Priscilla Kennedy
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For South Africa’s youngest citizens finding a job remains an enormous challenge. While the country’s official unemployment rate is now 27.7%, the most affected group by far are young people under the age of 35, as a staggering 38.6% of youth are currently unable to find work. Against the backdrop of a sluggish economy finding creative and innovative solutions to high unemployment among the youth is an urgent concern, even more especially as South Africans prepare to celebrate Youth Day on 16 June.

Today, skills development programmes together with participation in the Gig Economy are beginning to emerge as smart solutions to youth unemployment by creating avenues for young people to hone internationally recognised skills while gaining valuable real-world work experience. Defined as a flourishing environment of short-term contracts or freelance work, the Gig Economy could create much needed opportunities, both for those seeking work and those looking to expand their skills.

The promising opportunities of a growing Gig Economy here at home led to the launch of the Nerd Academy, an initiative of in collaboration with, which offers free programmes designed to upskill the unemployed and assist them in marketing themselves successfully to canvass for work in Europe, Asia, the United States and beyond. 

Nerds Wanted – premises in Somerset East

According to Priscilla Kennedy, founder of video production company, the programme is proving successful with previously unemployed people finding work from places like as far afield as San Francisco, and those getting jobs are even contracting some out. Kennedy says that examples of the skills being developed within the programme and earning revenue includes: administrative tasks, translation, web development, graphic design and storyboarding.

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The prevalence of independent workers is on the increase internationally and Kennedy says that the potential benefits for South Africa’s youth are only just starting to be explored: “I’ve worked remotely for various international companies for nearly 10 years – on trains, beaches and cities across multiple countries.  There is no reason why people can’t be sitting in the middle of the Karoo and delivering value to the rest of the world with the added benefit of being able to earn Dollars and spend in Rands.”

Solving the youth unemployment crisis requires imaginative solutions and collective action which recognises the importance of skills development to unlock decent work opportunities both here at home and abroad are vital according to Kennedy. It’s a view that’s also shared by President Cyril Ramaphosa who in March announced the Youth Employment Service, or YES initiative – a new collaboration between government and business to provide more jobs and apprenticeships for South Africa’s young workers.

“Online access to the Gig Economy has even more potential for youth in rural areas, who despite having qualifications and marketable skills remain jobless. The same is also true for young people who want to expand their skillset but cannot afford expensive courses or travel to tertiary institutions. By taking advantage of technology and the multitude of online courses and freelance platforms, South Africa’s youth can kick-start their careers and sharpen their skills to compete in the global digital economy,” concludes Kennedy.

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