With a population of 12,316,895 people and a significant youth and adolescent proportion forming a huge youth bulge, Somalia faces an unprecedented challenge in addressing the youth and adolescent needs in a complex context where conflict, natural disasters and climate change divert resources from the needs of this important cohort of the population. Just under half (45.6 percent) of the population is less than 15 years old, and three-quarters (75 percent) of the population is under 30 years, while three-quarters (75%) of the population is less than 30 years old.
Two-thirds of youth are unemployed – one of the highest rates of unemployment in the world. Youth unemployment in Somalia is high, with only an estimated 27% of youth employed (58% male and 42% female), while majority of the employed (70%) are in the primary sector that is agriculture, forestry and fisheries. This provides an incentive for migration.
A 2013 report estimated that between 500 to 3,000 individuals travelled from Hargeisa to Addis Ababa en-route to Europe per month, while in 2014, the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat reported that 400-700 Somalilanders were joining irregular flows each month. In 2015, over 78,000 migrants arrived in Yemen via the Arabian Sea while at the beginning of 2017 over 92,000 migrants are reported to have fled Yemen for various countries in the Horn of Africa.
The push factors encouraging migration by young people include: economic factors (limited employment opportunities, limited education prospects, and poverty; violence and instability (due to poor governance and civil conflict; and belief in migration as an opportunity for socio-economic improvement as a result of pressure from parents and relatives. For example, an overwhelming majority (69 percent) of 2,685 males and females in the Somali region, including South Central Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland, surveyed by the Heritage Institute considered either the lack of opportunities (48 percent) or the poor economic situation of families (21 percent) as key reasons for out-migration.
Youth on migration are exposed to risks including trafficking, physical and sexual abuses, violence, deaths and kidnapping for ransom resulting in the extortion of resources from parents whose children are detained by traffickers. The youth dilemma is made even more difficult by the fact that returnees from Tahriib (irregular migration) face an uncertain future on return, facing the same challenges that made them migrate. An innovative livelihoods program, UPSHIFT, has been launched by our client to address the needs of the young and restless youth seeking income opportunities.
UPSHIFT Innovative Livelihoods Program
UPSHIFT is a youth social innovation programme, that empowers marginalized young people to identify and design solutions to challenges that their communities face. Through this process they gain skills for employment and skills for life. The greatest benefits are for the wider community, which benefits indirectly from the solutions that are developed. UPSHIFT is not one single set of tools, rather it is a methodology and approach to providing skills development and empowerment to marginalized youth. The methodology contains some core elements that are transferable across country and cultural borders, however it is flexible enough to allow for significant localization and customization to the implementing context.