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Harambee, Youth Employment Accelerator, winner in NGO’s category

Harambee, a youth employment accelerator social enterprise, is the winner in the category for NGOs, NPOs and NPCs category.

Harambee is active at a time when South Africa has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world — it urgently needs to address these challenges for future economic growth.

Harambee was given the task of finding solutions to the issues facing the youth market. Its vibrant chief executive, Maryana Iskander, who joined the organisation in 2012, was clear about delivering a service that the market values.

She said: “The founding principle embodied ways of creating virtuous cycles in society and for business to understand that the hiring of young people in their first jobs is not a charitable exercise. The incubation of Harambee in 2011 to build a model in partnership with government took off with five founding companies.”

Explaining further, Maryana said: “The objective was to scale and place 10 000 people into their first jobs. We are now at a 100 000 in terms of jobs and first opportunities. We treat young people like customers and not like beneficiaries. It is important never to lie to them, take anything away from them, and to work from the premise of not treating them with anything other than with humanity, respect and dignity. We have grown exponentially and we now have a network of 500 000 young people.”

A major factor is that many young people are blocked from contributing to the economy because they have no networks and come from households that depend on social grants. Also there is the sluggish economy and poor education system. The youth are trapped in a vicious cycle of exclusion, unemployment and instability, all negative factors exacerbating the problem.

To surmount some of the obstacles, Harambee works with about 500 business partners, ranging from large corporates to microenterprises, across a wide spectrum of economic sectors.

The enterprise also engages with international donors, multilateral organisations, empowerment trusts and local funders to provide guidance on how their current investments can support solutions that work.

Partnerships are vitally important. Working with companies in nine provinces has been key to helping expand their database. This is effectively accomplished by matching its own network of job seekers with the company’s requirements and finding the right people for the job.

Over time, Harambee has interacted with more than one million young people and compiled an impressive database, creating a scenario that benefits companies because they can draw from a larger, richer talent pool. It’s also been proven that youth from poor households with no previous work experience can perform well on the job.

The company has won numerous awards for its work, including the recent prestigious 2019 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Founded by Silicon entrepreneur Jeff Skoll, this award recognises change agents whose innovations have had a significant impact on the world’s most pressing problems. It is a select honour that has only been given to about 100 organisations globally since its inception.

President Cyril Ramaphosa congratulated the team at Harambee, saying:”We are proud of the work Harambee and its partners have done to build solutions that address our youth unemployment challenge. The Skoll Award recognises that Harambee’s innovative model is leading-edge and an African solution to one of the world’s most pressing problems.”

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