What are the barriers for young people accessing the green economy?


Joshua Alade


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about an increase in job loses for millions of young people globally and the absence of a safety nets or government palliatives in the global south has made this period difficult for so many young people. In a country like Nigeria, more than 60 per cent of youth aged 18 to 35 work in the informal sector with more than 70 percent of them living on less than $1.50 a day.

As a sustainability and a positive youth development coach, I had to grab the opportunity to attend the 16th annual conference of the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA) with both hands. EVPA is a community of organizations sharing the same vision and a common goal: creating positive societal impact through venture philanthropy. The community connects investors and grant makers to learn from each other in their pursuit of deeper societal impact.

The conference had leading philanthropists, social impact leaders, foundations and organisations working towards a better world with the Sustainable Development Goals as an overarching guide. I attended the workshop hosted by Voluntary Service Overseas on the top 10 barriers for inclusive employment and entrepreneurship in a green economy.

The session had experts discuss creating inclusive and green employment and entrepreneurship with emphasis on the supply and demand of the labour market. The experts shared the importance of creating jobs that are climate friendly and empowering to women and youth as this is the first step towards ensuring a better world in tandem with the Sustainable Development Goals.

In Africa, a lot of women and youth have taken to green jobs like recycling due to the waste to wealth initiative to help improve their socio-economic wellbeing and access to finance has hindered them from expanding their activity. According to a World Bank statistic, 4 in 5 of every young Nigerian is self-employed and they often lack the entrepreneurial skills that are crucial for identifying and exploiting new opportunities, while access to entrepreneurship education is rather limited.

Government policies often times ensure that small businesses do not thrive beyond the three to five years mark as entrepreneurs have to battle with multiple taxation, creating their own power source and delays in getting their products to market because of poor road network. The time and money that will have added to the profit of the business for scale or survival is channeled towards issues that a functional government system should have addressed.

The world is experiencing an increase in globalization with the progress in technology and the rising awareness of green businesses which is an amazing opportunity to create social businesses and new entrepreneurs which will help break the cycle of poverty and ensure inclusive progress for women and youth. However, the barriers like access to digital skills, the right business network and work-life balance make it difficult for women to thrive in the green economy.

In other for African countries to harness the green economy, people who are already self-employed need to be empowered to become employers. This way we have more social businesses that are addressing the developmental needs of the society and creating value for individuals involved in the process. There is a need to address the demand for decent work especially for young people to act within the green economy. According to a survey by the Nigeria Youth Sustainable Development Goals Network on the aspirations of young people on decent work, about 60 per cent of the 200,000 responses had interest in agriculture with another 46 per cent saying that they desire work that helps them contribute meaningfully to their community.

The global pandemic has shown that when we invest in human capacity development and market creating innovation, we are creating opportunities for people to harness their potential and safety net for them in case something happens to their source of living. Addressing the barriers that limit (like better labour laws, friendly government policies and financing) women and young people from fully participating in the green economy will help us build back better after the pandemic and position us to creating more jobs that will help us be more inclusive and prosperous.

Joshua Alade is a Positive Youth Development Coach

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