The power of youth, their resourcefulness and ingenuity are strong contributing factors to the development of economies around the world. However, the majority of young people lack economic opportunities, which unfortunately leads to high levels of youth unemployment, underutilized talents and skills.
A publication by the African Development Bank on Jobs for Youth in Africa indicates that “of Africa’s nearly 420 million youth aged 15-35, one-third are unemployed, another third are vulnerably employed and, only one in six is in wage employment”.
The commemoration of International Youth Day on 12 August, therefore, provides the needed platform to find solutions to these challenges by exploring the opportunities for the development of youth in Africa and the world at large. Under the global theme, “Safe spaces for youth”, this year’s International Youth Day highlights the importance of providing safe physical and digital spaces that harness the full potential and abilities of young people to ensure inclusiveness and to promote development.
The role of Nestlé in providing opportunities for youth in Central and West Africa
As the world’s leading food and beverage company, Nestlé (www.Nestle.com) believes that communities cannot thrive if they cannot offer a future for younger generations. The company believes that providing youth with the right opportunities helps to create wealth and support the development of communities. In line with its purpose of “enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future”, Nestlé has set an ambition to help 10 million young people around the world have access to economic opportunities by 2030. Under its flagship programme, global Nestlé Needs YOUth Initiative (http://bit.ly/2MkS1hg), the company focuses on entrepreneurship, “agripreneurship”, as well as providing work readiness skills training to young people.
In Central and West Africa, over 500 young people have benefited from the global Nestlé Need YOUth initiative through job fairs, internship opportunities as well as graduate and management trainee programmes as at 2017 alone. In addition, over 4,200 people are now operating their own businesses through the “My Own Business” (MYOWBU) and pushcart initiatives under the Nestlé Professional out-of-home business. Globally last year, the company provided more than 30,000 jobs and 11,000 apprenticeship opportunities to young people under 30.
Lolia Kienka is a 26 years old Nigerian who holds an MSc in International Business. After completing the Management Trainee Program in Nestlé Nigeria, which spans over almost two years, Lolia now holds the position of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Specialist. According to her, “The program is filled with excitement and fast-paced learning”. “From hands-on experience in field sales to complete brand management immersion, it was one of the most productive asking and beautifully challenging times in my young career. I currently use the insight, knowledge and skills obtained in my new role,” she added.
For Kristi Olah Molle, Category & Channel Development Executive for Nescafé in Cameroun, Nestlé’s Global Youth Initiative offers so much more than just employment opportunity: “The program provides the right platform for young people to express themselves, learn, take on challenges and assume business responsibilities. My former position of Graduate Trainee helped me better understand and cope with key challenges of the Nescafé category where I find myself now”.
Marilyn Ofori started her career in Nestlé Ghana as a National Service Person in 2009. She has risen through the ranks to become the Category Manager for Beverages overseeing brands such as MILO® and CHOCOLIM®: “The experience gained during my National Service days has shaped me into who I am today and it only took an opportunity to steer the direction of my career. I believe that if more companies join the effort to give opportunities to young people like Nestlé does, it will help bridge the youth unemployment gap and explore talents that could help contribute to business excellence”.
Sourcing more than 70% of its raw materials in the region, farmers play a vital role in Nestlé’s value chain in Central and West Africa. Does agriculture excite the younger generation at all?
It is estimated that less than 5% of farmers worldwide are under 35. To ensure a sustainable and sufficient food supply, more young people need to venture into agriculture. Nestlé is therefore helping to inspire, train and enable the youth to become ‘agripreneurs’ by providing them with the knowledge, skills and entrepreneurial spirit they need to manage farms profitably. This effort by Nestlé helps ensure that that there is a sustainable and vibrant human resource for the agricultural sector and reduces rural exodus as youth see equally rewarding economic opportunities in countryside living.
Through the Nestlé Cocoa Plan and Nescafé Plan, over 10,000 young people from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana receive special training on good agricultural practices. This enables them to work on nurseries to grow coffee and cocoa plantlets with the support of certified Agronomists. In Nigeria alone, there are 59 young volunteers also participating in the Nestlé Cereals Plan & Feed the Future Maize Quality Improvement Project where they are trained on mitigating contaminants during planting with safe handling of seeds and pesticides. The technical skills gained through the project increase the chances that these young people earn a good living through agribusiness.
Rémy Ejel, Market Head of Nestlé Central and West Africa (CWA) said that the company wants to equip youth with the needed skills and offer them the right opportunities for their development. “By providing, growing and harnessing talents of young people, Nestlé can successfully contribute to building sustainable communities and spur economic growth. This is one of the concrete ways Nestlé creates shared value for the company and for the society”.
Nestlé CWA youth initiatives contribute to the attainment of UN Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 8 and 11: Zero hunger; Good health & wellbeing; Decent work and economic growth; as well as Sustainable cities and communities respectively.