Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Mixed-Methods Study to Inform Policy and Programs

Unemployment and underemployment among young people are critical issues in international development today, and will remain so in years to come. This is particularly the case in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where the population of young people is increasingly growing. One major problem is that the rate of creation of decent employment opportunities lags far behind the number of young people who are becoming economically active. In recent years the youth employment challenge in Africa has moved up the development agenda, spurred by events and phenomena such as the Arab Spring and migration from Africa, and by the perceived security challenge posed by ‘idle’ youth.

IFAD Challenges and Opportunities

A junior secondary school student is photographed by her sister's food stall in a small town near Techiman, Brong Ahafo Region, Ghana.

The goal of the Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa study is to strengthen and deepen knowledge of: the employment dynamics of rural young people, and the relationships between these dynamics and welfare; and the socially and spatially differentiated perspectives of rural young people on work, employment and livelihoods. Research is taking place in Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso.

In this mixed-methods study, the team will seek to inform and influence the policies, strategies and programmes that affect the ability of young people in rural areas to move toward the futures that they imagine for themselves, and in the process to earn a decent living.

The project will be addressing a number of questions:

  1. How do rural young people engage with labour markets?
  2. What are the relationships between sector and spatial dynamics of youth employment, individual earnings and household welfare dynamics? How are they gendered?
  3. How do these relationships vary across different social groups and rural areas? 
  4. How are young people engaging with land markets and usufruct rights?
  5. What are the linkages between young people’s on- and off-farm employment and productivity growth?
  6. To where are young people migrating? And for how long?

Key contact

Photo of Jim Sumberg, Research Fellow with the Knowledge Technology and Society Team

T: +44 (0)1273 915833


More details
Marjoke Oosterom


More details
Project Dates:
May 2017 - February 2021
Project Status:
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Research Themes / Programmes:
Accelerating Sustainability
Youth Employment and Politics