV and its teams in the countries in Africa will continue to facilitate this process and work closely with youth leadership development in mentoring and coaching, particularly young women entrepreneurs and wage earners to; improve access to finance; youth skills development and market linkages based on youth aspirations and concrete market opportunities as well as contribution to creating an enabling environment.