Eight Tanzanian students wearing purple and hairnets smile by a table of food

Work It: Putting the Creativity in Job Creation

by Sylvia K. Ilahuka, Communications Officer

This International Workers’ Day we’ve been thinking about, well, work. Job creation, soft and hard skilling, income generation—all of these comprise the livelihood sector, within which we have many Segal Family Foundation partners. Livelihood, the means of making a living, is fundamentally connected to multiple Sustainable Development Goals. Yet secure livelihood remains a challenge for individuals and communities across the globe. Many countries of Africa have youthful populations, resulting in a labor force bulge that cannot be fully absorbed into the labor market. As of 2024, approximately 11.2% of African youth aged between 15 and 24 years old remain unemployed—a figure that has held since 2021, according to the International Labor Organization. This ongoing issue has led to the formation of organizations dedicated to addressing the employment gap in creative ways, including some of our own grantee partners.

A Black woman holds a mobile phone in front of a website
Niajiri Platform

Lilian Madeje was already working in human capital development in Tanzania, doing corporate trainings that involved reviewing reams of resumes. The tediousness of screening and feedback ultimately led her to start Niajiri Platform, a digital interface for workforce development. For others like Benjamin Rukwengye, preparation was the pain point: Boundless Minds was started to experiment with earlier school-to-workplace transition readiness. The idea arose from a conversation about how, in Western countries, career discussions and exposure begin earlier in the education journey. Having previously worked on community education and literacy programs as a co-founder of 40 Days Over 40 Smiles, Rukwengye knew the issues plaguing Uganda and wanted to do something about it. When it comes to opportunities after graduation, there is similarly a vast gap between job-seekers and prospective employers. Within the gap is a dearth of soft skills, which organizations like Talent Match exist to address. Noticing insufficient professional preparedness among Rwandan university graduates, Talent Match supports university students and employers to connect better. Yusudi—a portmanteau of ‘youth’ and the Swahili word ‘kusudi’ (purpose)—does likewise, equipping graduates with sales skills that are high in demand in Kenya, yet not widely taught. 

An informal classroom with students listening intently to a speaker
Talent Match

Misconceptions abound in the livelihoods sector, on the part of job seekers and employers alike. The broader community too, wonders, as was recently asked of Rukwengye: Why skill people for employment when there are no jobs? Why not entrepreneurship instead? His response is that entrepreneurs need strong teams too, and the work of organizations like Boundless Minds is helping to create that. Doris Muigei of Yusudi emphatically agrees: “People think there’s a shortcut to employment via entrepreneurship, yet it’s not for everyone. The reality of the world is that people still need to get jobs.” 

There is also an expectation among job seekers that platforms like Niajiri and Jobortunity offer instant employment. There is also the issue of the hidden job market: where the trend nowadays is to search online job boards for postings, Muigei says a large percentage of jobs are not advertised, so applicants must have the know-how to reach out directly to employers. That is a skill in and of itself. Madeje says Niajiri, which means ‘hire me’ in Swahili, often attracts hopefuls who disregard the effort they themselves need to put in to be attractive to prospective employers. The team then emphasizes the importance of self-preparation so as to increase one’s chances of making a match.

African students line the tables at a computer lab

For the past 15 years, Jobortunity (also a portmanteau name) has been skilling youth who have education credentials but no professional experience to prepare them for work environments. They train motivated youth and place them in various industries—mostly hospitality, given the abundance of hotels in the Arusha region. Consequently, as marketing coordinator Nusura Myonga describes, the public tends to think Jobortunity is a hospitality management placement agency though the skills taught could be applied almost anywhere. Speaking for Talent Match, marketing director Eric Ruzindana added that it is often students whose expectation is that they will simply be handed an internship placement or job; however, the organization’s role is to give them the tools to find their own opportunities. Overall, there is also not enough understanding of exactly what soft skills are; Rukwengye says that problem solving skills, creativity, and adaptability sound alien to the parents whom Boundless Minds speaks with. They still end up asking, “What exactly do you teach, is it coding?”

Asked what would make their work easier, Ruzindana mentions employers developing a better understanding of the benefits of offering internships to students and graduates—especially government agencies that are notoriously resistant to such learning opportunities. Internships are not only a stepladder for the youth’s future careers, but ultimately expand employers’ selection pool by improving workforce quality as a whole. In countries like Uganda where the labor economy is largely informal, identifying high-quality work opportunities is difficult even at entry level. Rukwengye shared that when people approach Boundless Minds for talent, he asks his team how serious the organization is. He wishes there were more opportunities for reputable placements, such as with large multinational companies that have graduate training programs. The difficulty is further compounded by systemic weaknesses in the educational system, such that work prep programs expend way too much time teaching basics after the fact—like how to write professional emails and other skills that should have been learned at much lower levels. Given the resources needed to make up for these gaps, organizations like these sorely need  flexible multiyear funding; it’s hard to create jobs and engage in professional development if an organization can’t plan long-term. As for Segal Family Foundation? We are excited about the work our hubs are doing to support livelihood organizations, especially in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo where innovation and job creation are new areas of growth.