Some Young Tunisians Aren't Waiting for Politicians to Deliver

TUNIS, TUNISIA — Computer student Anes Nouri wants to launch a tech startup. Awatef Mosbeh, already has one: a smart children’s magazine available via a mobile phone app and focused on environmental and social issues.Both are holed up in a Tunis classroom one recent afternoon, staring at screens filled with a jumble of figures and letters, as they learn the basics of computer coding.Computer science student Anes Nouri, enrolled in the WeCode program, wants to launch a startup. (L. Bryant/VOA)Across Tunisia, jobless youngsters, including many college graduates, squander their days in coffee shops or homes, in a country where unemployment tops 30% in some places. The sluggish economy that ignited the North African country’s 2011 Jasmine Revolution, and later provided fertile ground for recruiting extremists, continues to limp along.Powering changeToday, a small army of young entrepreneurs is not waiting for their leaders to act. They are powering change through startups and grassroots NGOs. They are part of a broader civil society awakening since the 2011 ousting of long-time dictator, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.Wala Kasmi is hoping to channel youth's potential to change things. (L. Bryant/VOA)“Our education doesn’t match market needs, so we’re creating curriculums that are market oriented and respect diversity,” says Wala Kasmi, the 32-year-old founder of the digital training program in which Nouri and Mosbeh are enrolled.Mosbeh has a hard time finding qualified youngsters for her two companies, including the children’s magazine. “I don’t find the competencies,” she says, “and their parents are very conscious of that.”Supported by the International Labor Organization, the digital training program targets dozens of youngsters, most of them under 35. It is part of a broader movement Kasmi launched after the revolution, dubbed Youth Decides. Today, its membership of several thousand has spread beyond Tunisia’s borders, including to neighboring Libya.Young men are seen at a bus stop cafe in Tunis. Unemployment reaches 30 percent in some parts of Tunisia. (L. Bryant/VOA)“It’s frustrating when you see young people in the streets doing nothing,” she says. “If their potential is channeled, if they belong to the right incubator, the right community of thinkers and doers, they can do a lot.”Bread-and-butter issues top election agendaKasmi’s frustrations are widely shared. Jobs and other bread-and-butter concerns dominated the first round of presidential elections this month, a trend set to continue during October’s presidential runoff and legislative polls.And they were reflected in the first-round results, with two political outsiders ...