Youth Unemployment in Africa: It’s Not About Aid, But Economics

BY Tunga · 3 MIN READ

Last week in Ivory Coast, a top took place between African and European leaders to discuss future strategies to create youth employment in Africa. Leading Dutch radio station BNR invited Tunga founder Ernesto Spruyt, Irene Visser of the Netherlands African Business Council (NABC), and journalist-turned-entrepreneur Hans Moleman. They discussed what role European companies could play in these developments. You can listen to the entire interview (in Dutch) online (from 0h50m to 1h10m). But for our non-Dutch-speaking followers, here are some highlights of Ernesto’s contribution to the discussion…

Equal opportunity is more important than aid for addressing youth unemployment in Africa.

When asked whether providing government aid to the African continent is a viable strategy, Ernesto responded:

“You know, the funny thing is, we started Tunga to address youth unemployment in Africa by creating IT jobs. And set the company up as a social enterprise. But in principle, this is of limited interest to the developers who work for us. They don’t want to receive aid; they want to participate economically. And to be productive and determine their own destiny. So I think there is a role for the government. But it would be healthy if that would center around facilitating the economic process.”

Interviewer: “But is your business model viable? Because I heard that in Uganda you pay developers as much as $2,000 per month whereas the median income in that country is $50 per month.”

Ernesto: “That is very viable as it is nevertheless a very attractive fee for companies worldwide [to pay for a software developer]. Because there is still a major shortage of software developers globally.”

Then when one of the other panel members remarked that in terms of job creation, software development is just a small niche, Ernesto rebutted very simply: “A $200 billion per year niche, that is.” According to IDC data, the global software market annually stands at $443 billion.

“Because of our approach, our developers go the extra mile for our clients.”

Interviewer: “Why do companies work with Tunga? For doing good, or is the price the most important reason?”

Ernesto: “It’s very simple. Software development is highly suitable for having people work remotely. We have clients who hire developers via us that become part of their team as remote workers. And we have clients who have a software project, say an app or a website, and we take care of everything for them.

We do this because we both want to run a profitable business. And we want to be part of the solution for youth unemployment in Africa. So it cuts both ways.

And most of the time, that also counts for our clients. Listen, all our clients want a quality product delivered smoothly. That is number 1. What makes us special is that we work with highly motivated developers. Because of our approach, they are willing to go the extra mile for you as a company. This message bodes well with those companies. And it is also being appreciated [by actual clients].”

Don’t depend on governments; go your own way.

Ernesto was also asked whether African governments do enough to create a good business climate. Ernesto highlighted that Tunga tends to go its own way without specifically relying on or crossing paths with government institutions.

“Let me say first that I love being there [in Uganda]. And that certainly helps. But we have hardly experienced any significant problems in doing business in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, or Egypt. We hardly have contact with government institutions.

Before, I spent seven years in Russia and have become aware that things can go wrong if you get on the wrong person’s radar. But I only know that in theory because, in practice, I haven’t had such experiences myself.”

Listen to the full interview (in Dutch, 0h50m-1h10m)…