How Rockefeller Aims to Harness Globalization to Lift Young Workers in Africa

Africa is currently home to one of the fastest-growing youth populations in the world. The job market on the continent cannot keep pace with the burgeoning population of young people looking for work. To try to stay ahead of the curve, Rockefeller established its Digital Jobs Africa program. The program focuses on the intersection where the African youth population and information communication technology (ICT) meet. A key goal is also to grow the jobs available to young workers in this area by tapping into the sourcing needs of global companies, which have a voracious appetite for workers with the skills to handle business processing operations—a fancy term for scut work like data management, content editing, and low-end transcription. 

Rockefeller has been keen on "impact sourcing" for a while now, and, in typical fashion, has supported research on the ins and outs of this strategy and otherwise done its homework. The foundation has also worked hard to spread the word about impact sourcing. (See its web page on the subject.)

This is interesting work, given that globalization is often viewed uneasily and that "outsourcing" carries negative connotations in developed countries. Of course, menial back office jobs can be a boon to workers in poor countries and can underwrite a rise into middle class life, as we've seen most dramatically in India. Bringing more of those opportunities to Africa makes a lot sense. 

Related: Rockefeller Backs Push to Train South African Young People for IT Careers

One of Rockefeller's partners in this area is Samasource, whose work fits in snugly with the foundation's Digital Jobs goals. 

Founded in 2008, Samasource works to alleviate poverty around the world through impact sourcing. The company basically breaks down its clients' large, complex digital projects into smaller tasks that workers in developing countries can complete. Samasource ensures that the workers are adequately trained and paid a fair wage. It maintains a field office in Nairobi and is partnered with digital delivery centers in Haiti, India, Kenya and Uganda.

Rockefeller’s latest one-year, $2 million grant to Samasource will help the nonprofit grow its impact sourcing model by supporting the costs of securing impact pledges from companies and governments. Samasource will also use a portion of the grant money toward implementing impact sourcing models for those participants.

The Rockefeller Foundation didn’t come out of the gate with a $2 million give to Samasource. That level of support comes after more modest initial investments that started in 2009 with an initial three-year, $67,900 grant. That first grant was different from those that followed. Samasource used the funds to provide skill development and training in communication technology centers to help generate job opportunities for women and young people living in the Dadaab refugee camps of Kenya.

Rockefeller didn’t wait to evaluate Samasource’s overall impact in the Dadaab refugee camps before making another, substantially marked-up grant of nearly $800,000 in 2010. The two-year grant was awarded to help support the costs of growing Samasource’s business model. A few years later, in 2013, Rockefeller gave the NGO another one-year, $200,268 to expand its impact sourcing business model.

Samasource is definitely doing something right in Rockefeller’s eyes. Just five months after that last $200,000 grant period ended, it received this latest $2 million grant, which marks Rockefeller’s biggest grant to Samasource to date.

Related: Rockefeller Foundation: Grants for Global Development