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Commonwealth Youth Opinions

  • Benjamin Fraser, Caribbean & the Americas Representative, Commonwealth Students Association
  • Mofundo Mohammed, (CAYE – Southern Africa)
  • Shamoy Hajare
  • Bernard Oduro Takyi, Regional Coordinator, (CAYE – West Africa)
  • Nancy Amunga, National coordinator, (CAYE – East Africa)
  • Shomy Hasan Chowdhury, Asia Regional Representative, Commonwealth Students Association
  • Ocheck Msuva, (CEO – Bridge for Change, Tanzania)

    Has Education failed students and business on employability


    Benjamin Fraser, Caribbean and the Americas Regional Representative

    The Commonwealth Students’ Association(CSA)


    The concern of employers globally is that employees have the correct bit of paper but a total inability to effectively apply it and they blame this on failing education systems.

    Skills Mismatch

    Firstly, persistent high levels of unemployment along with job vacancies that remain unfilled are often attributed to skills mismatches – the gap between an individual’s skill and demands of the job market.

    The Hays Global Indexassesses the dynamics of skilled labour markets across thirty-three countries from all regions of the globe. The report reveals that between 2015 and 2016 there was a global increase in the challenge of business to matching available skills with unfilled jobs. On a scale 1-10, 10 being the most unfavourable 15 countries scored at least 6.5.

    Employers and industry officials need to be involved in defining curricula and learning outcomes and help deciding which skills the students are being trained in. Austria has won the attention of the international community for controlling its unemployment rate through its dual education systemwhich is characterized by alternating school-based and company-based training stages; it is always kept up to date through consolidated efforts to forge partnerships between employers and educators.

    Soft Skills

    Secondly, Millennials, which make up the growing portion of the labour force are drawn to STEM careers. Born in the information age, we boast a portfolio of hard technical skills that belie our young age. However, when it comes to soft skills, Millennials fall short. This is frustrating for employers.

    In a McKinsey survey of employers of young people in nine countries, 40% of employers said lack of soft skills was the main reason for entry-level job vacancies. There were gaps in soft skills such as communication, teamwork and punctuality. In the 2016 Payscale report titles “Levelling Up: How to Win the Skill Economy,” critical-thinking, problem-solving, attention to detail, writing proficiency topped the list of skills managers find missing from job-seekers. While formal education leaves graduates technically and academically prepared, their soft skills are severely lacking.

    One potential solution is measuring students’ participation in extra-curricular activities. Research has shown that these activities can function as important tools in developing skills. Universities and employers should pay attention to the extent that students and potential employees, participated in them. Non-academic activities demonstrate a young person’s level of commitment to personal growth and should be very attractive to future employers as an indicator of well-developed soft skills.

    I participated in the 2016 Summer Youth Employment Programme organized by the National Youth Service of Jamaica. Because of the strong emphasis which my high school placed on participation in extra-curricular activities, I found it easy to function in a work environment and I found the accounting work wasn’t difficult.


    Thirdly, all levels of education must come to recognise the most essential facet of entrepreneurship: it is a practice, like that of law and medicine, that can be codified, developed and taught. Modern education systems must discontinue its failure to demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental importance of entrepreneurship as an applicable practice. A Swedish study on the impact of entrepreneurship education in high school on long-term entrepreneurial performance revealed that Junior Achievement’s Company Participation Programmeincreases the probability that an individual will engage in entrepreneurship by starting a firm and that his or her income from these firms will be higher.

    I recommend the integration of entrepreneurship in the heart of the education system from beginning to end. It is quite likely the most important step a country can take to help reverse the trends of rising youth unemployment and social dislocation.




Mfundo Mohammed, (CAYE-SA)

Vice Chairman, Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs – Southern Africa

Graduation day is meant to be the best day in the life of any young person. In our society, the fact that the young person defied many, often finance-related, odds to make it to University is normally quite a feat in itself. Chances are that some family members’ education was sacrificed to ensure that the young person with the “best chance of making it” continued with their education. After graduation, there is an expectation that the young person will find employment.

