At our Consultative Advisory Panel meeting yesterday we were privileged to have a really stimulating presentation on Peak Youth from Catherine Stevens and Dilhani Wijeyesekera of Restless Development, which is part of the wider consortium for BERF.  Dilhani recently participated in our assignment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories on innovative stakeholder engagement, including with both youth and women more generally.

The presentation focused on the massive challenge of the youth agenda which is called “Peak Youth” as a shorthand.  Like the term “Peak Oil” this creates an appropriate sense of emerging global crisis, and possibly unlike Peak Oil we know that this is going to be a major issue.

From a baseline of around 1.5 billion in 1950 the population of under 30s has grown to about 3.5 billion today and will climb still further over the middle years of this century before gradually declining.  In Africa, a stunning 37% of the population is aged under 30.  With 1 billion young people entering the job market over the next decade, at least 600 million new jobs are required to be created (World Bank).

Youth unemployment is a major concern with over 600 million youth already out of education work or training.  Young people are four times more likely to be unemployed than older adults.

Catherine said that DFID is leading the agenda with its first ever youth strategy recently published.  DFID supported a youth summit in September last year.

What this means for BERF

The agenda is relevant for all aspects of BERF. Youth are clearly a major stakeholder group for BERF, who need to articulate their aspirations and needs, and help to shape the business environment reform agenda.

There is scope to contribute evidence and learning on what is working and not working in the area of youth “agency” (or empowerment).

Clearly the solution for the large bulk of the ‘Peak Youth’ bulge is going to lie within the informal sector.  BER needs to address ways to facilitate the provision of support and services to young informal sector entrepreneurs, and to facilitate the formalisation of more successful informal businesses in order to help them to scale up and create jobs for other young people.  DFID country office teams, in response to the youth strategy, are likely to be seeking support from BERF to identify ways forward, as the Occupied Palestinian Territories team has already done.