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There are simply not enough jobs for youth entering the job market in Africa and the Middle East. The gap between the number of qualified young people and the number of good jobs grows wider by the day as more people reach working age. 

Currently, youth under the age of 25 constitute nearly half of the Middle East North Africa region’s population and more than a quarter of them are unemployed. More experienced employees tend to be preferred over entry-level people who require more training and development. Young women face additional constraints as persistent social norms, lack of mobility, and limited decision-making power affect their ability to work after marriage or after having children. 

Entrepreneurship can serve as an important engine for job creation. Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) benefit from strong support structures, including access to business skills, finance, markets and networks. Women especially have the potential to benefit, as they face additional constraints such as lack of access to banking services, gender bias in ownership of assets, and negative gender stereotyping. Stimulating the growth of businesses, particularly SMEs, will be an important stimulus for job growth. 

This outcome is about creating good jobs for youth, including supporting SMEs to expand in ways that create more higher-quality jobs for young people, especially women, than they would otherwise. Employment can also be created when people start their own business, so we support initiatives which help entrepreneurs overcome barriers to entry. 

We support larger employers to invest in their future workforceOur portfolio brings together private companies, employment agencies, educational institutions, and public services. We urge our implementing partners to develop career paths, remove barriers for women, and create new jobs for youth in sectors with growth potential. 

Project Examples

  • A digital financial services company is scaling up its agent model (to enroll new customers to use its digital wallet), and hiring and training young people to work as agents and area managers. 
  • An urban auto mechanic company is setting up a franchise model through which young people are trained and supported to start their own auto repair franchises in rural areas. 
  • A vocational training center is designing and rolling out new courses on fashion design and culinary training, and providing mentoring and loans for graduates to start up their own small enterprises in these sectors. 
  • A health-tech business incubator/accelerator is investing in and providing business development support to start-up and scale-up enterprises in the health sector, which (based on experience to date) are expected to create between 10-50 new jobs each. 

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