10 (mostly still-to-be invented) jobs that can power Africa's future

From founding free universities to advocating for small farmers to training rats to detect land mines Africa's future entrepreneurs will boost the continent.

By , NextBillion

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    A trainer holds a giant African pouched rat trained in sniffing and detecting landmines at Sokoine University landmine fields in Morogoro, Tanzania. The animals are trained to sniff out the location of landmines to assist de-miners in clearing dangerous minefields.
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Sixty percent of the best jobs in the next 10 years haven’t been invented yet. At least that’s what futurologist Thomas Frey is fond of saying.

New jobs – and lots of them – will be needed for Africa to reverse staggering youth unemployment rates which, in parts of the continent, are as high as 43 and 51 percent for men and women, respectively.

What skills will young people need in order to be ready for them? And where will these jobs come from?

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One source will be social entrepreneurs in Africa who are creating new market opportunities as they transform their chosen fields. Here is a list of top jobs I expect to see employing young people in Africa over the course of the next decade:

University Founder

South Africa’s first free university, CIDA City Campus, was founded in 2000 by Taddy Blecher. Since then, 6,000 alumni have received a free education in exchange for managing day-to-day operations. Some 4,500 alumni have started businesses and those in employment are, on average, earning as much as $30,000 a year five years after graduation. The CIDA “learn and earn” methodology not only ensures that entrepreneurial students have hands-on learning experiences, but also guarantees that the university education is free for all. Six other institutions founded on these principles have educated more than 600,000 young people, but demand is still skyrocketing across Africa. University founders who can provide a world-class, entrepreneurial and FREE education will be in huge demand.

Wellness Coach

Paige Elenson insists “our economies and our bodies are unhealthy.” In Kenya, when she started the Africa Yoga Project in 2006, more than 60 percent of young people were unemployed and noncommunicable lifestyle diseases were on the rise. She tackles both challenges simultaneously by training yoga instructors. Today you can book a private yoga lesson online with one of more than 70 trained instructors or join more than 300 weekly yoga classes in Nairobi. Someday, when AYP expands across the continent and its alumni launch new companies in the global wellness and health tourism market (already worth an estimated $3 billion annually), you’ll have to hire a wellness coach to help you navigate all the options.

Diversity Designer

As the world becomes more interconnected and the challenges we encounter more varied, the ability to build, engage, and lead diverse teams will be critical, regardless of sector. In Kenya, Fred Ouko founded ANDY (the Action Network for the Disabled) in part to help large employers be more inclusive of people with disabilities. With help from ANDY, large employers employ dozens of young people with disabilities and report that diverse teams are better able to adapt to changes and create new solutions. Does your company need a diversity designer?

Invisible Executive

Across West Africa, independent and entrepreneurial workers at Karim Sy’s network of JokkoLabs are turning traditional employment on its head. At these collaborative spaces, entrepreneurial “invisible executives” build teams around emerging opportunities, coming together to share their best ideas and tackle new challenges. In a world where workers are autonomous and challenges are shared, “invisible executives” will emerge to virtually build and lead more flexible, independent workforces around compelling social challenges. Have a tricky challenge? Surf over to one of the six JokkoLabs where more than 3,000 coworkers are already solving 21st Century problems.

Ecosystem Advocate

For too long human economic activities have not properly accounted for nature’s abundant contributions. But now there is widespread recognition that natural ecosystems are at a breaking point. In Benin, Salim Dara launched Solidarité Rurale to build a network of demonstration farms where students experience the interconnectedness of nature and the importance of balanced, sustainable ecosystems. In the future, graduates could be employed as Ecosystem Advocates protecting cities’ watersheds or vulnerable landscapes for future generations.

