Paid work is scarce in North Africa. The range of solutions for more and better jobs includes agricultural start-ups, a scheme to improve job quality for workers, and nationwide employment initiatives. Good, long-term jobs are possible.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is working on behalf of the German Government and implementing strategies to tackle the extremely high rate of youth unemployment and lack of job prospects, which are among the most pressing problems, especially in North Africa. To this end, GIZ works with a number of national partners: around 38,000 people in North Africa found work between 2015 and 2017.
How this was achieved is illustrated by the example of 36-year-old Lobna Dams from Jemmal, near Monastir in eastern Tunisia. She started a business on her four-hectare farm, growing organic prickly pears and moringa, which she uses to produce cosmetics and tea. The rate of youth unemployment in rural Tunisia is over 45 percent and many young people move to the cities or to Europe. To address this, some of GIZ’s activities in Tunisia concentrate on supporting agricultural businesses and creating jobs for young people in rural areas. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, GIZ has provided support to some 785 agricultural start-ups since 2016. Nakawa Bio, Lobna Dams’s company, was supported by GIZ in cooperation with the Tunisian Government – all the way from the business idea through to the purchase of equipment to work the fields.
1,200 ideas for start-ups in Tunisia
Lobna Dams now employs four full-time staff and about 20 seasonal workers. GIZ is working together with the Tunisian Agricultural Investment Promotion Agency to roll out this start-up approach on a wide scale: 1,200 young people, about half of them women, have completed training courses on business ideas and start-ups. In a competition, 300 winners have been selected and received individual coaching for their promising business ideas. The ideas range from dried fruit and organic fertiliser production through to technical projects such as using GPS to track farm animals. Creating long-term jobs is one of the key strategic goals of the cooperation between the partner governments and GIZ.
Lobna Dams is determined to expand her business: ‘I am currently reinvesting all the profits into Nakawa Bio,’ says the entrepreneur. ‘I am in contact with customers in France and am hoping to soon be able to sell my organic products on the European market.’
Innovation, job centres and trained supervisors in Egypt
The employment initiative in Egypt focuses on jobs for young people because every fourth Egyptian under the age of 25 is unemployed. Working conditions in the country are often unacceptable, especially for people without a university degree: employment contracts are a rarity, few jobs come with social insurance, and the working environment in many smaller companies is based on hierarchy rather than cooperation. This means that staff turnover and discontent are high.
That is why GIZ takes a dual-pronged approach to creating more jobs and improving job quality in Egypt: helping people to find jobs and striving for fair working conditions. Part of this involves supporting the National Employment Pact with experts on organisational development and on budget and HR issues. The Employment Pact, which is an initiative involving Egyptian and German companies and the German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce, runs job centres, for example. It brings young motivated job seekers together with companies that have job vacancies.
Jobs for 8,500 young people in Egypt
There are currently four job centres, in which around 40 staff help place young people in jobs and run two-day preparatory courses to equip them for the world of work. A total of 8,500 young people found work in this way between 2015 and 2019.
Better working conditions for 11,000 Egyptians
GIZ is also addressing the atmosphere at work, delivering training for supervisors on social skills and modern management practices. In addition, it runs innovation competitions in which employees submit suggestions for improvements. In this way, GIZ has made it possible for a number of ideas to be put into practice. They include an app that employees can use to submit ideas to management and free childcare provided by the company to prevent mothers from having to give up work. Since 2015, GIZ has improved the working conditions for some 48,000 people through schemes of this kind. More than half of those people are women.
(As at: April 2020)