Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Monica Udvardy


Youth in Tanzania make up the majority of the current growing population and therefore are increasingly a focus of local and international development concern, specifically as the rates of urban growth and unemployment are also increasing. This research builds upon existing anthropological literature, which largely addresses contemporary and urban African youths as “problems” in dire need of governmental intervention and international solutions. Through explorations of the ways in which Tanzanian youth are actively and creatively working to improve their own futures, utilizing their own agency to create opportunities, and solving their own problems in the absence of successful external intercessions, this research eschews these negative stereotypes and offers insights into how innovation and creativity are shaping the lives of Tanzanian youth and their communities during the increasing and prolonged period of youthhood known as “waithood.”

Utilizing ethnographic data collected during eight months of fieldwork in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and methodologies of participant observation, surveys, and approximately 35 semi-structured interviews, this research contributes insights into the changing definition of youth and youthhood, the contemporary trend of youth navigating un/underemployment through avenues of volunteerism, and how local, youth-run NGOs and organizations are developing and utilizing unique methods of organizing to address issues relevant to their own productivity and futures.

Drawing from literature on youth studies, organization studies, social organization, labor, and class, the data collected points to the ways in which volunteering for these youths in Dar es Salaam is shifting from a social based enterprise to a professionalization of non-profit work, leading to a market for volunteering. This market, however, looks different when exploring class differences related to reasons for participating in voluntary labor, varying from required professionalization experiences in order to earn skills to obtain employment, to actually filling in for formal employment for those for which it is not available.

Additionally, this research examines the proliferation of innovative methodologies utilized specifically by youth-run NGOs and organizations, focusing on technologically advanced methods, such as 3D animation, and sports and games. The two organizations presented as case studies demonstrate how each method allows these organizations to conduct the work that many other groups are simultaneously involved in, but in such a way that purports to increase effectiveness, sustainability, and creativity.

Overall, this research lends a voice to the increasing, and dynamic, involvement of Tanzanian youth as leaders in their own futures, in a country where the government and civil sector loudly call for change in the media and in engagements with international governments, but does not follow this with action. I argue that the period of “waithood” for youth in Africa is increasing in length, leading to the need to develop alternative livelihood practices. The youth involved in this research represent the growing nature of the agency of young people, particularly in urban areas like contemporary Dar es Salaam, to challenge the identity of youth and to take up the reins and be proactive in ensuring their own, and their fellow youth community members’, success. By literally changing the way in which volunteering is typically viewed in the Minority World, and exploring new avenues of innovation, these young people are role models for the burgeoning global youth population.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)