BENIN – July 1 2022 New generation of digital entrepreneurs in training 75 young people supported by SOS Children’s Villages in Benin are creating their own businesses and working virtually. According to the World Bank, young people represent 60% of all unemployed Africans. Furthermore, 70% of African workers are “working poor and have very vulnerable jobs," states the International Labor Organization (ILO). Young people in SOS Children's Villages' care face these challenges as well. Together with an external training provider, SOS Children's Villages in Benin proposes a solution: virtual freelancing. "The younger generation is more willing to accept freelance work," says Salimane Issifou, National Director of SOS Children's Villages in Benin. "We therefore cooperated with Learnio, a social enterprise providing accessible and affordable digital skills education enhanced by online mentorship. Learnio was founded in 2014 and has already trained over 12,000 students worldwide." Yvette and Rodrigue, two young program participants from Benin, were able to secure a contract at MasterWizr, an international service provider specializing in the creation of professional presentation documents. An agreement between SOS Children’s Villages in Benin and Learnio was signed in August 2020. The participation of beneficiaries of SOS Children’s Villages programs is covered by SOS Children’s Villages in Benin, however the trainings are also open to participants from the community with a participation fee of $207. While the revenue is based on auditorium occupancy and number of auditoriums, it is planned that the revenue-sharing model funds training fees of young people coming from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds to help overcome inequalities. Training approach The training is based on a system of hybrid teaching, with both independent e-learning and live sessions in a physical classroom setting. For the classes in physical settings, SOS Children’s Villages in Benin offers an IT lab to the participants, established with the financial support of SOS Children's Villages International. In addition, continuous mentoring beyond the course is available to allow the participant to really succeed. "There are several training formats," Salimane Issifou explains. "Online, face-to-face and even evening classes are offered, allowing the participants to follow the courses according to their personal ability." The diverse training catalogue meets the needs of the international digital entrepreneurship market: 14 weeks of training, three hours per day and three different training paths are offered to the young people in graphic design, web development and digital marketing. The course also offers classes in Business English and a training on how to successfully start in the freelancing market. "The training is more practical than theoretical which our participants highly appreciate." Issifou adds, "In Benin, we have one computer training room with a capacity for 21 students. Since the beginning of the program, we have had 55 young participants from SOS Children’s Villages programs and 20 young people from the community joining the training in different groups. Initially, even more than 300 people registered—but not all got a seat. The students are mentored by an ICT Manager, an ICT Assistant and two already successful young freelancers. Both are program participants from SOS Children's Villages. After attending the training, they were so good that we decided to include them among the mentors to gradually hand over the training to them." Finally, Learnio also offers access to a social network platform which enables the participants to collaborate with thousands of other experts and young professionals from all over the world to exchange on the developed skills and digital entrepreneurship. “Remarkable learning opportunity:" Impact of Learnio Training in Benin "Learnio is a remarkable opportunity," Issifou says. "We need to create job opportunities and are already looking at 52 job contracts young people could secure—27 on the national level and 25 on the international level, only for young people participating in SOS Children’s Villages programmes." Out of the total 75 participants, more than 60 have already successfully completed the training and obtained a diploma. The students’ positive feedback confirms the success of the program: 100% of the students are satisfied. Participant Hack agrees, "Thanks to Learnio, I even became a mentor myself and also could secure jobs from local and international customers." In parallel, SOS Children’s Villages is strengthening the social integration of program participants through exchange and collaboration with other participating young professionals from the community. Another benefit is that young people who took part in this program show greater self-confidence, especially in the professional environment. Additionally, their English skills have significantly improved. Next steps SOS Children’s Villages in Benin and Learnio are ready for the next steps. The plan is to launch new training programs to allow more young people to have access to the freelancing market. External participant buy-in is needed to fund participation of young people from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds accompanied by SOS Children’s Villages. More funds for the set-up of digital community centers and computer labs are needed to extend the project to other programs in the country.