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?

Project details

start date
1 May 2017
end date
8 February 2021


About this project



Recent work


Youth, Land and Rural Livelihoods in Africa

IDS Policy Briefing 179

Rural economic transformations in Africa are generating new opportunities to engage with agricultural value chains. However, many young people are said to be locked out of such opportunities because of limited access to farmland, which pushes them out of agriculture and rural areas, and/or...

24 May 2021


Imagined Futures: Gaps in Support for Rural Youth in Côte d’Ivoire

IDS Policy Briefing 180

Lack of employment opportunities for young people is a major concern across Africa, and involves many policy areas. In Côte d’Ivoire, the situation is challenging because of political and economic crises that have beset the country in recent decades.

24 May 2021


Youth and the Rural Economy in Africa


How do young people across Africa engage with the rural economy? And what are the implications for how they build livelihoods and futures for themselves, and for rural areas and policy?

24 May 2021


To farm or not to farm? That’s NOT the question

It is often said that young, rural Africans aren’t interested in farming. Rather, they want to relocate to urban areas where there is a wider array of social, educational and employment opportunities. The suggestion is that widespread migration from rural areas is bad for agriculture and the...

30 January 2020


Are African youth innovative?

This is the question that we address in a new article published in the Journal of Rural Studies. Entitled 'Are African rural youth innovative? Claims, evidence and implications', the paper is open access and free to download. Our interest in this question is rooted in the fact that claims about...

22 May 2019


Exploring young Africans’ role and engagement in the rural economy

Jérôme Bossuet

20 March 2019