This is normally the point at which “black tax” then kicks in. “Black tax” refers to the expectation that when a family member makes it in life, they are expected to share their wealth and income with the rest of the family members who may not have the same ability to generate income.

This way of thinking is flawed because it suggests that only formal classroom education leads to meaningful employment opportunities. Many young people get caught in the mindset that if they do not finish school, they cannot earn a proper living. Hence they start feeling sorry for themselves and do not meaningfully pursue other learning & job opportunities.

I therefore urge our national governments to focus on youth-focused VET and skills-training initiatives which will empower the youth with critical skills to become either “employable” or “employers of choice”.

We need more skilled citizens in order to ensure that the entrepreneurs working in existing businesses have access to the right sets of skills to provide high quality services, develop innovative and high-quality products. This will grow their businesses which, in turn, will lead to more employment opportunities for the skilled labour force.

Youth are often described as the demographic dividend. Now is the time for our governments to invest in that dividend by investing, meaningfully, in youth vocational skills training and more grants for the setup of sustainable youth-led businesses.




Shamoy Hajare

We are living in a time that has the largest youth population the world has ever seen. This creates many challenges as young people are impacted by a wide range of socio-economic and environmental issues. However, this demographic youth bulge also provides opportunities as young people have the potential to create innovative solutions to many of these issues. One major challenge that cripples the ability of young people to reach their full potential is unemployment. The world needs to create over a billion new jobs by 2030 to accommodate existing and future unemployed youth.

One very powerful solution is to empower young people to become creators of jobs in the emerging industries which will play an integral role in transforming our world.  To do this requires the full support of governments, private sector, civil society and young people themselves to develop a robust entrepreneurship ecosystem that provides an accommodating environment for youth entrepreneurship to flourish.

It is a fact that many young people have a vested interest in developing enterprising solutions that are beyond creating a livelihood for themselves. These are the creators of many jobs that young people need in the labour market. Many have developed innovative solutions to promote local economic development, combat climate change, create low-tech sustainable energy solutions, promote gender equality and inclusiveness, and several encourage youth participation and transparency in political discourses. However, many of these big enterprising ideas lack key resources that prevent youth enterprises from growing to scale and making lasting impacts. As an entrepreneur myself, I know first-hand the challenges of starting a business. Without adequate support, a business can easily fail in its first vulnerable years.

I therefore call on policymakers and youth leaders at all levels to join forces to eradicate impediments that prevent the development of a resilient entrepreneurship ecosystem. These range from the current complex and high-cost regulatory systems to a lack of youth-friendly financial products and services. We must act now to foster a culture of entrepreneurship that will promote youth employment and sustainable livelihoods.  To do this, there needs to be:

      1. A more simplified regulatory environment that utilises ICT to create a low-cost business registration and reporting experience
      2. The integration of entrepreneurship education at all levels of formal and informal education systems and business development services that meet the needs of young people, match local context, utilise case studies and encourage the integration of ICT, prototyping and research
      • Youth-friendly financial products & services: eg. informal lending mechanisms, start-up and accelerator grants, loan schemes without the traditional collateral requirements – all under-pinned by effective financial literacy training;
      1. Incubator and resource hubs that provide on-going technical support, mentoring and coaching, and access to resources and opportunities that support green tech start-ups, social enterprises and other forms of transformative enterprises

A society that encourages a youth-centric entrepreneurial culture will create the long-term, decent jobs needed for young people and assist the development of –

      • Sustainability = ideas for business that strengthen natural ecosystems;
      • Security = ideas that promote peace and create powerful tools for post-conflict peace-building;
      • Fairness = ideas that prevent gender segregation, encourage inclusion and fight discrimination;
      • Prosperity = ideas that create a world that decouples economic growth from environmental degradation and build local economies;

Our world depends on the enthusiasm, creativity and passion of young people to build, strengthen and diversify the labour market while promoting sustainable development; Governments and policymakers can facilitate this by investing in the creation of a robust entrepreneurship eco-system for the youth.




