South Sudan is a land of immense potential, as the world’s newest nation it has one of the highest proportions of young people – at over 72 percent. Most of the country possesses resource-rich land, suitable for agriculture. It has a storied, rich, and diverse culture. Yet, years of conflict and instability have had deadly and disruptive consequences – ending or upending lives, adversely impacting economic growth and delaying much-needed development.
More than 90 percent of South Sudanese youth currently lack formal employment opportunities. Most of the population at large relies on subsistence livelihoods to provide for their families. Even with the goal of meaningful implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement (R-ARCSS), the specter of persistent youth disenfranchisement remains a threat to this country’s growth.
A growing number of young people are expecting livelihood opportunities as one of the peace process’s dividends. This makes the challenge of youth empowerment and employment an urgent issue to address. The size and scope of this issue will require renewed partnerships, new methods and unconventional thinking.
That is where UNDP’s new Accelerator Lab in South Sudan (AccLab) comes in. UNDP is committed, on a global scale, to changing the way we look at development and growth – with a clear eye to local solutions. Through the AccLab, we want to explore, experiment and scale-up new ways of working which unlock rapid progress to improve the lives of people.
To start with, the South Sudan AccLab will scope out the contributing factors, existing data and the local actions currently being taken to address youth unemployment and disenfranchisement. Our ethos is to seek out “unusual sources” -- the youth themselves -- to gather insights (via quantitative and qualitative data) on the barriers they face to build their future.
We will be setting out with an open mind and many questions but one that sticks out the most to us, is: what stands between a young person, full of energy, from taking part in building individual, community, regional, and national well-being in South Sudan?
We will use existing interventions by UNDP as entry points to access young people and insights, as well as lean on local partners and UN agencies to maximize our reach. Afterwards, we intend to gather strategic partners for an upcoming “Collective Intelligence Summit”, which will harness a critical mass of knowledge and experts who, together, can assess entry points and build a blueprint for growing a shared ecosystem committed to the youth agenda. This step, in our mind, is all about breaking down silos and reaching new levels of actionable insights shared amongst partners for the benefit of the young people in South Sudan.
Finally, we will look towards building on locally-sourced solutions by finding community initiatives which are working and assessing how to scale them up. Together, this coalition of change-makers will chase breakthrough solutions to everyday challenges by harnessing the potential of young people to pro-actively build a peaceful, just and prosperous South Sudan.
Do you have unconventional ideas on how to tackle the challenge of youth unemployment and underemployment in South Sudan? Our eyes and ears are open for your ideas, feedback and solutions! Our AccLab team is eager to meet with individuals and institutions who are ready to team with us to find solutions which will transform the future for the young people of South Sudan.