MEDA focuses on reducing barriers to economic inclusion for vulnerable populations, specifically women, youth and rural populations. We work with diverse partners, particularly the private sector, to create sustainable market access for our end clients.
Meade Center for American Theater, Washington D.C. hosted the Devex World conference 2016.On June 14, I made my way down to southwest Washington, DC to the Mead Center for American Theater to attend the Devex World conference. The website informed me this was the global development event of the year! From among its line-up of impressive speakers, the conference created five thematic tracks: Data Revolution, From Story-telling to Movement Building, New Funding Models, Innovating at Scale, and Business Transforming Development.
Needless to say, my interested was piqued and the conference did not disappoint.
MEDA is currently partnering with Cuso International in Nigeria on the Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Access and Development (YouLead) project. The Youth Entrepreneurship Business Support Plan (YEBSP) is one of the many activities aimed at improving access to finance for young entrepreneurs. The YEBSP has been designed and administered as a business plan competition for youth, between the ages of 18-35, who have completed or are currently enrolled in YouLead’s entrepreneurship training program. The YEBSP is meant to kick-start youth-led businesses in the natural resources sector with funds ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 naira (approximately CAD$400 -$1200).
The first and pilot phase of the YEBSP was launched in April 2016 and the results were recently announced on August 9, 2016 , after a long process of selection and verification.
Often in developing countries, rural women and youth have unequal access to and control over critical resources and inputs that are required to start-up and maintain a business, such as land, savings, information sources, training, etc. As such, identifying low-cost income generating activities for women and youth has been a hallmark of MEDA’s economic development projects.
In Nigeria, MEDA is currently partnering with Cuso International to improve financial inclusion for youth in Cross River State (CRS). The project is titled Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Access and Development (YouLead) and it has just released its first phase of funding to winning applicants of its Youth Entrepreneurship Business Support Plan (YEBSP) competition. (1)
Implementing Keyhole Gardens to Improve Food Security for Women in Ghana
When the tropical storms subside and the dust begins to gather, farmers in Ghana become concerned about how to sustain their gardens. With water scarce during the dry season, water retention becomes a challenge. MEDA targeted its keyhole garden project towards women because women produce 70% of Ghana’s food crops. As a result, they have a direct connection with expanding crop cultivation and providing their families with sufficient nutritional needs. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project’s goal was to extend the growing season for female farmers.
Agro-entrepreneurs. An intriguing word for those like myself entering the business world and being enthralled by realities of nonstop work-education. So far today, I have been talking to 12 agro-entrepreneurs on the four-hour bus ride through stark Sahel countryside in northern Ghana, and I have come upon a meaning for this word. For these women, today, and everyday, it means: leader remade. Meet the GROW women: 12 Lead-Farmers who represent over 20,000 women agro-entrepreneurs who have chosen to remake their gruelling hours tilling the fields to work to their benefit - and in the process, revolutionize the idea of the women business leader.
I feel bonded to these remarkable business leaders through our collaborations on the GROW project. The acronym stands for Greater Rural Opportunities for Women and today we ride to the city of Tamale for the 2016 Annual Pre-Season Conference: a semi-annual business expo for agro-entrepreneurs, equipment suppliers, soybean processors, and financial backers. As we pass anthills the height of single-storey buildings, my thoughts keep returning to how best to do something I have not yet attempted and which just so happens to be my prime task of the day: marketing for agro-entrepreneurs.
From 2008 to 2014, MEDA implemented the YouthInvest project in Morocco and Egypt. During that time, we reached over 63,000 youth with financial and non-financial services, and built the capacity of our partner staff to provide skills training and financial products to youth.
There are approximately 1.3 billion young people in the world between the ages of 15 and 24, and one in five live in Africa. This is the largest cohort of youth the world has ever seen. To be a force for positive change, these young people need opportunities that will help them thrive - access to training, education, jobs and financial services. And yet, youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. They also are 33% less likely to have a bank account, and 40% less likely to have saved formally than adults. MEDA is supporting young people around the world with increased access to sustainable economic opportunities.
“I never thought that these kind of days would come for me and my daughter. I never thought weaving would change our lives like this!” – Werkinesh Wade
MEDA launched its first project in Ethiopia in December 2010, Ethiopians Driving Growth through Trade and Entrepreneurship (EDGET), a rice and textile value chain project funded by Global Affairs Canada. The project aimed to increase incomes for 10,000 men and women farmers and textile producers in three regions of Ethiopia: Amhara, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, and Addis Ababa. EDGET, which means ‘progress’ in the Amharic language, concentrated on integrating smallholder rice farmers and textile artisans into high value markets through increased market linkages and enhanced productivity.
