Initiative to help Ghana, Uganda youths find jobs, start businesses

Economically disadvantaged young adults ages 15-24 in Ghana and Uganda now can turn to the Youth Forward Initiative, an international program that will help them find jobs in the continent's growing agricultural and construction sectors, or even start their own businesses.

Youth Forward is sponsored by the MasterCard Foundation, with assistance from the Overseas Development Institute, Solidaridad, GOAL, NCBA CLUSA and Global Communities. It is a five-year, $74 million program that has the capacity to assist over 200,000 young adults.

The program's target group is youths who live on less than $2 per day and are not in school or working. It provides a mix of training and mentoring programs, internship opportunities and financial services.

"The foundation recognizes that in order for youth to reach their full potential, they must have access to the right skills and opportunities," Ann Miles, director of programs, financial inclusion and youth livelihoods at the MasterCard Foundation, said. "By bringing together multiple partners with varying types of expertise, we can better support young people through practical skills development, networking opportunities and access to appropriate financial services so they can successfully find a job, further their education or start their own businesses."

Locally, Ghana's program will be led by Solidaridad, an international organization dedicated to the creation of fair and sustainable supply chains, from producer to consumer, that will put program participants in jobs in the cocoa business, and Global Communities, an international development and humanitarian-aid organization that will connect the program's young people with construction jobs.

Other educational components of the program will be overseen by Development Research and Training (DRT) of Uganda and Participatory Development Associates (PDA) of Ghana.

"The scale and scope of the Youth Forward Initiative presents an exciting opportunity to learn more about the needs of young people and how to improve economic opportunities for them across different sectors and regional contexts," Peace Nganwa, Youth Forward Initiative coordinator for development, research and training. "The learning partnership will facilitate conversation and learning between implementing partners, the private sector and government, working to ensure that research and evidence inform their decision making."

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