MEDA sees peace dividend in youth program
Mennonite Economic Development Associates boosts financial literacy.by Wally Kroeker
Anew program to boost employment for an exploding global youth population has been launched by Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA).
Moroccan young people attending a focus group session to discuss their need for financial services. Photo by Wally Kroeker.
Moroccan young people attending a focus group session to discuss their need for financial services.Called YouthInvest, the job and business training program aims to train 50,000 young people in Morocco and Egypt.
"The global population of young people is soaring, but job prospects lag far behind," says Kim Pityn, MEDA's vice president of international operations.
She cites United Nations data showing 46 percent of the world’s population to be under age 25. In the last three years this segment grew 10.5 percent, but youth employment grew only 0.2 percent.
"Long-term joblessness among young people can lead to mass emigration, social unrest and entrenched cycles of poverty, leading to an increased susceptibility to recruitment by extremist groups," says Pityn.
YouthInvest aims to boost financial literacy and entrepreneurship among Moroccan and Egyptian young people (ages 15-24) by providing its own version of Business 101 training and helping them access financial services that until now have been out of their reach.
It will also help local microfinance institutions devise youth-centered financial services and work with banks to encourage youth-oriented savings accounts.
The goal is to prepare youth for successful entrepreneurship and employment by furnishing them with meaningful skills, work opportunities and integrated services.
The five-year, $5-million program, sponsored primarily by The MasterCard Foundation, got underway late in 2009, based in Casablanca.
While MEDA's program currently targets 50,000 youth, Pityn predicts that in the next three years an additional 150,000 can be reached with greater access to savings and credit, increased incomes and wider skill sets, helping them find safe, self-sustaining livelihoods either through entrepreneurship or employment.
A second phase is being set up in Egypt, and could be replicated in countries such as Jordan, Sudan and Yemen.
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