According to the Population Reference Bureau, up to 51% of youth are unemployed in southern Africa. Unemployment undermines the foundations of a stable, prosperous society and restricts opportunities for growth.
The economic and social costs of unemployment are well known, often locking people into a vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion. With 90% of the world’s youth living in developing countries, the lack of job opportunities leads to a dangerous expansion of the informal sector, forcing young people to accept a reality of job insecurity, low, erratic income, and few options for advancement.
The rapidly growing “impact sourcing” industry, a subsector of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, focuses on addressing social issues and employing those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Impact sourcing service providers (ISSPs), like Impact Enterprises, are harnessing technological innovation to tackle the challenge of unemployment while providing valuable services to global customers.
Impact Enterprises attempts to address this major challenge facing humanity in Zambia, where, as the 11th youngest country by median age, the problem is as acute as anywhere. What we witness, however, is that so many youth idling in the economic torpor already possess the skills, understanding, and alacrity to compete on a global scale.
We have already seen that they can succeed and drive Zambia into the 21st century, if only given the proper opportunity.
The Zambian economy is almost entirely reliant on the mining of one element: copper. The mining industry has been the backbone of the economy, but one sector cannot support a country forever. Already the foundation is caving, as copper prices have consistently fallen in the last 4 years and the Zambian Kwacha has devalued to an all-time low.
Existing initiatives by the Zambian government and foreign investors to tackle unemployment prioritize the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. To reach economies of scale, these industries require huge capital investments and a complex network of trade.
Diversification and innovation, therefore, is necessary for creating the opportunities that young Zambians are crying out for.
With relatively few of these commitments entering Zambia, the job market continues to fall farther behind its emerging market peers. However, the IT industry, which has been virtually ignored to date, has huge potential to quickly employ youth with lower capital expenditures. In just our first year of operation, our workforce expanded sevenfold.
While the challenge at hand is enormous, so too is the potential of the technology sector to address it. Globalization and advances in digital communications have created a world where access to information and employment in the global economy are no longer determined by where you are born.
The rapidly expanding impact sourcing sector, growing at 29% annually, is demonstrating that eager individuals across the developing world have the skills to work and compete in the international marketplace.
Impact Enterprises, as well as many other ISSPs, is at the vanguard of this movement, distinguishing itself as a socially driven outsourcing company. As we scale, we will demonstrate how innovative start-ups can be role models for economic development in the region. Together, we can unlock a new generation of jobs for young Africans in a sector otherwise overlooked by the status quo.