ITC Shares

Creating opportunities for and with youth

3 julio 2018
Madhubashini Fernando, International Trade Centre

From agriculture to digital tools, ITC is scaling up its offering to young people in trade

Finding a good job these days can be an uphill struggle, especially for young people. Youth are particularly exposed to higher unemployment, poor job conditions and a mismatch between their skills and labour-market needs. In addition, the gap between the aspirations of young people and adequate employment opportunities is widening.

More than 66 million young people aged between 15 and 24 across the world are unemployed today, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Another 145 million youth, while working, live in poverty. With a youth population expected to double by 2050 to over 830 million on the African continent alone, pursuing effective solutions to youth employment is critical.

The lack of employment opportunities can have devastating consequences for youth’s long-term employment prospects and to rising inequalities and social unrest across societies.


There are many reasons people choose to migrate, from armed conflicts to natural disasters. However, an increasingly important motivation is elevated unemployment rates, particularly for youth. Skills mismatches, low wages and limited access to land or financial services can prompt youth to migrate from rural areas and, increasingly, across borders. As such, it comes as no surprise that youth make up the bulk of the international migrant flow, with the willingness to move abroad highest in sub-Saharan Africa (44.3%), followed closely by North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and then Eastern Europe, at around 40%.

But many people also return home after having lived abroad or having aborted their attempt to migrate. Saikou Jammeh is among them. He came back to the Gambia in April 2017 after a spell in Tripoli, Libya. After coming home he was enrolled in a technical training programme as part of ITC’s Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) and has since started working.

‘I am now a freelance technician at home after having tested my luck abroad. I have never been more proud of myself,’ he said.

Funded by the European Union, the YEP aims to address the economic root causes of irregular migration by supporting skills development and entrepreneurship among young returnees and potential migrants. A key focus of the project is to create and strengthen linkages between training and employment and self-employment for youth. Through industry placements, a mix of off-the-job and on-the-job training and start-up support, the project eases the transition from training to the labour market.


For many young people, entrepreneurship can be a pathway to decent work and income opportunities. However, many young entrepreneurs struggle to sustain and expand their businesses faced with challenges at the policy and institutional levels, as well as limited skills, networks and financial resources. To enable more young entrepreneurs to succeed, a greater effort is needed by governments, trade and investment support institutions (TISIs) and development agencies to equip them with the knowledge and skills they actually need.

Take Michael Ocansey for example, the co-founder of AgroCenta, a start-up based in Ghana. As a young agri-tech entrepreneur, he is following his dream to shape the future of farming in Africa. Ocansey is using the power of technology to help small-scale Ghanaian farmers to access markets, capital and resources.

Crucial to his success has been the support he received from the national and global start-up ecosystem actors like the Accelerate 2030 initiative and the local Impact Hub network. His participation in and winning ITC’s Pitching Competition during the 2017 World Export Development Forum, and later winning the 2018 Seedstars World echoes when young entrepreneurs like Michael are given the right opportunities and support, they can thrive.


Finding business solutions to social challenges and leveraging new technologies is increasingly associated with young entrepreneurs. There is a greater representation of nascent social entrepreneurs than nascent commercial entrepreneurs among those between 18 and 34 in the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe regions, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor has said. This is what motivates and will continue to motivate the Ocanseys of the world.

In addition, young people are digital natives and are enthusiastic to pursue opportunities in the digital economy, whether to develop their start-up or become self-employed. That’s why ITC supports digital skills-building for youth in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp and in Jordan for Syrian refugees.


In response to such challenges, reaching scale and ensuring sustainability is at the heart of ITC’s efforts on youth employment and entrepreneurship. To achieve this, a strong focus is being placed on working in partnership with trade and investment support institutions, technical and vocational training institutions, incubators and accelerators as they act as multipliers of ITC’s work.

One such partnership is the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, the first-ever multi-stakeholder alliance on action on youth employment of which ITC is an active partner.

Key to the success of ITC’s Youth and Trade Programme has been to streamline a market-led approach to improve employment and entrepreneurship opportunities among 15 to 35-year-olds in developing and least developed countries.

Through the Youth and Trade Programme, ITC provides a wide range of support measures ensuring that more young people are equipped with the skills needed to compete in today’s job market in response to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education and lifelong learning. The Youth and Trade Programme is also one of ITC’s many efforts to ensure we move closer to achieving SDG 8 on promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.