With 2015 behind us and a new year on the horizon, what have we learned and where can we focus in 2016? In September 2015, the McKinsey Global institute launched a report that provided hard data to show the scale of the global economic deficit caused by gender inequality. The key finding is now often quoted: if women’s participation in the economy was on par with men’s it would add $28 trillion to the annual global GDP by 2025. This is a clarion call to action but the path is much harder to navigate. To achieve gender parity globally would require huge investments in societal and political will and resources. It would require sweeping attitudinal changes toward a valuation of women’s work (productive and unpaid) and significant leaps in investments by governments in agriculture, industry and service sectors. Serious attention would need to be paid to what the McKinsey Institute calls the enablers of economic opportunity: reproductive rights for women, physical security, legal protection and political voice amongst others.
Reducing barriers is critical but so is creating opportunities for women to participate equitably in the economy alongside men. Fortunately, this appears to be a strategy that is gaining momentum. There is increasing recognition that in the pursuit of gender equality, collaboration between private sector actors, governments and civil society can create wins on all sides. Last year, the United Nations intentionally reinvigorated the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) launched in 2010 to promote gender equality in the workplace, marketplace and community. Under the mantra, Equality Means Business, the WEPs aim to mobilize corporations around the business case for gender equality. The principles are:
I had the great privilege of seeing writer and journalist Nina Munk deliver a keynote address at the recent International Forum, put on by WUSC and CECI. I’d read her book – The Idealist – last year and found it very thought provoking, and – perhaps surprisingly, for a book on foreign aid – a genuine page-turner.
Nina Munk delivers keynote address at the WUSC - CECI International Forum
On Friday January 22, MEDA is very pleased to be participating in the International Forum, hosted by WUSC and CECI. The theme of the forum is ‘Inclusive Economies, Inclusive Societies: Collaborative Action for Youth and Women.’ We will be presenting a case study on our approach to financial inclusion for youth. This blog gives a preview of what we will be discussing at the event. Hope to see you there!
What is financial inclusion and why is it important?
Financial inclusion means having access to a range of suitable, affordable services, including savings (formal and informal), loans and financial education. Access to youth-appropriate savings and loan products helps young people plan for their future. Youth-friendly financial services can lead to many positive outcomes, including heightened ability to manage money, build assets and improved opportunities for entrepreneurship. And yet, less than 5% of youth (ages 15-24) worldwide are currently being reached by financial services.
I had the privilege of working on the E-FACE (Ethiopians Fighting Against Child Exploitation) project during its last year of implementation, during which time I was able to research and consolidate information on the project and how it worked with youth in Ethiopia. The project worked with both youth and adults to address the issue of exploitative labour.
Above: MEDA’s Farah Chandani with youth from the Building Skills for Life Program
This blog shares a summary of the findings and lessons from the E-FACE project’s pilot intervention to build youth entrepreneurship among rural communities in Gamo Gofa and Wolaita districts in Southern Ethiopia. The full case study can be found on MEDA’s YEO website.
The Youth Agricultural Sales Agent (YASA) program provided 250 young people (138 male, 112 female), aged 14 to 17 years, with business skills training to increase their knowledge of markets, as well as life skills training to improve their confidence and communication. The technical and entrepreneurial skills provided by the training program were complemented with start-up kits to transition the youth from exploitative labor to productive work.
Over the last year, living here in Tamale, Ghana, and working with rural women farmers on our Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project- I’ve expanded my understanding of the gender issues in northern Ghana drastically. Here, women and men face many cultural barriers, social expectations and a lack of opportunities due to poverty. In short, gender issues here are complex, messy and deeply rooted in daily routines.
It’s approaching the 10 year mark. That is, in February 2016, I will have been with MEDA and in the international development industry for 10 years. I began with the management of our small but mighty value chain development project in Pakistan, “Behind the Veil”. Its design and impact is held as an industry standard for effective pro-poor programming and for women’s economic empowerment and I shamelessly brag about it because I had nothing to do with its design. And as a newcomer to international development, to a Muslim country, and to Mennonites (MEDA), I imprinted in several ways on that project.
We’re much more alike than we are different. We say that often at MEDA when talking about the world around us, our work in it, and the motives and incentives that guide human behaviour.
