DataKind + Swahilipot Hub Foundation: Using data science to tackle youth unemployment in Mombasa

By Christopher Apollo, Project Manager, DataKind

DataKind partnered with Global Opportunity Youth Network (GOYN), and its anchor partner in Mombasa, Kenya, Swahilipot Hub Foundation, to explore the power of data science and AI in providing an innovative solution to match “opportunity youth” (young people aged 18-35, who are out of school, unemployed, or working in informal jobs) with employment opportunities. With generous support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, we share our experience in delivering an algorithm to enable demand-matching between available jobs, training programs, and mentorship for opportunity youth.


Youth unemployment in Mombasa is at a staggering 44 percent, nearly double the national average. This means a large portion of young people lack access to opportunities that can turn their skills and talents into employment opportunities. However, the Global Opportunity Youth Network (GOYN) initiative and organizations like the Swahilipot Hub Foundation are working hard to bridge this gap by improving the human capital of young people, connecting them to training and mentors, and supporting job placements. 

The challenge lies in efficiently matching these young people with the right resources. Swahilipot Hub Foundation sees thousands of applications for their programs, generating significant valuable data on job seekers. However, with such volumes, managing the data on job seekers and available opportunities created a bottleneck. With intake data being captured in spreadsheets to create profiles, and manually matching done using filters, the overall process was inefficient and prone to human errors and bias. 

“We currently have 150 mentors and 3,000 mentees. In the next five years, we want to reach 3,000 mentors and 20,000 mentees.” – Ziri Issa, Technology, Innovation and Data Lead Swahilipot Hub Foundation.

The Collaboration

Recognizing the potential within the existing data, and understanding that current processes were limiting their ability to effectively connect youth with the resources they needed, DataKind, Swahilipot Hub Foundation, and GOYN-Mombasa explored how data analysis and data science could be leveraged to streamline the process. 

The project, led by DataKind, focused on three key areas:

  1. First, DataKind developed a web application that acts as a central hub for services and opportunities offered locally. This application utilizes a map interface showcasing services, making it easier for young people to easily visualize, locate, and access relevant resources.
  2. Secondly, and more importantly, a machine learning algorithm was created to automate job matching. The algorithm was co-created with Swahilipot Hub Foundation’s Technology, Innovation, and Data Lead, Ziri Issa, and Lead Software Engineer, Chris Achinga. This innovative solution, according to Chris, boasts two key advantages: flexibility and reusability
  3. Finally, DataKind also provided expertise, recommendations, and mentorship to Swahilipot Hub Foundation team members on how to strengthen their data collection and management practices, which was positively received. 

“The algorithm uses generative AI to fine tune matching and it’s a generic solution that we can apply not only to facilitate jobs matching, but also matching mentors and mentees. It can be easily embedded into the platforms we’re developing – helping my project managers. They won’t need to spend weeks matching!” – Chris Achinga, Lead Software Engineer, Swahilipot Hub Foundation

Capacity Building 

DataKind’s commitment went beyond just the technical aspects of the project. To foster a strong working relationship and ensure successful implementation, DataKind staff traveled to Mombasa in 2023 and 2024. The first visit involved a DataDive® event focused on building practical data science skills and directly involving the Swahilipot Hub Foundation community in the solution design process. 

In 2024, DataKind returned to Mombasa to hand over the project. On both visits, DataKind staff hosted full-day training workshops on generative AI and large language models. Through a combination of theoretical lessons and practical exercises, DataKind introduced key concepts, tools, and techniques to over 100 young people, sparking their interest in AI.

“I would like to extend my gratitude to DataKind for providing me with this opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills in data science. The workshop was informative, engaging and well-organized. I am grateful for the time and effort put in by the instructors and organizers.” – Rehema Said, Tech Outreach Ambassador, Swahilipot Hub Foundation

One key lesson that DataKind learned over the course of the project was the importance of in-person interaction and how it cannot be understated. Having a DataKind staff member based locally facilitated regular meetings with Swahilipot Hub Foundation. This not only helped advance the project plan but also allowed for building trust, addressing concerns, and capturing additional feedback throughout the process.

Impact and Next Steps

The successful development of a flexible and reusable jobs matching algorithm has paved the way for its seamless integration into the Fursa jobs-matching platform, an ongoing collaboration between Swahilipot Hub Foundation and the County Government of Mombasa, signifying a significant step forward in tackling youth unemployment in Mombasa. 

Looking ahead, Swahilipot Hub Foundation expressed interest in continuing the collaboration with DataKind and exploring new partnerships to leverage data science and AI to make a real difference in the lives of young people in Mombasa. 

About Our Partners

The Global Opportunity Youth Network (GOYN) is a multi-stakeholder initiative focused on creating economic mobility for opportunity youth – mid-teens to people in their early 30s – who are out of school, unemployed, or working in the informal sector. GOYN has anchor partners, such as Swahilipot Hub Foundation in Mombasa, that are situated in communities to amplify the voices of young people while developing place-based strategies to support them. Swahilipot Hub Foundation provides the youth community in Mombasa with a safe space that nurtures talent and skills in technology, arts, and heritage, in addition to creating access to essential resources such as mentorship, training, and job opportunities. 

Header image above courtesy of Swahilipot Hub Foundation (2024).

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