Talking Point: Youth Career Initiative expands work in Africa

 To kick start this month's Talking Point posts, we speak with Emili Budell and Samron Adane from Youth Career Initiative (YCI) about the growth of the programme in Africa.

The Youth Career Initiative is continually building its presence across the African continent with programmes in Ethiopia, Egypt and (most recently) Senegal. Preparations to launch YCI Kenya are underway.

Samron Adane, YCI Regional Coordinator for the Middle East and Africa, attended this year’s Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) in early autumn. He shares some of the insights from the event, which paint a picture full of opportunity: “Some of the fastest developing economies in the world are in Africa, such as Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Africa has become a priority market for the hotel industry with African middle classes increasing in numbers domestic tourism is rising alongside travel to the region. There is a great demand for international hotel brands: in Addis Ababa alone, six new properties are due to open soon.”

New hotel openings bring new jobs, opportunities for talent development and career progression to top management jobs. And let’s not forget about all the indirect employment that comes with hotels, particularly on the supplier side. Moreover, hotels have a huge convening power due to the variety of services they have to offer in both leisure and business.

A real opportunity for responsible business

However, Africa still grapples with many challenges. According to a recent report, Partnering for Impact, Supporting systemic change to deliver the sustainable development goals in Africa, “almost half of the population is still living on less than $1.25 a day.” There also remains a massive gap between rural and urban development. Samron tells us that for example, 80% of Ethiopians still depend on farming.

Africa’s population is very young. The report states that “with almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world, and […] that number [is] expected to double by 2045 …By mid-century, Sub-Saharan Arica will have a larger and younger workforce than India or China.” The report continues to say that “in the Africa context, unemployment remains acutely high, particularly amongst the young and women.” A young workforce presents a massive opportunity for any economy, but also a large risk if this section of the population cannot be absorbed into the labour market.

The scale and complexity of the issues is far too large for anyone to solve them by themselves. Business has the opportunity to proactively create better market conditions for itself and to shape development in Africa by strategically tackling issues in partnership with the public and non-profit sector.

YCI is an effective community investment strategy

Effective economic development needs to be inclusive and provide the opportunity for sustainable growth and income distribution. The hotel industry has a unique chance to become a catalyst for wider development on the African continent.

The AHIF conference highlighted that the hotel industry is struggling to find manpower with the appropriate level and type of skills. It is therefore not surprising that Samron had some very positive reactions when he started talking about YCI to some of the attendees. He says: “Hoteliers here are all looking for talent with five-star experience and YCI is an opportunity to create it.”

YCI offers a training programme that equips its graduates with the skills to work in a service-oriented work environment of the highest professional standard. What is particularly exciting for a developing market such as the one in Africa is that YCI programme growth plans are entirely business-led. In that sense, YCI works as a community investment strategy for the hotel industry since the initiative effectively bridges business demand with community needs.

Last year, six young women from disadvantaged backgrounds trained at the Radisson Blu in Addis Ababa. Five of them now work in the hotel industry whilst one has found a job in a kindergarten. This sets a great precedent for the new batch who just started.

Recent events

On 9th October, the Radisson Blu Addis Ababa welcomed six young people to begin their Youth Career Initiative (YCI) training. The group of students includes survivors of human trafficking, and the opening ceremony was also celebrating Carlson Rezidor’s Responsible Business Action Month, where their hotels give extra focus to community activities throughout September.

Mesfin Abdi, Director of Human Resources, says: “Having the YCI programme running for the second time and being part of this wonderful programme which will enable these young and motivated candidates to have a hands-on work experience is a great privilege. For Radisson this is one way of really helping the community we are working in as part of our Responsible Business Programme. As a company we are committed to carrying on helping this wonderful programme in any ways we can.”

The opening ceremony was attended by SOS Children’s Village, who act as the local coordinating partner of YCI in Addis, and AGAR, the shelter where the human trafficking survivors were recruited.

You can also find YCI tweeting @YCI_Global. Youth Career Initiative is a programme of the International Tourism Partnership, for more information see  

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