A hubbub of high-pitched voices and exultations was the backdrop sound to Lindelani Madonsela’s graduation ceremony at the University of Pretoria. But while these happy voices washed over the crowded event, Madonsela was imagining a completely different scene. In it, he saw himself—with his newly-conferred Bachelor of Public Management degree—employed and able to provide for his family, as well as being in a position to give back to those who had helped him reach this point.
Five years later, however, his reality was completely different. The once enthusiastic graduate found himself standing on a busy street corner clutching a cardboard placard—similar to many seen at traffic lights around the country—advertising his academic credentials and CV, hoping a potential employer would recognise his worth.
But this strategy did not work and Madonsela had no choice but to return to his home town of Pongola, in northern KwaZulu-Natal. His situation has had a major impact on not just him, but his community too. This is what he has to say about it:
“People that are supposed to look up to you start doubting themselves. They wonder why they should work hard in high school to qualify for tertiary studies and push to go to university if nothing will come of it. People expect you to come back with a fancy job title, a car and to be that (high-class) person living that (high-class) life.”
His situation illustrates the sense of hopelessness felt by many young South Africans today as they face up to the country’s high unemployment rate. According to StatsSA’s latest available Quarterly Labour Force Survey, the country’s official unemployment rate was 32.9 percent in September last year. But this figure is the average—the youth unemployment rate (for those in the 15 to 24 age group who are seeking work, not including full-time students) is reportedly almost double that.
South Africa has many young people who are academically qualified but struggling to secure a job. In this regard, government has initiated all sorts of interventions to tackle the problem, but with little success. Unemployment, and youth unemployment in particular, is now a global challenge.
It is therefore fitting that two young siblings, Omar and Taha Bawa, have co-founded a social enterprise called Goodwall: A skills-based social network for Gen Z to learn and earn. Think of them as LinkedIn meets Tiktok. Their mission is to level the playing field for youth everywhere and connect them to better opportunities and livelihoods.
Through Goodwall, the brothers have created a safe space and community for more than 2 million+ youth to connect—irrespective of their socio-economic status, gender or where they are from.
Both co-founders have spoken at TEDx, the United Nations and the World Economic Forum in Davos. They have also been featured on several coveted lists, including Forbes’ 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneur magazine’s 15 Entrepreneurs Under 30 to Watch Out For.
The brothers come from a family steeped in humanitarian work. Their father served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), while their mother was the first female employee of the Global Fund to fight AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The siblings were raised on the move and were exposed to the issues of the world around them, notably the inequality when it comes to accessing opportunities. This awakened a desire to create meaningful impact from a young age. The pair also grew up during the rise of social networking and recognised that they could leverage this technology to connect millions of young people to opportunities at scale.
The vehicle to achieve their mission has been Goodwall. Believing that skills will play the role of the currency of the future of work, the brothers are setting Goodwall up as a pillar of the skills-based economy of tomorrow. There are 1 billion young people expected to enter the workforce this decade, 90% of whom will come from emerging economies. With reports that 3 in 4 youth lack the skills needed for employment and the skills gap expected to result in $8.5 trillion in unrealised annual revenues, the need to upskill the next generation is critical.
The name “Goodwall” is derived from a “wall”, where one showcases all the “good” things they have achieved. This is at the core of the Goodwall experience, a profile on which members present their skills with photos and videos. Similar to how Duolingo gamified language learning, Goodwall is gamifying skills development. As learners demonstrate their skills, and those skills are upvoted by peers like on Stackoverflow, they level up and unlock further learning and earning opportunities, incentivising and motivating them to keep progressing on their skills journey.
Learners are also invited to participate in challenges, impact campaigns and online programmes to strengthen their skills. Based on experiential and social learning, the challenges are hosted with partners to motivate and equip youth with the core transferable skills they need for future career success, like communication, creativity and problem-solving. The challenges are co-hosted and offered to youth by partners ranging from Fortune 500 companies like SAP and PwC, governments and international organisations like UNICEF and JA Worldwide. Employers and brands benefit by reaching and building early relationships with Gen Z talent and consumers. International organisations and non-profits benefit by scaling their impact and achieving their mandates and governments benefit by upskilling and mobilising their young citizens at scale.
Last but not least, there is the social value of the platform, where youth make friends and meet peers with shared interests and skills, allowing them to grow a global network. Members engage within a positive supportive community, beyond borders, leading to a more open and connected next generation.
Youth gain confidence and self-esteem, and importantly a sense of belonging in an increasingly polarised world.
Goodwall in Africa
Africa is a priority for Goodwall. Today, one in every five people looking for their first job is born in Africa. By 2050, it will be one in three. For every 11 young Africans who enter the workforce each year, only three jobs are created. Africa has the youngest and fastest-growing population in the world, accounting for more than half the global population growth between now and 2050.
This presents a unique opportunity to boost the continent’s economic growth, but only if the next generation is empowered to fulfil their potential and equipped with the skills they need to succeed in the future of work. Goodwall is seizing this massive opportunity to level the playing field for young talent in Africa.
Africa is Goodwall’s fastest-growing region, with thousands of young people reached through its skills development programmes. This growth and access to those who stand to benefit most from Goodwall has been accelerated through various strategic partnerships with various organisations, including the United Nations (UNICEF), leading media groups such as Nation Media Group (NMG) and EMURGO Africa. Through Yoma— a youth agency marketplace, co-created with UNICEF, GIZ and the Botnar Foundation—Goodwall is nurturing an ecosystem for young African talent to develop their skills and to learn and earn based on these skills.
Goodwall and Generation Unlimited (GenU), the world’s leading Public-Private-Youth Partnership anchored in UNICEF, have also partnered on numerous programs for youth. “We are working closely with Goodwall to fulfill our mission of skilling and connecting the world’s 1.8 billion young people to opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship, and social impact,” said Kevin Frey, CEO or GenU. As the platform expands across the continent, Goodwall expects to continue to develop these initiatives and grow the largest skilled talent pool in Africa. By gamifying the global skills graph, Goodwall is motivating youth everywhere to progress in their skills journey and connecting early talent to the global economy. This is how Goodwall is making the future of work, work for everyone.