Deputy President Paul Mashatile has reiterated government's commitment to drawing in more young people into the economy by addressing the skills gap and creating opportunities to include rural youth.
“If, as a nation, we do not make a concerted effort to invest in the growth of our human capital and train our young people to acquire more marketable skills, we will not be able to create a nation that is competitive, relative to the rest of the world.
“We need to make sure that young people get the kind of education and training they need to adapt quickly to the workplace of the future.
“We urge business leaders to work with government to develop skill-based initiatives that can meet the urgent needs of the economy. Government cannot do this alone, as government is not an employment creator but rather ensures that there is an enabling environment for the private sector and other actors to create employment,” said the Deputy President on Thursday.
Addressing the second National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) Investment Roundtable discussion in Johannesburg, which is being held under the theme, ‘Unlocking investments for human capital for an inclusive economy’, Mashatile said the high youth unemployment rate needs urgent attention.
According to Statistics South Africa data, youth unemployment reached 62.1% in the first quarter of 2023. This means that nearly two-thirds of young people, aged between 15 and 24 years, are not engaged in any form of viable employment.
“This is a ticking time bomb, and this imminent crisis requires immediate and unwavering attention from all of us,” Mashatile said.
He, however, acknowledged that South Africa is going through the most difficult period since democracy.
“We are faced with challenges ranging from an ongoing energy crisis to high unemployment rates, dwindling investor confidence and an economy that is not growing rapidly enough to meet our development goals.”
Mashatile called on both the public and private sectors to expand initiatives that offer work experience, support, finance and market opportunities for young entrepreneurs.
He said the grants provided to youth ought to be attached to long-term economic outcomes, such as employment, sustained growth, and skills development.
In the 2022/23 financial year, the Deputy President said the NYDA Grant Programme managed to fund 2 320 youth and youth-owned enterprises; 34 209 youth and-youth owned enterprises were supported with non-financial development interventions, while 6 796 jobs were created and sustained through supporting entrepreneurs and enterprises.
“Indeed, we are working towards economic transformation for young people,” Mashatile said.
He urged the delegates to support the youth’s talents and initiatives that will sharpen their business acumen.
The Deputy President challenged the roundtable to explore more investment opportunities in rural and peri-urban areas, so as to extend opportunities to youth in those areas.
“Addressing the challenges of rural communities is a big step towards creating an equitable society.”
He also called on young people to support the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“This can play a pivotal role in making trade opportunities accessible to young people in both rural and urban areas. This will help countries to reduce the inequality gap.”
Youth entrepreneurs, Mashatile said, must also capitalise on trade agreements and frontier technologies to tackle systemic social issues, addressing societal needs and challenges globally.
“As young people are generally among the earliest adopters of new technologies, they are poised to take advantage of innovations in this area to drive the impact of social entrepreneurship.”
While government has ambitious plans to change the fortunes of youth, Mashatile said concrete action must be taken to make these plans materialise.
“We have to develop a discipline of getting things done. Now, more than ever, our reputation depends on our persistent dedication to the efficient and successful implementation of policy.
“If we accomplish this, we will unquestionably alter our culture and establish a more equitable economic system for the benefit of our young people, which in turn will benefit the entire nation.” – SAnews.gov.za