Africa has the youngest population in the world, representing an enormous opportunity for the continent’s growth and the opportunity to become leaders as global citizens – provided these energetic, creative young people can achieve their true potential.
In a region where millions of people remain excluded from basic amenities such as education, social and creative entrepreneurs are leading the way for positive transformation. Social and creative enterprises offer a route to self-sufficiency by providing training and education, and harnessing skills – all elements that improve access to jobs.
Research by the British Council indicates that, not only have social and creative enterprises created a significant number of jobs across the region, but they also create them for people from underserved communities.
The creative economy is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the global economy, offering new and high growth opportunities, especially for developing countries. As developing nations generate and sell a wide variety of creative products (including films, art, music, fashion, cultural crafts, and computer games and apps), they contribute to the home nation’s gross domestic products, exports, and growth, ultimately boosting development outcomes. Throughout Africa, revenue from digital music streaming is expected to reach $500 million by 2025, up from only $100 million in 2017, according to the World Bank.
The growth of creative and social enterprises is a means of addressing some of Africa’s most entrenched and complex challenges, specifically those arising from youth unemployment and unequal economic growth. By helping to build sustainable businesses in the creative and cultural industries worldwide, and sharing our knowledge and experience through skills workshops, mentoring and peer networks, the British Council aims to help grow this important sector of economies in Africa.
Social and creative enterprises are more than just businesses; they help to sustain livelihoods and build strong and inclusive communities, supporting groups who are often left on the side-lines by traditional business models. Forty-one per cent of social enterprises have a woman in charge – significantly more than in other businesses. More social enterprises aim to create jobs (78%) than profit-first businesses (27%). Seventy-three per cent deliberately employ people from poor communities, compared to 56% of profit-first businesses. We estimate the number of jobs created in Africa by social enterprises to be between 28 millionand 41 million.
It is worth noting that the sector has innovated rapidly, following the pandemic. During lockdown, many public and private providers moved content on-line for free to keep audiences engaged and satisfy the increased demand for cultural content. This has opened the door to many future innovations. To capitalise on them, there is a need to address the digital skills shortages within the sector and improve digital access beyond large metropolitan areas.
What can be done to grow this sector?
As Africa’s workforce increases, the pressure for job creation rises along with it. Better employment opportunities for Africa’s youth call for a better understanding of Africa’s overall social and economic challenges and how to create an enabling environment for social entrepreneurs to thrive.
The British Council supports social enterprise. The organisation also understands that to focus on youth employability, there is a critical need to address gender inequalities in education in Africa. Girls’ access to education is sorely lacking in several Africa countries and gender disparities in learning outcomes are also a critical concern across the region.
Our success stories in education
As the African social and cultural enterprise movement grows, our programmes continue to focus on accountability, collaboration and training to enable the sector to scale. The British Council’s projects, some examples of which are outlined, are designed to be sustainable and easily scalable – across communities and geographies.
Coreskills for TVET
- In South Africa, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has put an emphasis on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to enable a skilled and capable workforce, who meet the demands of the labour market. The British Council is working with the DHET to improve the quality of teaching and learning at TVET institutions to achieve just that.
- In 2019, we trained TVET practitioners to become facilitators of the Coreskills for TVET training programme. The group consisted of Regional DHET officials, TVET Deputy Principals in Academic, Curriculum Managers and Lecturers. We also delivered Coreskills for TVET virtual training to TVET lecturers and trainers in 2020. The trained lecturers are now champions of the programme in their colleges and regions and will help support the capacitation of colleagues and partners.
Skills for Employability
- Our Skills for Employability programme builds the skills of young people and adults, so they are able to work and compete in today’s globalised world. We encourage closer links between educational institutions and industry with a focus on strengthening the TVET sector and developing industry-led curricula across a wide range of sectors.
- Our I-WORK project (Improved Work Opportunities – Relayed Knowledge), promotes collaboration between policymakers, public and private organisations and the vocational education sector in developing and piloting new approaches to demand-led education, specifically apprenticeships. This was a collaborative project across Ghana, India, Malaysia, South Africa and the UK.
- New approaches to employer-led training and employability of young people were implemented by six of South Africa’s TVET colleges resulting in upskilling of the young people who participated and a digital guide to provide young people with information on apprenticeship.
The way forward
Improvements in education go hand-in-hand with employability and the development of social enterprises that create jobs for those who need them most.
Despite the potential impact of social enterprises on job creation there is still relatively little policy or investment to support social enterprise. There is a profound need for Africa governments to recognise social enterprises in policies and legislation as a priority for young people. We are committed to creating an enabling environment for social enterprise through policy makers, enterprise hubs and other intermediaries and investors.
Social and creative enterprises provide a unique opportunity to solve many of the prevalent social and environmental problems in the region, while at the same time contributing to economic growth and job creation and improving the social fabric.
For these reasons, private sector companies need to reassess their social investment and sustainability plans and provide proactive support, tangibly and consistently, to gender parity in education and to social and creative enterprise initiatives in Africa.
Importantly, programmes must be driven by Africans themselves. It is an absolute imperative that this continent and its young people possess the power and potential that will shape world order now and in future. We and they have what it takes.