Whilst the nature and modes of livelihoods have changed drastically from biblical times to contemporary times; a thread is the essence of work for fulfilment of an individual’s inherent capacity as epitomised in the Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. Nevertheless, young people today comprising generations Y and Z face a deluge of dire depictions of their place in the modern labour market; with captions such as “..facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great depression”, “ The Lost Generation”, “..stuck in the gig-economy” etc. Such narratives can be limiting and reinforcing prejudices.
This ESAA-project created an onlineplatform for young people to unleash their creativity, challenging narratives and charting new pathways per their place in the history of work. Ultimately the Leave No One Behind and sustainable development in general becomes a mirage without the meaningful contribution of core stakeholders like the youth. This platform provides the opportunity to capture the experiences and insights of the youth across disciplines and backgrounds on the jobs of the future. This was coupled with physical dialogues that afforded discussions amongst youths and youth organisations. This included youths residing in areas which were epicentres of the Arab spring to some of the places categorised as amongst the most unequal in the world, and those in between. A policy brief was co-developed with the Erasmus Global Partnerships, the insights also fed into a journal publication, whilst some of the preliminary insights were shared during the 2020 EU-AU HAQAA (Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation) Initiative tour de table.
This ESAA-project has become even more relevant given the unparalleled circumstances the youth find themselves in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic impacts on the vulnerable sections of the society. The discussions in the higher education institutions addressed challenges and opportunities of the youth in terms of higher education quality and job competitiveness. A dialogue on skillsdevelopment sought to enhance the capacity of the youth in being change agents in their communities.
Given the pressing themes addressed by the project, there were a number of organisations that collaborated and gave meaningful impact. These include the Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni (EMA), Erasmus Global Partnerships, University of Jimma, African Students and Alumni Forum (ASAF), Eshet Children and Youth Development Organization (ECYDO), Youth Network for Sustainable Development (YNSD), Youth Power, Empower Youth for Work (EYW), Green Cheque Eco-social, University of the Witwaterstrand, University of Rabat, and the South African Adaptation Network. The physical events reached more than 150 people whilst the online survey platform was answered by circa 400 people. In Jimma, given the student clashes and prevailing civil unrest in the region; the event also included a discussion on the youths as agents of social cohesion and change in a volatile region. The office of international relations of the university explained their delight that the event had brought good news to an otherwise widespread negative reportage in Jimma due to the social tensions. Thus, coming on the heels of the Genna and Timkat on the Ethiopian Calendar, it came at the opportune time to mend social tensions, promote peace and unity for grassroots development.