More than 200 government, business, civil society, and youth leaders from across Africa convened this past week to discuss evidence-based solutions to the youth unemployment crisis in Africa that has left 40 million young people without jobs and sparked growing concern and calls for action across the region. The Ideas4Work conference, held January 23 to 25, 2013, in Dakar, Senegal, is an output of the Global Partnership for Youth Employment (GPYE), supported by the World Bank, the International Youth Foundation (IYF), the Youth Employment Network, the Arab Urban Development Institute, and the Understanding Children's Work Project.

At the opening reception, US Ambassador Lewis Lukens underscored the US government’s strong commitment to expand opportunities for young people to join the workforce and have a greater voice in society. “There is no more important issue on this continent than improving the lives and prospects of Africa’s youth,” he said.

The Ideas4Work conference, which offered a unique opportunity for the region’s stakeholders to share the latest research and findings on what works in youth employment and entrepreneurship, was jointly sponsored by USAID, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the Jacobs Foundation, with support from the World Bank. Its objective: to provide decision makers, the private sector, and development agencies with evidence-based research on youth employment outcomes in Africa; showcase effective programs and policies; and build an action agenda for advancing programs and policy work on youth employability across Africa.

To support the conference’s action agenda, the International Youth Foundation announced the launch of Jeunes Agriculteursa USAID-funded program to be implemented by the Synapse Center in Dakar. As part of IYF’s YouthMap initiative, it will engage 400 Senegalese youth ages 16 to 29 in developing the necessary skills and experience to support their families and contribute to the region’s agriculture-based economy.

IYF’s Executive Vice President, Awais Sufi, also announced the development of second initiative to benefit young leaders in the region. A consortium of partners, including The MasterCard Foundation, UNESCO, and USAID, is supporting a far-reaching effort to equip a new generation of leaders with the knowledge, skills, and networks they need to achieve even greater impact in their communities and nations. Through this program, to be launched in 2013, young social entrepreneurs from across Africa will benefit from skills training, mentoring, networking, and funding opportunities. The initiative, which will include Francophone and Anglophone regional institutes, forms part of IYF’s YouthActionNet® Global Network of leadership institutes currently operating in 11 nations and regions.