Youth Unemployment in Cross River State was pegged at 46 percent by Senator Liel Imoke, the past governor of Cross River State in 2013 during the commissioning of the Central Bank of Nigeria sponsored Entrepreneurship Development Centres in Calabar.1
With little and near absence of employment opportunities in the Nigerian public sector, youth unemployment has become a great concern for the government of Cross River State Nigeria. While past governments made spirited efforts to find solutions to this through national and international collaborative programs on entrepreneurship and various skills acquisition programs; the population of urban and rural unemployment continues to increase. A conscious probing into the cause of the enigma of unemployment in the state points in the direction of a number of factors such as insufficient skills, access to finance, incompatible/unenforced policies, poor infrastructure, poor educational system, etc.
She stood at the door to her house as we approached and with a huge smile, welcomed us in. Asrat Tadese led us to a room that housed 34 egg-laying chickens that she had purchased from a chick supplier in Sodo town.
The room was probably 5 feet by 5 feet with some hay strewn over the floor, and feed and water were placed in small containers in the corner of the room. The room was easily one of the former bedrooms for Asrat’s children, but as a single parent, she was now using that room for poultry and her family slept in the third of the three-room house she owned. My colleague and I asked how she got into the poultry business. She explained how she had received training and support from her village extension officer on how to raise egg-laying chickens and was told with relatively little investment, she could begin making money as long as she cared for the chicks, fed them, kept them housed, and ensured they received proper vaccinations to ward off disease. She was convinced then, that chicken rearing was an excellent income generating opportunity and immediately decided to invest. With the help of the extension officer’s knowledge and connections, she was able to buy a “package” of fifty 45-day old chicks. She made connections to the university close to where she lived and through this, established a consistent buyer for the eggs her chickens soon began producing. Unfortunately, she explained, some of the chickens died due to disease, but by the time the chickens had been producing eggs for over two months, she had managed to sell enough eggs to make close to $75 – money that for her and her family could support their expenses for quite some time. Asrat shared that it was at this time that she was forced to sell her chickens because she had to travel to visit a sick relative. The sale of these chickens made enough money for her travels and a few additional expenses. Once she returned home after a number of weeks of caring for her family, she immediately purchased another fifty one-day old chicks. And these were the chicks we were looking at in the small room. Asrat explained that she was also involved in a number of other farming activities, as most Ethiopian smallholder farmers are, though she believed that her poultry business was an excellent income generating opportunity and was already having visions of expanding it in the near future.
In 2012, MEDA, in partnership with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), received a grant to administer an impact evaluation (IE) of one of our youth employability interventions, 100 Hours to Success, a training program we developed on the YouthInvest project. Our donor, 3ie, conducts rigorous evaluations of initiatives across the development spectrum.
100 Hours to Success - a training of 100 hours, covering soft skills, entrepreneurship and financial education - was a key component of MEDA’s YouthInvest project in Morocco. The training provided youth between 15 and 25 years old with the necessary skills to facilitate their transition to either paid- or self-employment. Between 2009 and 2013, MEDA and its local partners trained over 23,000 young people from under-served regions of Morocco on 100 Hours to Success.
Those of us working in youth economic opportunities have been reading about the increasingly alarming statistics on youth unemployment and underemployment. The headlines talk about the “global unemployment crisis facing youth” and articles warn of the “tsunami of youth unemployment” and its “scarring” effects. (1) Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi once told European trade leaders “Youth unemployment is a time bomb.” (2) Is this exaggeration or an appropriate forecast of what’s to come? Here are some facts:
75 million young people in the developing world are unemployed and hundreds of millions more are underemployedEvery year, 20 million young people enter the labour force in Africa and Asia alone In the Middle East and North Africa, 80 percent of young workers work in the informal sector Youth are three times more likely than adults to be unemployedOne in four young people cannot find work for more than US$1.25 a day. (3)
Yet global economic growth and poverty reduction over the next 15 years will have to be driven by today’s youth. How do we address these staggering numbers to support this population bulge in becoming economic drivers of success for tomorrow?
On October 9th, 2015 USAID’s Microlinks platform, in association with The MasterCard Foundation and Save the Children, hosted a discussion and webinar titled, “Pathways to Development: Evidence from YouthSave.” The purpose of the event was to bring together researchers and practitioners to share their experiences and insight gained on youth savings, spurred by the completion of the 5-year YouthSave project.
YouthSave, "A Report of the YouthSave Consortium: YouthSave 2010-2015," (Oct 2015): pg 8.