1 Million By 2021: Fostering new approaches to address the challenges confronting the African youth

Thursday July 4 2019

The 1 Million By 2021 Initiative will address

The 1 Million By 2021 Initiative will address the roots of the problems facing youth and identifies gaps such as the mismatch of qualifications and work force requirements, limited or restricted youth participation in leadership and governance structures, insufficient number of teachers at secondary and vocational level and limited access to investment capital for young entrepreneurs, among a myriad of other issues. PHOTO | AUC 

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Africa has about 420 million young people aged 15 to 35 and this number is expected to increase to 830 million by 2050 and approximately 46% of Africa’s labour force will be young people aged 15-34 by 2063.

Presently youth face significant challenges in accessing key development resources such as education, skills, employment and experience barriers to engagement that would enable them to contribute to society.

Approximately 50 per cent of secondary-age Africans are out of school and access to quality education which builds relevant skills are limited. In addition there is a rising mismatch between education and the needs of industry and the labour market.

Furthermore, an estimated 11 million youth enter the job market annually; however, only 3 million formal jobs are created within that time frame.

The lack of waged jobs push the youth into the informal sector where jobs are typically less stable and have lower earning potential.

As a result, thousands of young Africans resort to desperate measures including forced migration in search of jobs, livelihood, and a better future.


Marginalisation and the failure to invest in young people exposes Africa to economic underperformance and brain drain, youth criminality, and political and social unrest of youth in the society.

The extent to which we are able to commit to youth development through transformational initiatives will be key to harnessing Africa’s demographic dividend and achieving Aspiration 6 of Africa’s Agenda 2063 which envisions “An Africa whose development is people -driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children”.

To achieve this vision stakeholders need to identify and implement initiative that will embolden stakeholders to consider new perspectives, test new ideas and scale up promising practices across the continent that will improve the lot of youth in Africa.

This will be done through leveraging public-private sector partnerships among key regional and continental players in the development space, leading to the incorporation of a sustainable ecosystem built along collaborative and pan-African lines.

In April 2019, the African Union rolled out a new initiative the 1 Million By 2021 which aims to reach 1 million young people in Africa by creating opportunities for youth to actively and meaningfully drive the full realisation of Africa’s Agenda 2063.

The initiative which was launched at the AU Headquarters in Ethiopia, during a four-day Pan African Forum organised under the theme ‘Africa Unite for Youth: Bridging the gap and reaching African Youth;” brought together over 400 young people from across the continent to co-create solutions identified around the key areas of Employment, Entrepreneurship, Education and Engagement (4E’s) which will accelerate socioeconomic development on the continent.

The 1 Million By 2021 Initiative will address the roots of the problems facing youth and identifies gaps such as the mismatch of qualifications and work force requirements, limited or restricted youth participation in leadership and governance structures, insufficient number of teachers at secondary and vocational level and limited access to investment capital for young entrepreneurs, among a myriad of other issues.

The 4Es and 12 Solution Pathways

• Education: Provide scholarship opportunities to young people especially young women at all levels (secondary, post-secondary, TVET), provide alternative pathways and remote learning resources and tools for skills development and establish a Teachers Without Borders program to address quality of delivery and availability.

Employment: Provide professional internships and apprenticeship programs to ensure young people are able to contextualise learning to the world of work, establish physical and virtual job preparedness and matching services to connect young people to available opportunities, develop a digital skills program to prepare young people for new skills that enable them to be globally competitive and access roles outside their traditional geographical areas.

Entrepreneurship: Mobilise and catalyse capital to allow youth ventures and start-up companies to grow, achieve economies of scale, and move into underserved markets, provide scale up opportunities including physical and virtual mentorship initiatives for young entrepreneurs; entrepreneurial and business development education delivered within a network of in-person and virtual spaces and Incubation services delivered through established companies.

Engagement: Identify virtual and physical leaders to coach, nurture and continuously support emerging leaders across thematic areas on the continent.

Twelve pathways have been identified as drivers for the 4Es to facilitate the expansion of opportunities in youth development.


  • Scholarships
  • Alternative Pathways
  • Models for Teacher Development


  • Internships and Apprenticeships
  • Job Centres
  • Digital Skills


  • Growth Capital
  • Nurture start-ups


  • Leadership Programmes
  • Exchange Programmes
  • Forums
  • Youth Engagement

The 1 Million By 2021 initiative adopts a Pan-African outlook and facilitates long term strategic partnerships to open up new opportunities for young people in Africa.

It will promote African solutions and innovations, co-created with and driven by young people, while building frameworks, institutions and structures for effective engagement of stakeholders, sustainable financing, implementation and accountability.

The initiative builds upon the progress Africa is making in improving capacities through education and skills development; creating, as well as establishing conducive environments for opportunities in employment and entrepreneurship for young people and ensuring they are meaningfully engaged in the development agenda of the continent.

