Rescue of the lost generation

There’s no sufficient barometer to measure youth participation in the country’s economy, according to Business Map’s Lucille Ghavera. But the youth is proving a safe investment for many businesses and has formed strategic partnerships with the government and the private sector on various development fronts.

Ghavera says it is estimated that the youth accounts for 62% of the unemployed in the country and the government and the private sector continue to seek ways to address the need for greater youth participation in the country’s economy. The African National Congress Youth League, for example, created a joint working group last year with the South African Chamber of Business to address the youth participation in the economy.

Other collaborations include the national Youth Parliaments, under the auspices of the Office of the Presidency.
Motivated by the rationale that “democracy must be learned by all generations”, the provincial departments of education work together with provincial legislatures to inculcate a culture of democracy to the youth “as early as possible”.

Says Phumla Mthala, spokesperson for the Gauteng legislature: “An important element of responsibility and accountability has been roped in and we will give the youth a hypothetical youth budget and ask them to allocate it accordingly.”

However, there are other various, relatively untrumpeted causes for youth development, such as the fairy tale-like story of Cida University. The Johannesburg-based institution, which caters for 1 600 students, drawn from among the poorest of rural schools, is registered with the national Department of Education and offers technology-based tuition towards a BA in business management.

Junior Achievement SA is an NGO that empowers students from high schools with business skills to start their own businesses. It has 50 private sponsors and donors, including Investec, and produces 1 470 graduates a year.

The perception that the South African youth is a lost generation is being rapidly eroded. And perception, according to the International Marketing Council’s (IMC) Yvonne Johnston, is vital “when it comes to the economy and investments”.

She says her organisation’s task is “to transform the image of South Africa internally and externally by creating, coordinating and integrating a compelling South African brand proposition”. The brand message is integrated across government departments, parastatals and the private sector, Johnston says.

Still on the perception front, the government formed a partnership with popular Yfm DJ Khabzela’s Positive Youth movement and the National Youth Commission and released a youth information booklet at the beginning of the year.

However, by far the most wide-ranging partnership is a troika of the National Youth Commission, the South African Youth Council and the Umsobomvu Youth Fund. This month the troika will announce a comprehensive plan to “get young people to be an intimate part of the economy”, says commission chairperson Jabu Mbalula.

Last month the Umsobomvu Youth Fund announced it will spend about R150-million on youth projects in the next three years.

“In recognition of the important role that agriculture plays in the economy, the Land Bank has been drawn into the plan and is prepared to make available a farm in four provinces—North West, Northern Cape, Western Cape and the Free State—where young people will work on the farms. [They will] later be given the option of buying the farms and thus be firmly established in the farming industry,” Mbalula says.

The national Department of Agriculture is also part of the plan.

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