Cultural Navigator

Where will we find employees with enough global empathy to navigate “normal” workdays filled with international video chatting and intercontinental brand strategies designed to appeal to customers whose cultures you barely understand? Start by recruiting talent from Nafisika Trust, which was founded by Vickie Wambura in 2006. Nafisika works to transform Kenya’s prisons into thriving centers of rehabilitation and enlightenment. By bringing community volunteers into prisons to run their programs, they simultaneously tackle two big challenges: under-resourced prisons and the stigma society attaches to convicts. Last year alone Nafisika’s hyper-empathetic volunteers gave more than 11,000 hours of pro bono support to 4,500 prisoners. These volunteers are expert cultural navigators that can easily tune into and navigate new markets and consumer behavior.

Nutrient Banker

Tools for measuring nutrients in soil, food, and our bodies are increasingly sophisticated and accessible to average consumers. Soon, home gardeners and smallholder farmers will be able to buy Soil IQ, a wireless soil sensor developed by Jason Arambaru. The device helps farmers by converting a measurement of soil health (moisture, acidity, and micro-nutrient content) into instant agricultural advice. When farmers, food industry actors, and consumers are able to easily measure the most important component of food – nutrients – we can expect to see new professionals creating, maintaining, and supplying a full spectrum of nutrition in landscapes as soil health experts, nutrient trackers, and nutrient bankers.

Climate Change Adaptability Agent

In Zimbabwe, Verengai Mabika’s Development Reality Institute conducts online courses and primary school clubs focused on the earth’s changing climate system and its economic, environmental, and political implications. Hundreds of primary school children in Zimbabwe regularly participate in what the institute dubs “Cool Clubs,” and DRI has conducted online courses for 800 students from 28 countries. Verengai’s ultimate goal is to build society’s adaptive capacity by preparing young people to tackle 21st century challenges. Future employers will thank him.

Smallholder Super Farmer

In the future, small will be big business. There are more than 33 million family farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, but most are still producing at subsistence levels. However, what eBay did for the odd collector or reseller in the U.S., M-Farm is doing for smallholder farmers in Africa. By creating a mobile marketplace and a nationwide network of collection agents, farmers – no matter how small – are able to sell to buyers big and small. With more reliable outlets for products and a steady income, these “Smallholder Super Farmers” might even be able to hire members of another emerging occupation: “Farm Innovation Managers.” In South Africa, more than 350 young people have gone through Future Farmers’ two- to three-year apprenticeship and training program with 70 percent of graduates already employed as farm managers.

Rat Trainer

If you are reading this and are still finding none of these applicable, then this last job might be the one for you. Designer, Buddhist monk, and social entrepreneur Bart Weetjens was frustrated that the world’s best solutions for detecting both unexploded ordinance and diseases relied on expensive, foreign technologies. That’s especially irritating considering a hardy African rodent had all the tools for the job: a strong sense of smell and an eagerness to be trained. Today APOPO rat trainers across Africa and Asia say they have de-mined more than 62,000 acres and detected 5,087 previously misdiagnosed tuberculosis cases. Given the many applications of this “technology” – from shipping ports to airport security – demand for rat trainers is increasing.

Some of these careers are still a bit ahead of their time, but you can prepare for all these future professions by cultivating a changemaker mindset through hands-on experience. The hot jobs of the future will go to empathetic, creative action-takers who dare to think big, build teams, and change the world.

The Future Forward partnership between Ashoka and The MasterCard Foundation aims to identify and support the most innovative problem solvers to youth employment challenges in sub-Saharan Africa and convene conversations about solutions that can move #AfricaYouthFwdCatch up with the latest and learn about opportunities to participate in the conversation. The organizations will be hosting two webinars this summer.

Simon Stumpf is the regional director for Ashoka in East Africa. When he’s not struggling with yoga or playing with baby rats, he helps Ashoka build a global network of leading social entrepreneurs and young changemakers.

This article originally appeared at NextBillion.net, a blog and web resource bringing together the community of business leaders, social entrepreneurs, NGOs, policymakers, and academics to explore the connection between development and enterprise.

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