Challenge:

How might we expand economic opportunities for youth in East Africa?

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In the Youth Empowerment Challenge we are collaboratively designing solutions that expand economic opportunities for youth in East Africa.

The continent of Africa is home to more young people than anywhere else on Earth. Youth in Africa have the potential to unleash the economic power of the continent – and lift millions out of poverty – but only if they have access to the skills, information and resources they need to achieve economic stability.

In East Africa, nearly half of the population is under 15 years old. With increasing economic and political integration in the region, there is an unparalleled chance to harness the capacity of this generation. But the challenges are great. In Kenya, 20% of young people lack formal employment – the highest percentage in the region. Unemployment rates only tell part of the story – they don’t include the large numbers of young people in the informal sector, those who are not looking for work, those in both the formal and informal labour market, or those excluded from the labor market because of gender, disability or stigma.

The obstacles young people face in accessing economic opportunities are complex. Schools may not provide the skills that make young people job ready. Vocational training programs may not teach skills that match with market demands, or provide the support needed to give young people a foothold into stable employment. Sectors like agriculture, which hold tremendous potential, can be difficult to access because of established value chains, or association with an older generation. The vast majority of employment options occur in the informal sector, where mentorship, safe work and good pay are harder to come by. Across the board, we need new approaches to what exists – and to build young people’s capacity in the transferable skills that lay the foundation for a lifetime of growth.

We’re running this challenge because we aspire for all young people (ages 15-35) in East Africa to find themselves in positions of learning, growth and possibility. In order for this vision to become reality, young people must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities that will pave the way to success. So we’re calling our global community to action: how might we expand economic opportunities for youth in East Africa?

We’re looking for a wide range of solutions including ideas that motivate and inspire youth, build skills that allow them to participate in the economy, support their transition into financial stability, include the private sector, or harness the potential for the participation of young people in the region’s most lucrative sectors.

Let’s focus on designing solutions that meet current needs and equip young people in East Africa with the tools to meet the demands of the future.

The Youth Empowerment Challenge is now closed. Join us in congratulating our winners here.

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Design Principles 

As we develop solutions to the challenge question, there are five principles we'd like you to keep in mind:

  • Design for gender equality and inclusion
  • Youth as change agents
  • Skills that match markets
  • Design for transitions
  • Design for long-term safety and security 


Read more about our design principles here

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The Prize

At least five winners of this challenge will receive a grant of between $50,000 and $150,000, an invitation to four day human-centered design bootcamp and ongoing design support from IDEO.org.

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Evaluation Criteria

We are looking for ideas that answer our challenge question and are targeted at youth in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda between 18-35. You can take a look at our detailed criteria here.

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About Amplify

Amplify is a series of ten innovation challenges bringing increased collaboration and a human-centered design approach to international aid. Amplify is a joint initiative of OpenIDEO, IDEO.org and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). It is made possible through DFID funding. Learn more about our program here.

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Challenge team




Chelsea Takamine, Challenge Manager


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Shane Zhao, Community Manager 

Do you want to get involved in this challenge?

We follow a process with phases. Currently we are in the Impact phase. You can participate by adding stories on the impact of this challenge.
568 ideas
100 final ideas
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