Bernard Oduro Takyi, Regional Coordinator,

Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs (CAYE) West Africa

Poverty is often a result of youth un- and underemployment but, in the 21stCentury, the problem is a more pressing one because a critical mass of unemployed youth is a serious catalyst for terrorism and a host of other brewing social vices.

According to World Bank Group 2016 Report on Sub Saharan Africa, 48% of all Graduates remain unemployed at least 5 years after graduation. That begs a more pressing question: “If Graduates are remaining unemployed, then what is happening to the uneducated youth?”

I am a key advocate of the idea that the Business of Government is to create the most enabling and business friendly environment possible to ensure that the right kind of sustainable jobs are created by the Business Community.

Whilst it is increasingly apparent that Governments cannot provide the lasting solutions to the albatross of Youth Unemployment, I believe if governments take the steps below, they will help achieve full employment for the growing youth population:

      1. The educational system of most countries ought to be restructured to focus more on practical innovation & creativity, risk taking, self-employment and entrepreneurialism + community problem-solving;
      2. National Mentorship and Coaching Policies need to be enacted to ensure that young talent is discovered early and groomed effectively. Once the latent talents of the youth are unearthed and developed, their earning capacities appreciate, and unemployment becomes a non-issue.
      3. Governments ought to have a conscious plan and policies to decentralize and localize wealth creation. Wealth creation should be taught from an early age to all school-going children. This will kill the entitlement mentality of young people who currently feel that the Governments owe them a living.
      4. Governments must promote bi- and multi-lateral entrepreneurships and trade missions for the Youth with the ambition to be job creators. These will provide peer-to-peer experience-sharing and networking which can greatly increase the motivation of young entrepreneurs.
      5. Lastly Governments need to provide reliable and cheap sources of funding to enable youth to secure funding for their business start-up ideas.






Nancy Amunga, National coordinator,

Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs – East Africa

Youth unemployment is a major challenge in the commonwealth countries, considering about 60% of this population are youth; steps must be taken to solve this problem. Because many youth lack basic literacy and numeracy skills, and obstacles to education still remain a great hindrance for many of them, my strategies for doing this are: 1) Keep Youth in School – and – 2) Promote Entrepreneurship.  Keeping youth in school can address a number of the risk factors associated with unemployment.

The positive effects of education include the following:

      • youth who complete secondary education are less likely to fall into poverty;
      • youth who stay in school to age 15 are less likely to engage in criminal activities;
      • better educated youth are more trusting of others – and –
      • more educated youth expands a nation’s social capital and also increases participation in elections, charitable giving and volunteerism.

Many factors determine a student’s motivation to remain in school.

      • The quality of the teaching;
      • The perceived benefits of education; – and –
      • The education experience generally.

Significant policies and measures should be put in place by governments particularly with regard to physical infrastructure and lowering the cost of education which in most Commonwealth countries is very expensive and perceived to be a luxury as opposed to being a basic need.

We should seek to harness the innovative spirit of young people in addressing our development challenges. Training and education should promote entrepreneurship and encourage young entrepreneurs to find unique business ideas. Training alone is not enough to help young entrepreneurs survive in the business world. After training, young entrepreneurs all tend to start up more or less the same enterprises. Young people should be helped to identify something unique which is easily found within their environment and can add value to it. So governments should create business incubators in every university and expand vocational training facilities.

