Youth Day – a reminder of what government has failed to achieve for our youth

Andrew Louw, MPL

DA Northern Cape: Provincial Leader

It is sad that while the country celebrates Youth Day, in reality our youth remain but an inconvenient reminder of what government has failed to achieve for our young people.

While many more young people have access to education than the generation before them, they have been unable to access the economy at the required rate.   As such, youth unemployment of those aged between 15-34 years, stood at 34.5% in 2011 in the Northern Cape. In other words, the Northern Cape’s unemployment crisis can largely be seen as a youth unemployment crisis.

The province’s high youth unemployment rates can also be seen as a failure on the part of our provincial government to create opportunities for our young people. The examples of such failures are many and include, amongst others, the following:

1.     Failure to help our youth cross the digital divide

The mere completion of the mesh network in John Taole Gaetsewe in the Northern Cape, is under threat due to inadequate funding. In this regard, the Northern Cape Department of Economic Development has opted to rather fund mega events (like the Maloof Money Cup, which has already swallowed up R160 million of the departmental funding) instead of funding necessary infrastructure requirements for expanding wireless mesh networks.

The World Bank estimates that with every 10% growth in broadband penetration, African economies grow by a corresponding 1,4%. We thus consider the department’s priorities to be severely skewed. As a result hereof, a large percentage of the Northern Cape youth remain without access to free public internet access. As such, they are being robbed of an opportunity to gain access to knowledge, skills and values they need to live and work successfully in the digital age.

2.     Failure to link the youth to economic opportunities

The department of social development’s youth development programme only targets 350 young people for skills development that is linked to economic opportunity.  The other 10 000 young people that they assist will merely participate in some sort of life skills programme. In other words, 97% of the allocation for youth development, or alternatively R23 million of the departmental budget, is to be spent on subject matter that is already taught in school. As a result, skewed prioritization is again resulting in our youth being robbed of opportunities to gain the skills needed to enter the job market.

3.     Failure to help our youth enter the job market

Our students, who work so hard to get a decent university education, find that government’s economic policies make finding jobs harder, not easier. As such, they are being prevented from getting that first job. Findings indicate that young people who have some work experience are over three times more likely to find a job than young people who have none. In this regard, government’s delayed actions are robbing thousands of young people from the opportunity of entering the job market.

In contrast to these failings, where the DA governs, we are creating the right conditions for a growing economy that attracts investment and jobs.

Unlike the Northern Cape, the Western Cape has woken up to the benefits of the digital world. Over R150 million is being invested in the WC to rollout free high-speed broadband to the public – this is the biggest such investment in SA. The WC has also entered into Public-Private Partnerships to effectively expand and upgrade the Information and Communications Technology infrastructure of the province. The WC is working towards extending free public internet access to all communities in the Western Cape by 2014.

At the same time, the Western Cape’s youth development strategy is directly linked to an economic strategy. Furthermore all programmes that the WC government funds via NGO’s, including those that are concerned with creating opportunities, especially for the youth, have a clear understanding of what the developmental outcomes are that they must achieve.

Furthermore, the Western Cape has also not allowed delays in the implementation of the Youth Wage subsidy to deter them from initiating a similar initiative in the province. In fact, their “Work and Skills Programme” successfully provides learning and work placement opportunities to unemployed youth between the ages of 18 and 35 in a range of sectors. A total of 2 810 job opportunities have been provided so far with 69% of participants having been offered permanent jobs once they complete the programme. Furthermore, the Development Bank of South Africa has also granted the Western Cape R64 million from its Jobs Fund to build this programme. This programme is proof of what can be achieved when businesses are incentivized to employ young people.

In the Northern Cape, the youth are being left behind, and they will continue to be left behind until people stop voting for the ANC, whose cadres are preoccupied with personal gain at the expense of investing in a bright future for the youth.  In the DA-governed province of the Western Cape, the youth are being enabled to follow their dreams and reach for the stars. The DA also wants to deliver hope to young people in other provinces but, for this to happen, we need the public to vote the DA into government.

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