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Results and Impact Blog

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What can I and the global community do to create jobs for young people?
Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I had won the global essay competition about youth unemployment which was co-sponsored by IFC and the World Economic Forum. As the CEO of a small and growing company, the prize money and the opportunity to attend the World Economic Forum meeting in Istanbul were very welcome. More valuable for me, however, was the opportunity to lend my voice to what I believe is the defining debate of our generation.

If you ask any person of my generation today what they are most concerned about, I can almost guarantee that the answer will be finding a job or setting up a business to support themselves and their family. According to the ILO nearly a quarter of the world’s youth, who are mostly in developing countries, are unemployed. How can we create more jobs for young people, for my generation? That was what I was asked to address in my essay.

I based the arguments in my essay on my experiences setting up and running my digital content creation company, Qordoba, where no day is the same as any other. A year ago, when we started the company, the world’s attention was still very much focused on the Middle-East, where we are located. How can entrepreneurial opportunities result from the dynamism unleashed by the "Arab Spring"?

The region risks a long ‘Arab winter’ unless we can come up with some solutions. In setting up our company, it was in our minds that we could play a role by creating opportunities for youth in the region. However, our guiding principle, which was the basis of my essay, was the recognition that our generation cannot rely only on governments to support or spur job creation.

At Qordoba, we write and translate just about anything into more than 10 language combinations using an online platform and a distributed network of translators and editors.

Our clients range from the world’s largest multinationals to news agencies and software startups. I lead a team of 18 people, but the company is in fact comprised of more than 500 content creators in 30 countries, whom we call “leaders”. It didn’t surprise us that over 60 % of our top producers were born between 1980 and 1990.

Helping young people create their own jobs is not only about venture capital and incubators. Indeed, to address the employment needs of the most vulnerable youth, we need to teach young people how they can use Internet access, basic English language skills, and the ability to be responsible, collaborative and creative members of teams to create their own employment opportunities. They need to learn to offer their skill set, whatever it may be, to the highest or most interesting bidder internationally.

This is why in my essay, I argue that companies like mine will be very important for addressing youth unemployment. I like to think of ourselves as building a platform that allows young, ambitious, and educated leaders to earn a great living by plugging them into a global marketplace of talent.

If the local economy is not providing opportunities for you, adopt an entrepreneurial attitude and let’s play some institutional arbitrage by really globalizing your proficiencies. Let’s connect you to global clients who need your skills wherever you may be.

The solution I have proposed in my essay is around creating the conditions in the developing world for increasing web-based and freelance self-employment.

The solution for youth unemployment is not all-encompassing, and it is not a single solution. There are solutions for youth unemployment.

I’d love to hear what you think about the specific proposals in my full essay or watch this video.

Follow May Habib on Twitter @may_habib or @Qordoba.

Join IFC in the conversation on how to create jobs @IFC_org on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.