And it is not just education: to become a successful entrepreneur, you need an enabling financial environment. Governments should therefore create an environment where access to finance is based more on the borrower’s ability to repay than it is on their possession of physical collateral


Power to Social Entrepreneurs


Shomy Hasan Chowdhury, WASHactivist, Bangladesh

Asia Regional Representative of Commonwealth Students’ Association(CSA)

As the topic of this Booklet is youth employment, I’d like to share with you my story of being a social entrepreneur – what I call a “Socialpreneur.” Last year, I took part in a competition called the Hult Prize Competition, which is the world’s largest student movement for social good. Every year, President Bill Clinton throws a challenge aligned with some of the SDGs and teams come up with ideas to help 10 million people by the next 5 years, with a prize money of 1 million US Dollar as seed funding. In 2017, I wanted to create an enterprise that addresses an issue I am passionate about: sanitation and hygiene. Poor sanitation and toilets can steal the life of a loved one within days, so I feel it is my responsibility to step up in support of the global movement for toilets. My aim is to ensure access to water, sanitation and hygiene for everyone. So I and my team came up with a business model to place 100 portable toilets in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, a city of over 18 million people – one of the world’s most densely populated cities.

The name of our project is POUP (Power of Optimizing and Utilizing Poop). We collect the human waste from these toilets and convert it into biogas and organic fertilizer. We have found out that we can benefit over 10 million lives in less than three years through this model. This will create job opportunities, solve the problem of lack of functional public toilets, produce biogas thereby reducing the pressure on non-renewable energy and, as a by-product, provide cheap organic fertilizer for the agriculture sector. Student leaders like me arrange and participate in their on-campus finals in over 100 countries in the world through this competition every year.

The aim of the Hult Prize is to launch a start-up enterprise that can radically change the world and breed the next generation of social entrepreneurs. There are many other business competitions and similar opportunities available where YOU can participate. It is not just helping a group of people who you feel passionate about, but also about personal development. We learnt in Economics that Entrepreneurship is the fourth factor of production. By practicing entrepreneurship, one can improve leadership, communication, managerial and networking skills. Hence, our Education systems must focus on Entrepreneurship for national development as a whole.

Entrepreneurs are job creators and not job seekers. This is critical for solving the problem of unemployment – one of today’s most pressing development challenges. Every year, millions of graduates enter the job market but new jobs are not being produced at the same rate. This is because of a lack of entrepreneurship education and, as a result, less interest among youngsters in starting their own ventures.

Entrepreneurship is a key factor to ensure employability. In some countries, students from domains such as engineering, computer sciences etc. are not given the taste of entrepreneurial zeal because entrepreneurship is always associated with business studies.

We also need to escape the mindset that being an entrepreneur is a second class career, only pursued by those who fail to get to university and get a degree. This attitude discourages and demotivates the students from nurturing their entrepreneurial skills. Because of skills mismatches, many of them end up working in sectors which have no relation to the degrees they acquired.

We need to create an enterprising culture among young men and women by encouraging qualities such as initiative, innovation, creativity and risk-taking. We should raise their awareness of the opportunities and challenges of entrepreneurship and self-employment and give them a better understanding of the role that young people can take in shaping their futures, as well as that of their country, by being entrepreneurial in their working lives and careers.

We need to provide entrepreneurial education in the school curricula so that from a younger age our students learn to develop their entrepreneurial techniques.  At the university level, our main objective should be –

      • creating awareness of enterprise and self-employment as a career option for young people;
      • developing positive attitudes towards sustainable enterprise, self-employment and social entrepreneurship;
      • providing knowledge and practice about the desirable attributes for starting and operating a successful enterprise;
      • preparing students to become job creators rather than job seekers through improved understanding of business.

We are the leaders of the Commonwealth. As global citizens and socialpreneurs, we have the power and the responsibility to ensure employability through Entrepreneurship and thus help achieve poverty alleviation.



Preparing  youth  for  after  school life  through career

consultation, facilitating self-learning and

supporting student initiative


Check Msuva, Founder and CEO, Bridge for ChangeDar es Salaam, Tanzania

When I was forced by family circumstances to stop school in 2004, my only thought was how to get back there. In 2009 I managed to do so: I sat my O levels and passed to go to high school. Later, I managed to enter the prestigious University of Dar Es Salaam. Though that was a dream that come true, I quickly realized that being at university did not mean that I have solved all my life problems. I had new challenges, and questions about what to do next? At secondary level, we didn’t have that question: teachers told us that going to university was the answer to every problem.

But – Post-University, I had to answer this question: “How will my life look like?’’

