OYW Southern Africa Caucus Roundup

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The One Young World Southern Africa Caucus took place at EOH on Thursday 25 November. The caucus welcomed 150 people for a discussion centred on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.

The host for the evening was Mpho Manyisa, One Young World Southern Africa Co-ordinating Ambassador. The aim of the Caucus was to connect, engage and inspire the One Young World Ambassador community, partners and mobilise people towards impactful change, driving the conversation on being a powerful force for social good through SDG 8.

Mpho Manyisa, Levern Ramshubby and Mandy Muchnick 

Jo Pohl, CFO at iOCO, a division of EOH, delivered a powerful Keynote Speech on the context surrounding SDG 8, drawing attention to the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on unemployment and decent work in South Africa. She highlighted the stark impact it has had on unemployment figures in South Africa, which currently registers the highest unemployment rate in the world, with 7.8 million people in 2021.

Pohl highlighted that Covid-19 has expedited the need for technological solutions, and how “changing the inequality gaps (caused by Covid-19) can change the lives of people and add value to society”. Pohl said that we are all ultimately wired for connection, how “we just need to look inwards and take the time to find these connections again, and look at options that will make us feel braver”. 

As Marshall McLuhan said: “There are no passengers on Planet Earth. We are all crew.” On planet Earth, “No voice is too small and no one is too small to make a difference.”

Pohl said: “Start with empathy, lead with humility, follow with passion … No matter what your interests are … You are a force for good! I already look up to you. Simply showing up can make the world a better place.”

The panel talk was moderated by Farai Mubaiwa, Chief Partnerships Officer at Youth Employment Service (YES) and One Young World Ambassador and included:

  • Zengeziwe Msimang, Chief Engagement Officer at Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator 
  • Simonetta Giuricich, Chief Operating Officer for VAT IT Reclaim and One Young World Ambassador
  • Amanda Nthati Chembezi, Governance Network Lead at the African Leadership Academy
  • Malisha Awunor, Human Resource Director at EOH Group.

The panel was divided up into three main areas of discussion: decent work, youth unemployment, and economic growth. 

The Decent Work section emphasised not only safe work conditions but also mental health support in the workplace, touching on the positive effect that diversity and inclusivity have on a safe work environment.

Zengeziwe Msimang, Chief Engagement Officer at Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator; Simonetta Giuricich, Chief Operating Officer for VAT IT Reclaim and One Young World Ambassador; Amanda Nthati Chembezi, Governance Network Lead at the African Leadership Academy; Malisha Awunor, Human Resource Director at EOH Group; and Mpho Manyisa, One Young World Southern African Coordinating Ambassador 

The Youth Unemployment section dissected the barriers to employment for youth as well as solutions to these barriers.

The Economic Growth sector focused on industries with potential for economic growth and how to get people into these job markets.  

Not only in South Africa, but all over the world, Covid-19 has put a spotlight on pre-existing social issues, such as intergenerational wealth, social inequalities, unemployment and the digital divide. These issues have then only worsened with the pandemic. The connection between joblessness, intergenerational wealth and social inequalities has become more evident as a result of Covid-19, but it has also emphasised the role the digital divide plays in adding to inequality.

The panellists were asked varying questions on what makes up decent work and they touched on the different factors of a safe work environment. These factors can be summed up as a work environment that is physically and mentally safe, provides job security with a liveable income, a diverse and intersectional environment that allows employees to feel safe speaking up and for them to see themselves represented.

Key takeaways from the panel talk were:

Msimang stressed the need for conditions that are safe and secure, equitable, arguing that we should redefine decent work and re-evaluate what the word decent even means in the world of work. She argued that decent work is “fair wages and feeling safe/secure at work”. She notably supported safe and decent work environments for women in particular, encouraging others to legitimise entrepreneurship as something viable and sustainable. 

Giuricich pointed out that companies cannot combat youth unemployment alone, pointing to the need for companies and organisations to collaborate. She also spoke of the importance of inclusivity, so people feel psychologically safe at work. She shared her own experience of her “coach” pointing out that she could give up and quit, or she could pave the way for everyone who comes after her. She could make an impact for the people like her who will come after. 

Chembezi placed the digital divide in the perspective of youth unemployment. She drew attention to the fact that “since the job market is online, prospective employees will likely need a computer and will most definitely need access to the internet, which is a privilege for some and is not accessible for everyone”. She notably spoke of the potential of the farming, creative, and tourism industries, which can help with economic growth, and youth unemployment.

Awunor spoke of the importance of psychological safety to create an environment of safety and transparency for people. She also drew attention to the assumption most people had that working from home would be safe, but we need to understand that not everyone has that same experience. She  argued that there is a need to address the social and structural exclusion that exists to combat youth unemployment. To promote economic growth, she believes that we must tap the potential of the food, agricultural and technology industries. “An inclusive world is an enabled world,” she said.  

Following on from the Panel Q&A section, the final section of the Caucus involved an impactful action hour led by the Rise Against Hunger team, and approximately 7 000 meals were packed on the day for kids from underprivileged communities.

Thank you to Nadine Sandrock and Anneke Senekal and the Rise Against Hunger team.

A big thank you to the EOH, our corporate sponsor, and the EOH project team including OYW Ambassadors (Vandana Satgoor, Taya Howell & Tshepo Magoma), OYW Ambassador (Joy Trivangalo) and the OYW Southern African family (Mandy Muchnick & Levern Ramshubby)!

For more information on how to get involved, please click the link below:


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