On Friday, December 3rd, CID hosted a virtual Speaker Series event featuring Sharmi Surianarain, Chief Impact Officer at Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, and Kate Orkin, a faculty member in Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford. They discussed the entrenched issue of youth unemployment in South Africa and shared solutions and perspectives of Harambee, a social enterprise working on the ground, and an academic partner supporting Harambee’s work. The discussion was moderated by Eliana Carranza, Senior Economist at the World Bank Jobs Group and Adjunct Lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School.

With the legacy of apartheid in the backdrop, youth unemployment has been astoundingly high in South Africa with 67% youth between ages 18-24 years and over 40% youth between ages 25-34 years, unemployed. Sharmi highlighted the mismatch between labor supply and demand (i.e., lack of skilled labor as demanded by the capital-intensive labor market) and the information friction between the two sides to be key market failures leading to high unemployment. The innovation of Harambee was then to promote inclusive hiring at scale through a multi-channel platform that aggregated opportunities and linked youth to those opportunities. Till date, Harambee has been able to link 565 thousand youth to jobs in the public and BPO sectors through its platform and inject 12.2 billion Rands into the economy.

The discussion also covered the unique partnership between Harambee, the Government of South Africa, Oxford, and the World bank to design programs to increase employment opportunities for the youth and gain a deeper understanding of how successful programs work and how they might be scaled to solve the problem at a systemic level. 

It was clear that this unique and successful partnership was the culmination of demand led, evidence- and outcomes-based lean iterative approach. Kate Orkin highlighted the need for “deep listening, openness to ideas” as the critical linkage to genuine collaboration and subsequently to the success of the Harambee partnership. Similarly, putting the stakeholders (i.e., the unemployed youth) at the front and center at every point of the decision-making process was highlighted as the key factor for the success of Harambee’s interventions.

The Center for International Development Speaker Series continues on December 10th at 12:00 pm featuring Mariaflavia Harari, Assistant Professor of Real Estate, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Harari will present 'Cities and Slums Through Spatial Data'. Register here to attend.


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