As a child, I’d been forced to live on the street, so where to sleep and what to eat was never a problem for me. At secondary school and university, I involved myself in extra-curricular and volunteer activities and this enabled me to build experience.

I also began to understand the challenges my fellow youth were facing: I was eager to find out what future do they dream about? – what desires are driving their actions?  One thing was very clear: many students struggled to answer these important questions – What is my dream? Where do I want to be? Can I influence the result of my actions? What new skills do I need to change my reality?

With my experience as a volunteer, I decided to start a youth-led organization. I called it Bridge for Change– as it tried to help youth bridge the change between school/university and the world of work. Our first task was to ask some questions:

      • Do youth in university have any idea about the career path they should pursue?
      • Do they get any guidance on the career options that lie ahead of them?
      • How many have ever heard of the concept of career planning?
      • Do Out-of-school youth get guidance on how to get what they want out of life?

It quickly became clear that the answers to all these questions was “No!”  Career Guidance is an area that has been totally forgotten about in my country:  youth have little or no information or knowledge about the options they have in life. I realized that this lack of knowledge and failure to do any kind of career planning, is a major cause of youth unemployment. When youth do not have dreams to focus their energy on, they see no reason why to act. They lack energy and drive. When they do have a dream, they see no clear path to achieving it. But most initiatives addressing youth unemployment focus on training them how to write a good CV. That question comes later. Before they leave school, all youth have to answer four key questions:

      1. Who I am?
      2. Who do I want to be?
      3. How to get there? – and –
      4. How to keep going?

To answer these questions, I came up with a programme called Career Network Support(CNS.)  The gap that CNS works to fill is that only 2% of Tanzanian students ever receive career guidance. As a result, they struggle to understand and plan for their future. While many job creation and vocational training schemes are underway, youth’s lack of self-awareness and sense of purpose remains a key barrier. They also lack 21st-century skills such as the ability to collaborate and innovate so we started CNS in secondary schools to help young people understand who they are, where their potential lies and then come up with ways to help them be self-learners and answer these key questions by themselves. We want to help youth to thinking about their future while they have the time to shape their character and personality in a way that will help them achieve their dreams and plans. This is the key to unlocking youth potential and resolving the unemployment problem. More effort and resources need to be focused on this area globally by all stake-holders.


Deciding on who / what you want to be is not an easy task for youth and our education system in Low Income Countries is not designed to solve this existential challenge that all youth are facing. Another big challenge for the youth to become more innovative and to make them courageous to face their challenges.  For that, youth need sensitive consultation about their future, about the possibilities of being someone. We’ve found that peer to peerCareer consultation is one effective approach that helps youth address the employment challenge facing them.  Youth who are mentored in our programme feel more possibility of solving the problems they face. With CNS, we have been working to create a “Dreams of Change” network of connected youth who do things: for example, some students have worked together to turn an under-utilized classroom into a Library. It is in that kind of space that we can deliver our peer to peer career consultation sessions, and help each student grow to become better persons.


Instead of investing so much on just providing funds for youth training centres (a good thing) – we should also invest in student-led initiatives like CNS which encourage self-learning. The key to self-learning is to help youth to understand their potential and to believe in themselves. At our centre, every day we have youth who come in to seek support on what to do in their life, and we encourage them to take the lead in designing their future. We have to inspire curiosity in them and provide them with resources to take the initiative to teach themselves the skills they need. For example: we have group of youth who want to take a course on how to manager student affairs on computer coding (courses not being taught in our schools yet, we train them how to get these courses on line and teach themselves. This helps them get the skills they need in the labour market and also helps them to start a business.


Our aim with CNS is to promote innovation, creativity and skill development for youth. If we can do this, and give youth a chance to show their ability and build their confidence from by supporting their initiatives while they are still in secondary level (14 years up to at least 21)  –we will have a chance in Tanzania of equipping our youth with the confidence to do the jobs required by the existing labour market and / or to start their own entrepreneurial adventures in self-employment.

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