Log in / Register
Home arrow Sociology arrow Perspectives on Volunteering: Voices from the South


The research underpinning this chapter was conducted in 20 1 3[1] [2] and set out to examine the relationship between national youth service, employability, entrepreneurship and sustainable livelihoods in sub-Saharan African countries. A central challenge facing the study was the lack of documentation of national youth service programmes in developing countries, and in sub-Saharan Africa in particular. The first step was thus to map the national youth service landscape in sub-Saharan Africa as far as possible. The second was to analyse the programmes so as to identify youth service programmes as opposed to other types such as youth employment programmes. Third, prior to analysis, the information about the selected programmes had to be verified with the countries concerned.

Five different methods were used to conduct and validate the study. First, a desk review was conducted between March and June 2013, drawing mainly on resources available online as well as information previously collected by Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP) and Volunteer and Service Enquiry Southern Africa (VOSESA) on national youth service in Africa and other parts of the world. The online resources included news articles from national newspapers in the countries targeted, academic articles on service, programme websites, press releases and reports from international organisations, including the United Nations Volunteers Programme.

The desk review identified a total of 35 countries in which national youth programmes were running, or were at different stages of development, or had been discontinued: Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, The Sudan, South Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In addition, two regional programmes were identified in the scan—the African Youth Volunteer Corps (run by the African Union) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Youth Volunteer Programme.

The second method focused on identifying the programmes that were specifically concerned with national youth civic service. This process was guided by the use of the definition of civic service as “an organized period of substantial engagement and contribution to the local, national, or world community, recognized and valued by society, with minimal monetary compensation to the participant” (Sherraden, 2001, p. 2). This definition encompasses both voluntary and compulsory civic service programmes. National youth service programmes can be defined as a type of civic service programme that is typically established by the state and has young people as a core target group. As different countries and programmes define “youth” differently, we used a flexible definition of youth based on the definitions specified by the national youth service programme in each country. Using this definition, programmes in 15 countries were selected for closer study: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Other programmes were excluded from more detailed investigation for different reasons. For example, the national youth service programmes in Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania were not included because they were still very new at the time of the study. Limited information was available on the programme in Togo. Other programmes that were excluded from the study were those that did not focus on youth as the primary target group, those that focused on skills training and internships without a civic service component and those that were largely militaristic in nature. As a result, programmes in Angola, Cameroon, Eritrea, Mauritius, Seychelles and Senegal were not surveyed further. The two regional programmes identified in the scan—the African Youth Volunteer Corps and the ECOWAS Youth Volunteer Programme—were not included as they did not have a national focus.

The third method was to verify the information collected about the 15 countries selected for closer study (see Appendix). An information verification sheet was developed for each country containing the information collected in the desk review, and country representatives familiar with the programmes were asked to amend or add to the information collected. This process sought verification of the information about five programme components: (1) a description of the programme (goals, objectives, legislative context, duration, participants and whether the programme is voluntary or mandatory); (2) budget and programme funding; (3) programme structure (activities, where participants are placed); (4) post-service placement (training, accreditation, placement strategies and output) and (5) evaluation (frequency, outcomes) . The information verification sheet was sent to the persons responsible for running the national youth service programmes in the selected countries.

This step also involved semi-structured telephone interviews conducted with programme representatives in English or French in order to complete the verification forms or add to the information collected. Interviews took place with programme representatives in 13 of the 15 countries (the exceptions were Cape Verde and Cote d’Ivoire). The interviews were transcribed and interviews conducted in French were translated into English.

The fourth method was to conduct case studies on the national youth service programmes in three countries: Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. The programmes in Ghana and Kenya are among the largest and longest running in sub-Saharan Africa and the South Africa case is an example of a more recent post-liberation initiative. A common research protocol was developed across the three countries and each case study was conducted by an independent researcher from the country or the region, contracted and managed by VOSESA. In each country the case study examined the goals and design of the national youth service programme, its governance and financing, programme impact, lessons learnt and promising practices identified in respect of participants’ increased employability or livelihood opportunities.

Five research papers were produced in the course of the study and form the basis of this chapter: an overview of the national youth service landscape in sub-Saharan Africa; case studies on national youth service in Kenya, Ghana and South Africa; and an analysis of promising practices in national youth service programmes.

The fifth method was the convening of a Learning Forum in November 2013 with high-level representation from 26 countries, 20 of which were sub-Saharan Africa countries. Structured as a participatory learning experience, the Learning Forum applied the research findings to programme practice and provided a springboard for policy advocacy on the strategic value of national youth service in drawing young people into the economic and social mainstream .

  • [1] ership, communication, problem-solving, enhanced numeracy and literacy, self-discipline, anawareness of work culture and job search skills, among others.
  • [2] The research was supported by the MasterCard Foundation and conducted by Innovations inCivic Participation (ICP) in partnership with Volunteer and Service Enquiry Southern Africa(VOSESA). ICP ( is a non-profit organisation in Washington, DC that supports thedevelopment of innovative, high-quality youth civic engagement policies and programmes in theUS and in other countries. VOSESA ( was a non-profit research organisation founded in Johannesburg,South Africa, in response to the clear need for well-researched evidence about volunteering andcivic service in southern Africa. VOSESA ran for 10 years before closing its doors at the end of2013 owing to insufficient funds being available to continue its work.
Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >
Business & Finance
Computer Science
Language & Literature
Political science