The Political Economy of Youth Employment Schemes in Ethiopia: The Case of the Youth Revolving Fund
This paper addresses the interactions between the current regime of the Prosperity Party (former EPRDF) and the large youth populations in Ethiopia through the analysis of a major youth employment scheme, the Youth Revolving Fund. We argue that although the ethnic based movement party has been replaced by a new nationally oriented party promising democratic reforms, the policies and interactions with the youth represent continuities more than breaks with past practices. While youth dominated protests were major factors in bringing down the old EPRDF, youth continue to be marginalised and excluded, both as individuals and as collective actors. The thinking of youth as potential threats to the regime has been a major motivation for introducing youth policies in the past and continue to do so. Following the contested 2005 elections where the EPRDF’s power was threatened, the party aspired to co-opt young people by incorporating them into its membership ranks. A major tool was the expansion of technical and vocational education and training and micro and small enterprises programmes. Youth employment programmes had therefore two interrelated goals – creating opportunities for the unemployed urban youth and co-opting the youth. The establishment of the Youth Revolving Fund in 2017 was also spurred by the need to pacify opposition after the youth dominated protests in Amhara and Oromia from 2015. Through interviews with government and party representatives and youth inside and outside the party and the employment scheme, we identify ways in which the government aspire to control the youth, but also the way youth decide to act as a response.
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