Encouraging Entrepreneurship and Providing Youth Employment through Tech in South Africa and Beyond

During my visit to South Africa, I came across a number of organisations tackling unemployment. In a country with an overall unemployment rate of 25%, youth unemployment is a staggering 51%.  These organisations are focusing on youth and disadvantaged township communities and are exploring the ways in which technology can be used to encourage entrepreneurship and provide routes into employment.

Afroes is a social enterprise operating in both South Africa and Kenya, which aims to inspire young people to solve social challenges in their community through authentically African mobile games and applications.  Technology savvy youth representatives then spread the message and some have even started generating an income, through carrying out needs assessments and campaigns for corporations or government.  They have built a crisis line in South Africa and have run successful campaigns including a gender based violence campaign for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.  They also have plans to establish a Social Design and Innovation Lab in South Africa and to build a mobile dialogue platform.

Livity is a social enterprise which aims to replicate an already successful UK model.  They are a socially responsible youth communications agency which works directly with young people to create campaigns, interactive media and brands.  They recently launched their first edition of Live Magazine which is produced by young people, for young people and aims to engage hard to reach communities with content that is both fun and impacts on social change.

They are developing a mobi site to compliment the offline magazine, which will also enable people to contribute towards content from afar.  They are also training young people to create You Tube videos tackling social issues and hope to generate some mobile learning content and provide employment support such as applications to support CV writing and videos showcasing interview techniques.  Gavin Weale, a Shuttleworth fellow has recently moved to South Africa to lead on this work.

Rlabs South Africa is a hugely inspirational social innovation hub situated in Bridgetown township.  Their initial mission was to empower ex-gang members and drug addicts to use social media to tell their stories.  This stimulated interest in other sections of the community, who they later trained to do the same.  The community are now developing innovative projects of their own, with the support and incubation capacity of the lab.

Innovative projects coming out the RLab include an online learning platform which is bringing University of Cape Town accredited courses to the masses, Mom 2.0 where teenage mothers can share their stories, a social media factory which employs community members and a job searching platform.

They have developed the Jamiix platform, a cloud based tool providing organizations with a platform to manage multiple conversations from different Social Media and Instant Messaging platforms.  It has been used to enable mobile counselling and support on issues such as drug and addiction, domestic violence and sexual health.  The platform now has over 500, 000 users.

They are training young people at one of our partner organisations Youth for Technology Foundation in Nigeria to use the platform for counselling around sexual health issues and they have plans to set up a new hub in Somaliland.

You can listen to an interview with Marlon Parker, founder of RLab here.

I hope that organisations will continue to explore the ways in which technology can be used to improve employment opportunities and empower disadvantaged communities globally.