Thiou Youth Generate Income Using New Cell Phone Repair Skills

Speeches Shim

Thursday, December 31, 2020
"Thanks to the training, I tripled my income." - Nourou, an activity participant

Alternative Income Sources for Youth in Thiou 

Thiou is a rural commune situated between the city of Ouahigouya in Burkina Faso, and Koro, the closest Malian city on the other side of the border. The commune’s degraded security situation severely limits economic opportunities, leaving many young people in financially precarious positions without steady employment or viable sources of income. This insecurity contributes to increased youth vulnerability to the financial incentives terrorist groups offer to entice potential recruits. 

To bolster young people’s resilience to these terrorist recruitment efforts, the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives’ (OTI) Burkina Faso Regional Program (BFRP) worked with the Mayor of Thiou to identify employment opportunities and provide technical training for 20 vulnerable youth living in the commune’s town and surrounding villages, including four young women. The community identified cell phone repair as a promising income-generating activity for youth, because many qualified cell phone repair technicians fled the area following previous terrorist attacks. Only two qualified providers remained in Thiou and found themselves unable to meet the community’s demands. Cell phone repair shops also offer opportunities for young technicians to apply the knowledge acquired during their training by providing the space for them to engage in conversation with their clients about violent extremism and lead discussions that counter the spread of false information that promotes violence. 

OTI’s BFRP focused on teaching the new technicians innovative techniques to repair a variety of different cell phone brands using tool kits during the training. These acquired skills enable them to repair a larger range of cell phones. After the training, the participants received their own toolkits consisting of a multimeter, magnifying glasses, soldering irons, and screwdrivers, which helped them start businesses in their home districts. In a follow-up session held several weeks later, participants checked in with their trainers to report on their progress, received refreshers on concepts from the training and obtained feedback from clients on their repair services. Participants reported a significant increase in their incomes, with most of them experiencing a three- to four-fold increase compared to the income they earned prior to the training. 

Nourou, one of the training’s youth participants, has been busy maintaining and repairing cell phones since the training, and reported market day earnings of around 20,000 West African CFA Francs, or thirty-seven U.S. dollars. When clients stop by his stall, he believes they are more confident in his work after the training and appreciate the discussions he leads on peace and stability. He said, "There is a significant demand [for cell phones], and I repair an average of 20 phones per week. Thanks to the training, I tripled my income."

These young people now benefit from more reliable sources of income and are able to raise awareness among their peers about community issues. They participate as key actors in the local economy and will serve as role models to engage other young people and help mitigate the effects of violence and insecurity in Thiou.