The Southern African region (SADC) has a large youth population and low levels of decent employment for its youth, resulting in high levels of youth unemployment and underemployment. The lack of formal employment, irregularity of work and social protection means that youth in the SADC region face poverty and inequality.

Researchers have described the effect of this insecurity on youth as a ‘transitional limbo’. Without a secure income, young people are unable to meet their social roles that accompany adulthood. These challenges are compounded by a lack of credible information and a lack of mobilisation around youth employment. Youth voices in designing and implementing prevalent national and regional youth employment strategies and policies has been limited.


The Southern African Alliance for Youth Employment (SAAYE) was formally established in February 2016 by the Economic Justice Network with the Commonwealth Foundation’s support. The Alliance is made up of representatives from trade unions, church councils, student unions, and civil society organisations across nine Southern African nations. Trade unions, churches and the civil society organisations, cumulatively have considerable potential power to determine the shape of policy for youth employment in Southern Africa.

The Economic Justice Network (EJN) performs as the Secretariat of SAAYE. SAAYE aims to play a coordinating and facilitating role for youth formations to inform and influence public discourse about youth employment; contribute to reforming employment and youth related policy; and, to hold governments accountable to their commitments to address youth unemployment across the SADC region – both nationally and regionally.

The Commonwealth Foundation’s capacity development approach has facilitated training, engagement and development of structures within the Alliance. A six member Working Group serves as the highest decision-making body of SAAYE. They also represent the Alliance at events such as the SADC-CNGO Civil Society Forum and to plan regional actions.

  • The Full Picture: The Partner’s Learning Exchange 2017

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    As part of capacity development support to the South African Alliance on Youth Employment (SAAYE), the Commonwealth Foundation brokered a learning exchange with Citizens UK, trialling a new model of support. This multimedia story explores the techniques used in the exchange to help civil society to better organise.