Zuma vows to shield youth from effects of sluggish economy

President Jacob Zuma has urged "young people to go out there and find their own opportunities". (Gallo)

President Jacob Zuma has urged "young people to go out there and find their own opportunities". (Gallo)

Education, entrepreneurship and economic emancipation dominated President Jacob Zuma’s Youth Day speech, as he encouraged young South Africans to take advantage of the opportunities presented by government to start their own businesses.

Zuma said government is doing its best to cushion young people against the effects of the country’s harsh economic conditions.

“Government will be meeting with business before the end of June so that together we can discover ways of further improving confidence in our economic growth,” Zuma said. “Government is also playing its part to cushion young people against harsh impact of our economic situation through the creation job opportunities and training opportunities”.

The president was speaking at the official Youth Day commemorations in Ventersdorp in the North West.

He received a hostile welcome from a small group of young people who chanted “Zuma must go” as he began his address.

The group was soon escorted outside the event where it continued its protest against the president. Inside the venue, Zuma was flanked by school pupils as well as young entrepreneurs from across the country whom he applauded for their roles in creating jobs for their peers.

Earlier this month, statistician general Pali Lehohla released the latest unemployment figures, which showed unemployment among young people to be at 38%.

Ahead of Zuma’s address, National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) chairperson Sifiso Mtsweni raised concerns that many of the unemployed young people were unable to generate work experience.

Zuma described it as “unfair to young people” that skilled youths were unable to access internships and other opportunities, which excluded them from economic participation. He called on business, labour and government to do better to improve the lives of unemployed youth.

“We urge young people to go out there and find their own opportunities and we urge government and the private sector to support young go-getters,” he said.

“There must be a programme that we all do as government, business and labour together. It’s a matter that needs to be discussed”.

Both Zuma and Mtsweni, as well as Arts and Culture minister Nathi Mthethwa, highlighted the quest for radical economic transformation, calling on young people to have it in mind in their endeavours.

“We have dedicated ourselves to radical socioeconomic transformation with an emphasis on the need to achieve economic emancipation,” Zuma said. “And education is most the powerful weapon towards economic freedom.”

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