By Vumile Msweli, Chief Executive Hesed Consulting and Brand South Africa’s Play Your Part Ambassador
“Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom,” said South Africa’s late statesman – Nelson Mandela at London’s Trafalgar Square in February 2005.
16 June 2018 will mark the 42nd anniversary of the June 16, 1976 student and youth uprising that began in Soweto and spread countrywide, which profoundly changed the nature of South Africa’s struggle for freedom and democracy. The sacrifices of these courageous young people who fought for equal education which would enable equal access to opportunities for all citizens will forever be etched in the country’s history.
Today young people continue to grapple with socio-economic challenges which will ultimately impact on their ability to access opportunities in the country.
The South African youth are still vulnerable in the labour market. Youth unemployment, however, is not unique to South Africa; it is a global phenomenon. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), there are about 71 million unemployed youth, aged 15–24 years, globally in 2017, with many of them facing long-term unemployment. In South Africa those aged 15–34 years are considered as youth.
South Africa’s unemployment rate is high for both youth and adults; however, the unemployment rate among young people aged 15–34 was 38,2%, implying that more than one in every three young people in the labour force did not have a job in the first quarter of 2018.
Some of these young people have become discouraged with the labour market and they are also not building on their skills base through education and training – they are not in employment, education or training (NEET).
The burden of unemployment is also concentrated amongst the youth as they account for 63,5% of the total number of unemployed persons. The unemployment rate among the youth is higher irrespective of education level.
These statistics suggest that South Africa must create opportunities to ensure young people can participate meaningfully in the country including through the economy. In the face of these figures and knowing that young citizens consist of almost two thirds of the entire South African population, it is clear that time is of the essence and solutions must be found now. The development of young people must become a national priority which is mainstreamed.
Vision 2030 or the National Development Plan (NDP), has a special focus on the youth and it states: “Having a relatively young population can be advantageous; provided the majority of working-age individuals are gainfully employed…The challenge is to convert this into a demographic dividend. This will only be possible if the number of working-age individuals can be employed in productive activities.”
South Africa is therefore cognisant of the work that must be done to ensure that young citizens are able to contribute meaningfully to the South African nation brand while being able to access opportunities that freedom and democracy have brought to the fore.
All stakeholders in the country, including communities and government, have a role in creating the conditions for young people to become active, equipped citizens who can participate meaningfully in South Africa’s growth and development. Good quality education and skills development, including moral education, will be key to this. If youth can be motivated and educated the right way, they surely can spearhead the progress of a nation and make the world a better place to live.
The road to a better life, and country, demands hard work. It demands discipline, patience and responsibility. Young people must be taught to uphold these values. Such values are critical to enabling young people to be the social actors of change and progress.
Young people are at the heart of the future of South Africa and how they contribute to our country will be the consequence of the investment we make now. We must all play our part to support the young citizens of our country.
Vumile is the Chief Executive Officer for Hesed Consulting which a consulting firm specializing in commerce acceleration and women empowerment on the African continent. She is an international speaker and coach having previously worked for reputable multi-national institutions such as Barclays, Investec, Nedbank, First National Bank and Vodafone.
- 34th Most Influential Young South African by Avance Media (2018)
- 15 of 1000 African Voices of Influence (2018)
- Gauteng Premier Award for Excellence in Leadership (2017)
- Mail and Guardian Top 200 most influential Young South Africans (2016)
- Elle Boss of the Year in the Corporate Category (2016)
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