The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed an agreement on Thursday in Juba to support youth empowerment and employment.

The funds will support UNDP’S program on youth employment and empowerment across South Sudan until December 2022.

Netherlands Ambassador H.E. Janet Alberda said during the signing ceremony, that the Netherlands has a global commitment to supporting youth initiatives especially in countries experiencing conflict.

She noted that in conflict countries, youth face additional challenges in accessing vocational and business skills training, and support networks to foster entrepreneurial activities.

“We have to create what is called peace dividend. People have to feel in practice that peace has come to South Sudan. This certainly has to do with ending violence and silencing the guns and political commitment of all parties, but at the same time concrete economic opportunities have to be created, especially for the youth, so that they can rebuild their lives,” said Ambassador Alberda.

The new project is aligned with the South Sudan Partnership for Recovery and Resilience pillars of cooperation, including the commitments to restore productive capacities and close the skills gap of vulnerable women and youth.

The project focuses on supporting South Sudan youth to earn a living by providing vocational, technical and soft skills, while nurturing an entrepreneurship culture to enhance their chances of getting employment and involved in market-linked economic activities. The project will also look towards expanding business and job opportunities for South Sudan youth by boosting the productivity of business and labour-focused local institutions.

“This partnership between the Netherlands and UNDP is centered on the feedback we have heard from young people across South Sudan. Whether in Yambio, or in Bor, in Torit, or Rumbek, the youth want peace, and with the stability peace brings – they are determined to transform their future, and the future of their families, through education and economic development,” said UNDP Country Director Kamil Kamaluddeen.

“This generous new support from the Netherlands is a game-changer for youth in South Sudan. The project’s innovative modalities will provide a runway, via skills development and support networks, for young people who possess the vision to succeed in business and in their local job markets. I am equally pleased to see this initiative builds a bridge in South Sudan to UNDP’s YouthConnekt Africa initiative, which aims to unleash the potential of African youth by combining elements of skills development, entrepreneurship, access to jobs and finance,” Dr. Kamaluddeen continued.

Started in Rwanda, YouthConnekt Africa aims to oversee the creation of 10 million jobs across the continent by 2020.

Boosting productivity and incomes for young men and women in South Sudan is a critical aspect required to improve well-being, build community resilience and foster peaceful co-existence across the country. More than half of the South Sudanese population are below age 18 and 72 percent are younger than age 30. Unemployment remains high across all demographics in South Sudan but especially impacting youth, with more than 90 percent lacking formal employment.

Through the new project, youth will be provided with vocational, technical and entrepreneurial skills, psychosocial and business management advisory support, and supported in launching new business and income generating activities.

The project will work with youth in five targeted locations: Bor, Jubek, Rumbek, Torit and Yambio. All qualifying youth from the targeted locations will be given equal opportunities to participate in project activities.