Africa is currently on the precipice of major economic and demographic change. Today, many African countries are experiencing double-digit per capita growth. Across the continent, new information and communications technologies (ICT) are changing the way people communicate and manage their lives, and are opening up new opportunities at an unprecedented rate.
Several African governments are making substantial investments in ICT-enabled job creation. The Federal Government of Nigeria, for example, plans to establish an ICT university which will offer technology and telecommunications education to help bridge the country’s skills gap. Similarly, Kenya is building Konza Technology City, a world-class technology hub to bolster the country’s Business Process Outsourcing and Information Technology industries. Government investment in ICT is also being met with enthusiasm from the private sector. Companies such as Digital Divide Data, Tigo Ghana, Google and others are capitalizing on this trend and partnering with youth training organizations and non-governmental organizations to help prepare young people for a competitive 21st century workforce.
Recognizing the need to ensure the benefits of digital job creation are realized by everyone, and consistent with Sustainable Development Goal 10—reduce inequality within and among countries—The Rockefeller Foundation launched its Digital Jobs Africa (DJA) Initiative in 2013. The Foundation hypothesized that, by providing youth with demand-driven training and supporting them to transition into jobs, it would be possible to catalyze sustainable ICT-enabled employment opportunities at scale. Nearly three years into the initiative, DJA is generating insights about what works for both implementing and assessing market solutions aimed to support young people and their families. Last year, the Foundation’s Monitoring and Learning grantee, ITAD, found that disadvantaged young people are enthusiastic about tech-enabled jobs, with most of those reached by digital training programs between the ages of 18-35 with at least some secondary education. Interestingly, these young people use their income to support an average of three dependents, though some provide for up to nine others. We’ve also learned that soft skills are critical for success in the workforce, based on feedback from employers that they value these skills as much—and oftentimes more than technical skills. Finally, data suggests there may be a value proposition for impact sourcing, and so the Foundation is investing in building the evidence base via the new Global Impact Sourcing Coalition.
In addition to implementation-related lessons for promoting youth employment, the Foundation has also gained insights on how to measure and assess market-based models. In Assessing Market-Based Solutions and Developmental Evaluation in Practice, Foundation Monitoring and Evaluation grantee, E.T. Jackson & Associates surfaces lessons to consider in assessing complex, non-linear market interventions such as DJA. Three highlights from this work include:
- A diverse range of M&E methods can be adapted for measurement within dynamic contexts that often characterize complex market-based interventions. Evaluation methods and tools may shift over time in response to changing data collection and analysis needs as theories of change evolve. It is therefore important that those seeking to assess these types of programs, including evaluators, be prepared to adapt as necessary.
- Market-based actors often use technologies that generate large volumes of useful information such as transactional data. However, there is a dominant perception that proprietary data helps give organizations a comparative advantage; therefore, market systems do not automatically incentivize data sharing and joint-learning
- Ongoing measurement activities that support adaptive management are well-suited for monitoring and evaluating dynamic market-based initiatives. Developmental evaluation is one recommended approach—amongst others- that can be integrated into a more comprehensive measurement strategy.
These lessons may be instructive for companies thinking about adopting impact sourcing business practices or governments and funders with a stake in promoting sustainable livelihoods for Africa’s approximately 200 million young people. For more information about what the Foundation is learning, please contact The Rockefeller Foundation’s Monitoring and Evaluation team at firstname.lastname@example.org.