Young people in Africa can be drawn into public service because they exhibit an overwhelming desire to bring an end to corruption. That’s the view of Reeta Roy, chief executive of MasterCard Foundation, whose Young Africa Works strategy aims to address a mismatch between the skills of young people entering the continent’s workforce and the needs of employees.
Roy, whose foundation ploughed $870m into development programs last year, made the comment at Catalysing Change Week, Catalyst 2030’s week of online debates and presentations aimed at accelerating the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Asked what the organization is doing about corruption, which has been estimated to amount to $2.6tn a year or 5% of global GDP, she revealed that when the MasterCard Foundation was planning Young Africa Works, it interviewed young people in Africa, asking them to identify the most important goal that the programme could achieve in the continent.
Part of the shift we have to make over the long-term is about equipping [those we] support with the understanding of what it means to become transformative change-makers.
“It wasn’t jobs,” said Ms Roy. “They all talked about fighting corruption. Young people said they were tired of not having a place in university because their parents weren’t privileged, didn’t have networks and couldn’t afford to access loans because they didn’t know anyone.
“That is part of their reality, so part of the shift we have to make over the long-term is about equipping not just institutions but young people, whether it’s scholars on our MasterCard Foundation program, or the innovators and entrepreneurs that we support with the understanding of what it means to become transformative change-makers.”
Africa is the youngest and fastest-growing continent on the planet, with an estimated 375m young people likely to be on the job market there by 2030. Within a few decades, the continent’s demographic boom is expected to push Africa’s workforce to more than 1bn people, making it the largest in the world.
Their goal is to provide platforms for young people at a regional, country and global level to speak about their own ideas for governance of the organizations it supports.
MasterCard Foundation was formed in 2006 with a stock grant worth an initial $500m in MasterCard’s stock market flotation. Now governing assets worth more than $40bn, its Young Africa Works strategy, formulated in 2018, aims to ensure that 30m young people in Africa, particularly young women, secure dignified and fulfilling work by 2030 through a financial commitment of $500m over the 12 years.
Roy said that, with this in mind, their goal is to provide platforms for young people at a regional, country and global level to speak about their own ideas for governance of the organizations it supports.
“Many have asked how they can improve this,” she added, “whether it is board governance or governance of micro-finance institutions that are in the process of becoming banks. Government structures need to shift and the same is true across multiple initiatives.
“At a country level with Young Africa Works, there’s a governance structure, which includes government, the private sector and civil society. Young people report back on where there is progress, where there are roadblocks, where things aren’t working well or are delayed, and they give their suggestions. We try to make sure that it’s transparent and that we communicate.”