Along with other strategies such as the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) and the Continental Strategy for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as well as the push to ensure African states ratify the African Youth Charter the African Union aims to ensure Africa’s youth are equipped to benefit from and drive the achievement of Agenda 2063.

Pledges received at the 1 Million By 2021 initiative commitment roundtable in April 2019.

Open Society Foundations

  • 1 Million USD initial support.
  • Pledge to sustain support of the project.


  • Avail the AUC a Digital and TV learning platform focused on vocational training towards equipping youth for jobs of today and tomorrow, to respond to the pathways of alternative learning and digital skills under the Es of education and employment respectively.


  • Technical support and financial resources for the finalization, implementation and monitoring of initiative strategy; design of financing architecture; strengthen Youth Division coordination and communication; monitoring and evaluation, knowledge management, exchange and learning on continental innovations.
  • 200 members of the African Union Youth Volunteer Corps (AUYVC).
  • Facilitate implementation through Gen U global partners, knowledge assets and UNICEF country offices.
  • Contextualize Gen U Promising Ideas to 1x21 pathways, and provide expertise, technical assistance and financial support towards development, incubation and realization of promising African ideas.


  • Train 40,000 small business owners in digital marketing skills across 10 African countries through existing Facebook initiatives;
  • Provide opportunities for youth to apply to Facebook-supported programmes.
  • Provide physical space for programmatic activity linked to learning and development through NG Hub in Nigeria.


  • Support with design, lessons learnt and partnership scalability options of GE SIYB program in other countries and national youth initiatives
    Support/Ideation of program design and sharing of lessons to build broader digital functional skills for youth with non-technical backgrounds.
  • Assist to deploy/scale the employability assessments using internationally validated testing instruments from similar markets to 300 thousand youths.
  • Support with training and access to the 3D printing maker lab in Lagos GE Garages for cohorts on the AU skills program.
  • Open to support and explore coaching from pool of internal GE leaders and access to e-learning soft courses to nurture emerging leaders on AU program.


  • Expand Virtualize Africa programme in partnership with the AU to train Africans in virtualization and cloud computer discipline for the creation of employment opportunities.


  • Increase internship opportunities in African ILO offices and HQ in Geneva.
  • Support increased youth engagement in trade unions, business associations and policy fora on decent work in Africa.
    Provide the Global Youth Employment forum in Nigeria as a platform to support 1x21.
  • ILO/IFAD and ILO/AFDB projects on rural and informal economy will specifically target youth;
  • Orient the AUC/ILO/ITU programme on decent jobs for youth in Africa’s digital economy, and blue economy in Africa’s island states, to promote the 4Es.


  • Support the initiative through the Korea-Africa forum and the Korea-Africa Start-up Fair in Addis Ababa.


  • UNFPA Africa to invest 500 million USD in programmes and initiatives directly aimed at young people.


  • Experience sharing to replicate and scale evidence-based approach to youth engagement especially social media engagement.
  • Replicate and scale existing Aga Khan Innovation Centre in Nairobi to develop new business models for media viability through mentorship of entrepreneurs and nurturing of start-ups in the new media-related business.


  • Strengthening of existing cooperation in the 4Es through the Pan African University (PAU) support, AGYI, SIFA. and German govenrment Agricultural TVET for women.
  • Additional funding of 14m euros financial assistance and 1.5 million euros for technical assistance on SIFA.


Establish 5 Africa 2063 Youth Innoparks in each African region as a centre of innovation for the acquisition of knowledge, practical and interpersonal skills for employment; entrepreneurial skills to develop businesses; a platform for youth engagement.


  • Pledge to support any/all of the pathways


  • Provide support in training for trade finance, banking, regional and economic integration. Work with other partners in capacity building including university degrees and modules in university diplomas and certificates.
  • Provide internships, JPOs and research sabbatical programmes.
    Provide necessary capital and financing for young African Entrepreneurs as well as SMEs.
  • Work with the AUC and partners to support African start-ups and SMEs through Afrexim Incubation programme.
  • Leverage planned continental leadership programme as a platform for an enabling ecosystem for Africa’s future leaders.


  • Train African students, start-ups and developers in 21st century tech skills, equipping students in data science, AI, machine learning, as well as entrepreneurship and business development with a target of 10,000 students trained within 24 months.
  • Utilize annual Afrilabs gathering up until 2021 to convene and engage key stakeholders supporting youth to promote 1x2021


  • Technical support and experience sharing on the 4Es.


  • Leverage AfDB Jobs for Youth in Africa.

Find out more about 1 Million by 2021 and other AU programmes targeting the youth by visiting www.au.int/ en/youth-development of Agenda 2063