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South Africa faces a significant challenge in tackling youth unemployment. Of the 1.1 million youth who enter the labour market each year, only 14% find themselves in any form of employment (formal or informal) within their first year. But today those odds were dramatically improved thanks to a collaborative partnership between the Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP) and Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator.

Two of the biggest problems our youth face today is unequal access to employment opportunity and the lack of emphasis on education. Indeed, when one considers how many youth sit at home unemployed when there are job vacancies that go unfilled by South African companies, it is clear that the “demand supply mismatch” must be solved in the youth labour market.

This is the challenge being addressed by both ISFAP and Harambee.

ISFAP has done this by addressing the funding demands of students from poor and “missing middle” households who are studying towards entering professions of high demand and scarce-skills professions. Harambee works to pathway, match and ready young people to secure jobs by breaking down the barriers that stand between high-potential young people and employment.

While each organisation has made strides to change the narrative, the innovative partnership between these institutions will accelerate the transition from “learning to earning” by scaling both organisations’ solutions to this crisis.

How ISFAP and Harambee will work together

At the heart of the ISFAP-Harambee partnership lies the goal to transform and develop the South African economy through action-oriented partnerships and solutions that can be implemented at scale. By aligning ISFAP’s approach to addressing education deficits with Harambee’s approach to addressing job creation, the terms of the partnership (signed today at a special Memorandum of Understanding ceremony in Johannesburg) outline the following collaborative goals:

to implement coordinated and programmatic multi-sector action labs that deliver breakthrough skilling and inclusive hiring solutions to match demand and supply in growth sectors/job families that have a high potential to grow;
to optimise public-private investments and resources so as to accelerate ‘demand focused skilling’ and youth pathways to earning (including mobilising government, the private sector and sectoral bodies to better implement B-BBEE, skills development, employment and meaningful participation of the youth in the economy);
to work together on innovative financing solutions (focused on ISFAP’s pilot social impact bond (SIB) and Harambee’s pay-for-results ‘Bonds4Jobs’ into the country’s social investment “go-to” partners);
to assist graduates, drop outs and students declined university entrance with the information and skills they need to search for work.

Sizwe Nxasana, ISFAP Chairperson, explained the fund’s hopes for the partnership: ‘We are immensely excited by the potential that this partnership represents. Having engaged extensively with Harambee, we have found many synergies between our two organisations that will enable us to widen our net and create an eco-system where we can help more young people gain sustainable employment. This will assist a wide segment of the youth market from matriculants who have been declined entry into university or TVET colleges to university drop outs and even unemployed graduates. In so doing, we will be making a very real, very tangible difference in the lives of the country’s youth.’

Harambee’s chair and founder Nicola Galombik echoed this sentiment, saying ‘Harambee believes in solving youth unemployment through partnerships. We are excited to partner with ISFAP so that we take a shared view of how to successfully pathway young people into education and employment. This collaboration will focus on innovations in financing and skilling for growth that our country desperately needs.’

The benefits of this partnership will be felt throughout the economy. Adds Nxasana: ‘Only when a country produces skilled young people and has more hands to work available than more mouths to feed, do economies truly grow. By creating a larger number of young people who are educated, skilled, able and willing to work, we hope to trigger the tremendous growth needed for the South African economy.’

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