By Tshiamo Dichabe
This current looting and unrest by our young people in South Africa is evidence of a ticking time bomb that was left unattended to and now it is about to explode. As it is, there are signs that there is definitely an urgent need for all spheres of the South African Government and Organs of State to recalibrate, collaborate and to find absolute solutions to prioritise and implement the institutionalisation of policies targeting young people such the new National Youth Policy 2030 (#NYP2030) in order to deal with the high levels of youth unemployment.
The partnership between the Public sector and Private sector on programmes such as the Youth Employment Service (YES) seems to be failing and proving not be effective in addressing the current needs of our youth. We therefore have a need to collaboratively develop and implement a clear economic transformation model that can work to redress the skills shortage, decrease the brain-drain and increase employment while creating entrepreneurship opportunities for youth in South Africa. We need to enhance public employment programmes such as the EPWP and CWP and have clear exit strategies that will catalyse and fast track the skills revolution in the country and give direction to our young people through education, skills development and entrepreneurship alignment, for them to become leaders in development.
On the 18th of July we will be celebrating the birthday of our former Statesman, President and struggle hero, Ntate Nelson Mandela, who once said that “Youth are a valued possession of the nation. Without them there is no future. Their needs are immense and urgent. They are the centre of reconstruction and development”, and his words are more so relevant today, as on the day he spoke them during his State of the Nation Address in 1994. According to StatsSA, which is of a great concern, the indication is that “the Youth unemployment rate under the expanded definition is a staggering 74.7%, which means that only one in four school leavers who are 24 or under currently have a job in South Africa”. Stats SA continues to indicate that “the majority of youth in South Africa are neither working nor studying and do not have the opportunity to learn and improve their skills”.
In the past month, as we remembered and celebrated the heroism of the youth of 1976 and we engaged with young people on deferent platforms, it became clear to me and important to note that the current generation is facing seriously challenging times. This new era requires a new kind of activism by our young people to deal with the high levels of youth unemployment, within a globalised “pandemic” context. While the mood during the Youth Month was numbing and hopeless, our Government failed to inspire hope and address the youth issues clearly. At the same time it also seemed to indicate a mindset shift from our young people; from victims to victors and that a new type of energy and urgency was emerging from our youth in 2021, with an activism spirit that seeks to spark a flame of hope toward economic freedom.
The official StatsSA youth unemployment figure is currently sitting at a staggering 46.3% in Quarter 1 of 2021. This should be alarming as it indicates that almost half of the young people in South Africa are currently unemployed and have no hopes of finding jobs in the near future. I am of the opinion that if the same verve and effectiveness that I have seen at play for the Covid-19 pandemic communications and mobilisation machinery was to be applied to the “youth unemployment pandemic” that our young people are facing, through access to free education, and if the same political will and private sector support to roll out the vaccination programme was applied to roll out skills development programmes in the country, then we will be able to deal with the high levels of youth unemployment in South Africa.
We need to ensure that the future generation have tried and tested models and blueprints that can assist them to pave a clear economic roadmap to deal with the triple challenges that we are facing as a Nation. We have a joint responsibility to ensure that we create a solid foundation from which our future generations can build on. The time has come when we need be proactive as a Nation and design a future state that we want to live in, our kids can live in and in which we all have equal opportunities for success. We need to strategically realign and integrate our youth programmes to economic opportunities within key sectors of our economy such as agriculture, construction and energy, which can positively contribute to the country’s growth and development objectives and be aligned to priority programmes implemented by our National Departments, Provincial Governments and Municipalities.
There is a clear need for alignment of the #NYP2030 to the #NDP2030 and the AU #agenda2063, as these policies can provide directives that can attract foreign direct investment in the key sectors and priority programmes of the country, and create a conducive environment for impact investment partners to partner with youth-focused enterprises and stakeholders on, amongst other initiatives, the immediate rollout of:
1) Supportive, progressive and self sustainable youth development campaigns at ward level, within municipalities.
These campaigns can be piloted to encourage young people to be leaders and creators of their own destiny – architects of their own future. As such Ubuntu, Collaborative Leadership and Interpersonal Leadership become important from the leadership and the key pillars for success.
2) Mobilization of the unemployed youth to be job creators through skills development, enterprise development and supplier development programmes and participation in production value chains.
We need to be on the ground as leaders, in the streets and going to the masses, even using clubs, tarvens and bars for programmes such as the UAFF Farmer Support, the Youth Engage by Local Government Youth Development Forum (LGYDF) & the BizJam Friday Business Networking Sessions by SAYCC, just to name a few as examples. Information and Education are key pillars for the success of our nation.
3) Public-Private-Partnerships with likeminded leaders within our communities and municipalities, so as to collaborate on LED programmes and initiatives focusing on Youth development e.g. youth economic hubs in sectors such as manufacturing, ICT, agriculture, construction and energy production.
Our actions and contributions today will be determined and be judged by the future state in which our kids and grand kids will inherit and live in – say 20 to 30 years from now. We should therefore provide the institutional capacity through networks and collaboration in training and skills development programmes, we must ensure that we re-skill and up-skill the masses of our young people who are the hardest hit by the triple challenges.
We want State-led financial governance structures like the Reserve Bank and SARS to develop a clear regulatory framework for financial resources to be re-invested in the local economy. We need to encourage local investors and their Trusts to participate in impact investing for commercial and community gains – 50/50. South Africa needs investment and not aid – so we can encourage local and international impact investing partners to assist and partner with our young people to drive local economic growth, support local investment plans and encourage individual savings plans that can buy into the social enterprises within the locality and in the key sectors within that region.
It is important to appreciate and understand that it will not be easy to implement all the suggestions stated above, but the current pandemic has demonstrated to all of us that if we work together, resources pulled in one direction, then we can achieve anything.
We are, after all – A Nation of Champions
May Ntate God bless and prosper South Africa and protect all her people as we enter the new era in human history. The greatest gift we can give to the next generation is a culture of learning and exploring.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Africanian News.