National Youth Service in Sub-Saharan Africa

National Youth Service (NYS) in Sub-Saharan Africa

Strengthening NYS as a strategy for youth employability, entrepreneurship, and sustainable livelihoods in the region

Program Overview

In November 2012, ICP joined forces with The MasterCard Foundation and Volunteer Service Enquiry Southern Africa (VOSESA) to undertake a research study to assess how National Youth Service (NYS) programs in Sub-Saharan Africa can better prepare young people for the workforce. The study will produce greater knowledge on how NYS programs can be designed as a youth development and employment tool, build a network of NYS staff, policy makers and practitioners focused on youth employment, and provide recommendations for private sector engagement.

This project stems from an existing tradition of NYS programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, which were originally designed to cultivate a sense of national identity and mobilize skills for development in post-independence nations. Today, NYS programs operate in the context of a deepening regional youth unemployment crisis, which averages over 20 per cent, according to African Economic Outlook. NYS programs engage hundreds of thousands of young people each year and have the potential to equip them with strong civic skills and prepare them for employment and livelihood opportunities. Despite its potential as an economic strategy, little is still known about how effective NYS programs are at increasing youth employability.

The research project will thus, for the first time, shed light on the prevailing role and potential for NYS programs in Sub-Saharan Africa to foster youth employability, entrepreneurship, and sustainable livelihoods. Firstly, a report on the NYS landscape will describe the extent to which programs in approximately 10-15 countries in the region are intentionally designed and supported to lift young people out of unemployment. Secondly, three in-depth case studies will focus on NYS programs in Kenya, South Africa, and Ghana. A third research report will highlight examples of good practice in the region and internationally for leveraging NYS as a strategy for advancing youth employability, entrepreneurship, and sustainable livelihoods. These findings will be presented at a Learning Forum in South Africa from November 25-26.


The project aims to grow the knowledge base about NYS programs in Sub-Saharan Africa with the intention of influencing policy-makers and program implementers to more intentionally design and implement NYS programs that assist young Africans with accessing employment and livelihood opportunities post-service.


  • Report on the National Youth Service landscape in Sub-Saharan Africa—coming soon!
  • Report on promising practices of how service programs can prepare youth for employment opportunities, both within and outside Sub-Saharan Africa—coming soon!
  • Case-studies of NYS program design and implementation in Kenya, Ghana and South Africa—coming soon!


The MasterCard FoundationThe MasterCard Foundation advances microfinance and youth learning to promote financial inclusion and prosperity. Through collaboration with committed partners in 49 developing countries (as of August 2012), it is creating pathways out of poverty for people—particularly young people—by expanding access to learning, employment, entrepreneurship, and financial services. It is an independent, private foundation based in Toronto, Canada.

VOSESA Volunteer and Service Enquiry Southern Africa Volunteer and Service Enquiry Southern Africa (VOSESA) was founded in 2003 to support the growth of knowledge about civic service and volunteering in Southern Africa through research, publishing and evidence-based advocacy. Currently, VOSESA is working in partnership with ICP on a research study on National Youth Service in Sub-Saharan Africa. Learn more about VOSESA >

Learning Forum

November 25-26, 2013
Join government, civil society and the private sector in a two-day conversation about the role of National Youth Service (NYS) in enhancing youth employability, entrepreneurship and sustainable livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa.

New research on 19 NYS programs in Africa and other regions shows that there are promising practices that can help integrate young people in the economy. Together, we will identify policy and program strategies that strengthen the impact of NYS on youth employment and promote a better return on state and private sector investment.

Learn more at

The Learning Forum is brought to you by The MasterCard Foundation and the National Treasury and Jobs Fund of the Republic of South Africa. The Forum is co-hosted by Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP) and Volunteer and Service Enquiry Southern Africa (VOSESA).

For more information, contact:

Susan Stroud
Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP)
1776 Massachusetts Ave NW, Suite 100
Washington, DC 20036
Phone (202) 775-0290