Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator: Paving the Path for Youth Employment in South Africa

South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. Two out of every three young people are unemployed; only 4 out of every 100 school leavers finish university; and more than 40 percent of this generation will never work in their lifetime. South Africa–based Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, however, is on a mission to reverse this trend.

Founded in 2011, Harambee is a nonprofit social enterprise that works to tackle youth unemployment in South Africa. It partners with businesses, government, youth, and other stakeholders to connect talented South African youth with employers seeking entry-level employees. Though the youth are motivated and crave opportunity, they often face barriers that prevent them from accessing jobs. Among these barriers are transport costs, lack of Internet access, and the absence of social networks of people who can help them find a job. Harambee also conducts research and shares insights about what is working nationally in South Africa and globally to solve the youth unemployment crisis.

Since its launch, Harambee has made a major impact on youth unemployment. It has supported over 500,000 work seekers, worked with 500 businesses, and forged many government partnerships in both South Africa and Rwanda. This process works to build partnerships that can solve the youth unemployment challenge!

NGOsource's Role

Harambee first went through the equivalency determination (ED) process with NGOsource in 2014 at the request of one of its funders. Since then, several additional funding partners have requested EDs for Harambee. Because Harambee was already in the NGOsource repository, those funders benefited from the due diligence carried out in the initial ED process. Instead of utilizing their own resources to duplicate the process, these grantmakers could rely on a quick, efficient, and validated process through NGOsource – and also simultaneously save up to $10,000 per ED request. 

NGOs like Harambee also benefit. Harambee's chief financial officer Kasthuri Soni explains:

Having an equivalency determination certification has certainly made the process of accessing international funding from partners like the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and USAID so much faster — and has made the entire process more seamless as all our qualifying documentation can be accessed and reused for new funders.

When an NGO is already in the NGOsource repository, funders can access an ED instantly for only $250, thus lessening the burden on both the NGO and the grantmaker.

Photo: A Harambee employee assists a candidate

ED in Action

Harambee has made incredible strides as an organization since its founding. One of the major factors in the organization's success is its willingness to iterate and change.

At one point, the organization realized that the traditional form of assessment it was using in its pilot phase to match youth to jobs only measured school-based knowledge, not learning potential. It made a quick pivot and changed its assessment model. With the new model, Harambee was able to demonstrate that many more young people with low scores on the traditional testing model had the potential to perform well in an entry-level job. Harambee also worked with employers to change from the traditional assessment model so that they could more successfully assess the full pool of eligible candidates.

Though iteration is not easy and, in this case, involved reframing goals and deliverables with funders, Harambee is willing to make whatever changes are needed to ensure that it is fulfilling its mission. As Ms. Soni notes, "Iteration, like friction, can generate heat. But it will also generate progress and impact." Harambee has progress in mind: The organization plans to scale up to support 1.5 million work seekers with proven employee benefits and 500,000 with a job placement. It's clear that Harambee will continue to iterate and pave the path for lasting change in the youth employment space for years to come.  

Top photo: Harambee candidates at an assessment center

Images used with permission from Harambee © 2019