May 28, 2024

Bridging the digital divide to fight youth unemployment

Exploring how Digital Solutions Foundry has become a key partner in Harambee’s fight against youth unemployment.

Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator is a pioneering not-for-profit social enterprise established in 2010 by Yellowwoods, that has been dedicated to tackling the pressing issue of youth unemployment in South Africa. Hanlie de Bod, Harambee’s Chief Information Officer, elaborates: “The organisation works in collaboration with a diverse array of partners, one of which is Digital Solutions Foundry (DSF), to create scalable earning and learning opportunities for young people. Harambee's innovative approach addresses critical barriers to employment, such as high transport and data costs, and the lack of professional networks.” Says Paulinah Teffu, DSF CEO: “We love working with Harambee because our partnership is rooted in a mutual commitment to social awareness,innovation, and making a tangible impact on youth unemployment in South Africa. Having worked together for so many years, DSF understands the kind of talent that will seamlessly blend with Harambee's work culture from a practical and functional point of view.”

The creation and mission of Harambee

Harambee was born from the realisation that South Africa faced a dual challenge: employers struggled to find work-ready, entry-level staff, while millions of young people were unable to secure jobs due to systemic barriers. “Harambee aims to bridge this gap through a comprehensive programme that equips young people with essential work skills, including communication, basic mathematics, and critical soft skills, such as punctuality and reliability,” explains de Bod.

Since its inception, Harambee has continuously refined its strategies to address the entrenched and systemic nature of youth unemployment. Its flagship initiative, the SA Youth Platform, is a zero-rated online platform that allows young job seekers to connect with opportunities directly from their phones. It effectively reduces the costs of data and transportation, as well as addressing any spatial inequalities that hinder their job search efforts.

DSF's integral role in Harambee’s success

For the past seven years, DSF has been a vital partner to Harambee, providing the necessary human capital and technological expertise to support its mission, explains Paulinah: “DSF’s deep understanding of Harambee’s unique culture and operational needs has enabled it to onboard the right talent, significantly enhancing Harambee's capacity to deliver impactful solutions.”

The resources that DSF has supplied Harambee have played a crucial role in the development and enhancement of the SA Youth Platform, explains Trish Modrakowski, DSF’s Project Manager: “By augmenting Harambee’s technology team with skilled software developers, testers, and data professionals, DSF has helped ensure that the platform operates smoothly and efficiently. This robust technological infrastructure has allowed Harambee to scale its operations, reaching millions of young job seekers across South Africa.”

Streamlining operations and data-driven insights

The DSF resources have assisted with the development of a centralised system that integrates various operational aspects, enabling real-time tracking of job placements, candidate progress, and employer feedback. This integration has reduced administrative burdens and increased operational efficiency, allowing Harambee to respond more effectively to the needs of job seekers and employers alike.

The implementation of advanced data analytics tools has provided Harambee with valuable insights. These data-driven insights have guided the development of targeted training programmes and support services, ensuring they address the most pressing needs of their beneficiaries. This capability to identify trends, measure programme effectiveness, and forecast future needs has been instrumental in Harambee’s success.

De Bod adds that the Harambee platform needs to be able to rapidly and securely scale up on demand: “We host our SA Youth Platform on Google Cloud Platform, and by using hyper-scaling technology, we are able to handle large scale projects, as well as day-to-day operations. Data is essential to everything we do at Harambee and to support this, we use BigQuery on GCP to assist us in securely storing and accessing our data.”

Facilitating employer engagement

Harambee’s SA Youth Platform includes features that streamline employer interactions, making it easier for businesses to post vacancies, review candidate profiles, and provide feedback. This streamlined process has attracted a broader range of employers, increasing the opportunities available to young job seekers. DSF's system also supports employer branding, showcasing their commitment to social responsibility through partnerships with Harambee.

Notable achievements and impact

Harambee has supported 3.8-million work-seekers, enabled 1.2-million opportunities, partnered with 1,386 employers, and generated R23.6-billion in income for youth. Initiatives like the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention and the National Pathway Management Network (NPMN), coordinated by Harambee, demonstrate the power of public-private partnerships in addressing youth unemployment. Harambee’s recognition with the 2019 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship further underscores its success in creating positive social change.

Paulinah concludes: “The partnership between DSF and Harambee highlights the transformative power of digital solutions in addressing socio-economic challenges and sets a benchmark for future collaborations aimed at creating lasting social change. By providing the right human capital and technological support, DSF has significantly amplified Harambee’s ability to combat youth unemployment.”