Interview with Nhlanhla, who pursued his LGT Impact Fellowship as a Research & Impact Specialist at Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator as part of the 2021 cohort. His mission was to lead the monitoring and reporting mechanisms supporting the organization’s Systems Change agenda, contribute towards research and thought leadership production, as well as grow the organization’s Micro-enterprise focused work. Prior to joining the Fellowship, Nhlanhla gained professional experience as an Investment consultant at a local Investment Fund Management Company, as an Africa & Emerging Markets Research Consultant at Deloitte, and as a Research Fellow for a Japan-based youth NGO.
What were your highlights and challenges of working with Harambee?
“In order of impact: My biggest highlight was when we had our Micro-enterprise learning exchange, where we got to interact with the young people in our network who have started running their own businesses, and we were getting to understand the challenges they face and the journeys they take. The reason why this was such a special moment for me, was because I started my Fellowship in lock-down working remotely, hence that forum was my first occasion to have a face-to-face interaction with these young people. It was really impactful to see first hand the difference that Harambee is making in young people’s lives through the interventions that are offered.
The second highlight was meeting my team face to face and building strong relationships. Since our team is scattered around several placed, meeting them all in Johannesburg changed our relationship and allowed us to work more effectively.
Finally, the third highlight was stepping into the world of agriculture, where we are trying to implement a micro-enterprise intervention. Prior to that my knowledge about agriculture was limited and seeing the potential and opportunities of agriculture as a pathway for young entrepreneurs has been impactful. It also showed me that my learning at Harambee is continuous and I really like that. The first challenge that I faced was working remotely as a new joiner. Moreover, in the world of Harambee we always say that change is the only constant. It was difficult to navigate this environment in the beginning, particularly when coming from a corporate background where there are structures and processes to follow. With a task like solving youth unemployment and dealing with numerous stakeholders, things are indeed constantly changing. However, over time and with the support of my colleagues, I was able to acclimatize to this kind of environment.”
What have you achieved together with Harambee?
“My first main achievement was to develop a methodology that would allow Harambee to track its system change outcomes, particularly with regards to reporting. I played a central role in formulating the system change dashboard which will be used to report to Co-Impact for the remaining 4 years of our grant. At the end of August we submitted our first annual report for Co-Impact on the system change agenda, which was based on the dashboard, hence it was rewarding to see how my work was involved in this process. Another important achievement was the micro-enterprise initiative as an important opportunity for young people to generate income. When I arrived at the organization, micro-enterprise was just an idea with a lot of potential. I was able to contribute to building it out and operationalize it. For example with the new agriculture pilot we can support young micro-farmers to earn steady income in the market gardening space. We will start the recruitment for this program in the coming months and it’s going to be cool to see how my contributions to this initiative will play out.”
What were the skills you were able to contribute to Harambee?
“The strengths I was able to bring to Harambee are in my opinion my research background, my attention to detail, my ability to connect dots, and then using these details and dots to building out a story and telling that story very clearly and succinctly.”
How has your experience with Harambee affected your way of seeing things?
“Prior to joining Harambee, I knew about youth unemployment purely as a statistic – hearing about it on the radio, reading about it in newspapers, etc., but I didn’t actually realize just how significant the issue was and how impactful it is not only for unemployed youth but also for their families and their communities. So joining Harambee has really opened my eyes to the severity and the multiplier effect of youth unemployment. This has really shifted how I see work and the importance of work to sustain livelihoods. Moreover, prior to joining, like many people, I thought of employment as a typical track, namely: you go to university, you graduate, you get a good job, stay in that job and then climb up the ranks. Working with Harambee has opened my eyes to the idea of pathways, where you are not necessarily staying in one job, but you are rather earning a complement of earnings of different types of activities, which may or may not occur at the same time. This is such as a different reality to the world of work than the one I had before.”
What motivates you to get up every morning?
“The fact that the work I do now has a tangible impact motivates me to get up every morning. In our quarterly report we have a dedicated section called “youth voices”, where we bring to the forefront personal stories of youth that has been personally impacted by our work. Given that I have been tasked with writing these reports, I see the direct link between what we are doing and the impact it has on the ground and this is what motivates me every day to do what needs to be done for young people.”
To whom would you recommend the Fellowship?
“Definitely to people who are interested in stepping out of their comfort zone, but in a way that teaches them about themselves while at the same time contributing to society and having an impact.”
How would you describe the Fellowship in three words?
“Transformational, exceptional and challenging.”
Anything else you would like to share?
“Looking back, the whole Fellowship experience has totally exceeded my expectations. I was worried about joining a new organization and a new industry, whether I was able to make it through, etc. But all the worrying was a waste of time, because the moment I stepped into the Harambee environment everything was smooth sailing. There were challenges here and there but there were always resources I could go to for assistance. Overall the experience was super transformational and I am grateful for this opportunity. Also, none of this would have been possible without Chipo as my line manager, who led by example and led with grace – she has truly been instrumental in this journey.”
About Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator
- South Africa has a 48% youth unemployment rate – one of the highest in the world.
- Young people lack the skills, information, networks and social capital to find and sustain employment, leaving them excluded from the economy
- Employers claim they cannot find suitable entry-level talent
- Since 2011, Harambee helps the most vulnerable young people in South Africa access economic opportunity. In 2018 it expanded its work into Rwanda.
- Harambee provides work-seeker support to unemployed youth – how to search for work, write CVs and prepare for interviews – thereby increasing their employability.
- It partners with government and over 550 employers across industries to connect youth to entry-level work opportunities. Harambee assesses the competencies of each candidate to match them to jobs where they are most likely to succeed. It then provides targeted training to close the work-readiness gap of each placed candidate.
- In addition, Harambee helps employers fine-tune their interviewing skills so they are better able to asses a young person’s capability and potential, beyond previous work experience and qualifications.
- In order to increase the number of net new jobs available for young people in the economy, Harambee also works with government and business coalitions to design incentive structures that will bring increased investments to industries that are likely to hire youth.
|# of annual work-seekers supported
|# of annual work placements
Also take a look at his blog article here to learn more about what it takes to tackle youth unemployment in South Africa.