Néba Institute- Creating the pathway to a hopeful future for Mali

Known globally for her present day exports of Grammy award winning singers who capture the nation’s rich sounds and history, through their storytelling, the multi-faceted African nation is abundantly resourced.   Mali was home to Mansa Musa who has been described to be the wealthiest man in human history and to the University of Timbuktu which was one of the first higher educational institutions known to modern history. Today, Mali is the fourth top gold producer on the African continent, responsible for the gold reserves that power the world’s leading economies in the West. While the agricultural potential remains untapped, another resource must be adequately contended with for Mali’s pathway forward, is the young people who will shape the country’s future. . 

 Presently, Mali ranks as the 175th poorest out of the 188 countries on the Human Development Index with nearly 45% of its population living below the national poverty line. Youth who are more than ⅔ of the nation’s population (68%) enter the job market at an alarming rate of 300,000 per year. Since 2012, the country has been experiencing instability and conflict evidenced by the presence of extremist armed groups in nearly all regions of the country, coups, utter failure of the education system, and economic shocks all of which have made the future, especially for young people, bleak and uncertain. Opportunity is limited, and youth are unable to reach their full potential. 

At Néba Institute, we believe that Mali could revert this situation and not fall in the trap of an endless multidimensional crisis. We believe the solution is investing in young people, who are excluded from economic and political life. This is why we are betting on young people to induce change, one generation at a time. Our ultimate goal is to create a just Malian society where all people thrive and have access to opportunities. Our intermediate goal is to increase the influence of young people in Mali’s political and economic life.

To achieve this, we think it’s important to overcome three main obstacles: (i) low access to quality education, especially at the university level, (ii) limited understanding and participation in political and economic systems, (iii) limited access to capital and economic opportunities.

We have set up three main programs aiming to tackle each of these obstacles. The first program is a scholarship fund which will help young people, especially women, access quality education at national and regional universities to pursue degrees in fields such as economics and public policy. This program will focus on graduating high school students and university students from a low-income background and excluded geographies wanting to pursue a high-quality education. Our aim is to develop Mali’s future workforce by plugging young people into the future of work.

The second program is a political series which is targeted at the young people involved in the other two programs (scholarship fund and entrepreneurship training program, as noted below) and young professionals outside those programs. Néba Institute curates educational content on the political and economic systems, organizes seminars and guest speaker series, and builds connections between public services and talented young people. Our aim in this program is for young people to decipher how Mali’s political and economic systems work, how to participate meaningfully in them and unlock the problems blurring their future.

The third program is an entrepreneurship fund, which will provide seed funding to young people seeking to launch business ventures in critical and social and economic sectors. Néba Institute provides the beneficiaries with seed funding, business development services, and meaningful connections and a learning environment at national, regional and international levels. Our aim is to increase employment opportunities for young people and the income they generate. 

As we develop and scale up these programs, we believe that collective action and coalition building will be critical. That’s why we work with a variety of partners and are particularly eager to involve Malians in the diaspora. We also invite partnerships and support from organizations and private individuals who want to advance young people’s trajectories in Mali and create a more hopeful and decent future.Néba Institute is an idea inspired by the story of a young Malian woman named Flatenin Néba Traoré. Read more about her story here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *