TSO targets two key challenges: scarce access to electricity in Africa’s remote areas and too few career opportunities for its growing youth population.
Access to Electricity
TSO is currently working in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Burkina Faso is a desperately poor country where more than 72% of the population lives without electricity. Rural areas are especially deprived: only 1% of rural inhabitants have access to electricity (The World Factbook, 2013). The usual form of lighting is from lamps fueled by kerosene, which has fine particulate matter that has been attributed to many health risks including respiratory and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality. Kerosene (and candle) lighting also present a fire risk.
“The Africa Energy Outlook, a Special Report in the 2014 World Energy Outlook series, shows that more than 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (two-thirds of the population) live without electricity, and nearly 730 million people rely on dangerous, inefficient forms of cooking. The use of solid biomass (mainly fuelwood and charcoal) outweighs that of all other fuels combined, and average electricity consumption per capita is not enough to power a single 50-watt light bulb continuously.”
Few Career Opportunities
Burkina Faso is the 18th poorest country in the world, where 95% of its youth have been identified as disadvantaged. Sixty-five percent of those unemployed in Burkina Faso are less than twenty-four years of age. The country’s industrial sector is underdeveloped and offers them few opportunities. Agriculture is the country’s most important industry, engaging 86% of the workforce and generating 40% of the GDP. Even though 74% of Burkinabe youth live in rural areas, farming is not a feasible career choice as access to land and capital are scarce. (Save the Children, Youth in Action program).
A number of local and international organizations offer education scholarship support for at-risk African youth, however, these disadvantaged youths require additional support to secure full-time employment. Each year, thousands of educated, yet unprepared, university graduates flood the African job market. There are too many candidates for the extremely scarce number of jobs, and the few employers who are hiring require relevant work experience on an applicant’s CV. Graduates are lacking key competencies, such as practical work experience, interview skills, fluency in English, networking connections to employers, confidence and a quality CV – all of which are demanded by employers. The bleak employment situation locally encourages educated African youth to seek employment opportunities abroad, thus facilitating “brain drain”.
“Youth unemployment and underemployment are among the main barriers to development in West Africa, say experts. Not only does the exclusion of young people from the labour force perpetuate generational cycles of poverty, it also breaks down social cohesion and can be associated with higher levels of crime and violence among idle youth.”