More than 28 million young people in Niger and Burkina Faso suffer under poverty, with a poor economic outlook, marginalisation, and an uncertain future, even though they hold the greatest potential for that region’s prosperity. Faced with this situation, young people are increasingly vulnerable to being recruited by various extremist and violent groups, the numbers of which have swelled over the past few years.
The limited economic dynamic, low quality and accessibility to services, the state of infrastructure, the lack of employment opportunities, pressure on natural resources, problems with governance and local conflict – this all furthers the extremists’ ability to recruit vulnerable youth. The lack of economic and professional opportunities, the feeling of marginalisation and being left out are among the most important causes influencing young people to choose a path of violence and armed conflict.
To break out of the circle of socio-economic marginalisation and violence, it is essential that we steer young people’s abilities and will to change in an effective and positive direction. This includes creating and improving connections between youth and markets, the government, and civil society actors for meaningful involvement in the decision-making process and enacting positive change in their respective communities.
During all its phases, the Bridge Youth Connect programme (BYC) places young people at the heart of its strategy and activities. This is to ensure that their efforts and motivations are understood, addressed, and fulfilled. The development of technical and social skills is a key component of the interventions to prepare young people with marketable skills for employment in agriculture and non-agricultural careers. The programme strategy includes flexible, short-term training modules followed by intensive, customised coaching after the training. Other activities include support to access finance and market information. Furthermore, so-called microprojects are developed together with youth and community leaders. Bridge Youth Connect will support incubators for SMEs, private training institutes, and other institutions working on qualification and professional development in Niamey and Ouagadougou.
Bridge Youth Connect is being implemented by Mercy Corps in collaboration with Swisscontact, SOS Sahel, Viamo, FAD, GeoAnalytics Center, and Ideo.org. The programme is financed by USAID.
The purpose of BYC is to facilitate access to strategic economic and social opportunities for vulnerable youth in Niger and Burkina Faso. To this end, the project focuses on the following activities:
The project will help 65,000 young people to realise their potential through the following initiatives: