Digital solutions to tackle youth unemployment

Wednesday, June 16, 2021
President Cyril Ramaphosa

While the challenge of high youth unemployment can seem insurmountable, government knows what needs to be done to address it, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The President on Wednesday used his virtual Youth Day address to launch digital platforms -- and mPowa -- aimed at addressing youth unemployment., said the President, is a national pathway management network that brings together eight government departments to form a network that will support young people to find pathways into the economy. The initiative, which was established by government in partnership with the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and other organisations, will be led by the Department of Employment and Labour.

On this platform, youths can create a profile, view opportunities for learning and earning, and receive support through multiple channels. 

Zero-rated by all mobile networks, President Ramaphosa said the initiative would complement government’s existing efforts to create physical spaces where young people can go to access information, opportunities and support.

“This already includes the NYDA [National Youth Development Agency] centres and will include the 127 labour centres operated by the Department of Labour and Employment in every province,” the President said. is already supporting over 1.4 million youths, with President Ramaphosa hoping it will reach three million more in five years.

“This ambition represents the scale and impact that we can achieve through effective public-private partnerships,” said the President.

The second platform launched by the President, mPowa, was developed by mLab, in partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation.

It aims to provide young work-seekers and entrepreneurs with information about services and support that is available in their area. 

“This platform builds on the success of the Youth Explorer, which has gathered and verified data on the services available to young people across the country.

The President said the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention will enter full implementation.

“We are extending the Basic Education Employment Initiative to support the employment of young people throughout the country – every district and every ward will benefit.

“We are establishing a Presidential Youth Service that will create opportunities for young people to meaningfully contribute to their communities and develop critical skills to participate effectively in the economy.”

Skills development

Government is currently piloting a new model of skills development where training was linked directly to employment in key growth sectors of the country’s economy.

In its first phase, the model will create training and job opportunities for young people in digital skills and global business services.

“This is in addition to the 137 000 learning opportunities that have been created through online courses in digital skills by the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa and the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies,” the President said.

The President said Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) will advertise opportunities to undertake learnerships and internships, and to access bursaries for further education.

This includes opportunities in the chemicals, health and welfare, transport and insurance sectors.

In the State of the Nation Address this year, President Ramaphosa reported that the Department of Small Business Development and the NYDA had achieved their target of supporting 1 000 youth-owned enterprises in 100 days, particularly in the township and rural economy. 

“This target has now been expanded to reach 15 000 young entrepreneurs, through a Challenge Fund supported by the department, the NYDA and the European Union.

“Through these programmes, we will create real opportunities for young people to grow their skills and earn an income,” said the President.

He urged the youth of the country to rise, and demonstrate that a better life for all is indeed within their reach.

“I call on you to put your innovation, creativity and energy at the disposal of our nation.

“Just as the generation of 1976 did, I call on you to take responsibility for your future. This requires focus, patriotism, commitment and consistency. In a word, it requires hard work. 

“You are the generation born into democracy. Our Constitution is your birthright. I call on you to take a greater interest in the development and destiny of your country.

“Just as the youth of 1976 worked hard for the demise of apartheid, so too must the current generation of youth rise and be part of defeating poverty, inequality and under-development. Armed with the tools of recovery, infused with the spirit of selflessness and service, our collective resolve strengthened, we can transform this country.”

In February last year, the President announced the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention just weeks before the country’s first COVID-19 case.

“The Intervention includes a range of priority actions to boost youth employment over the next five years. Our goal is to become a country where every young person has a place to go – whether in further education and training, skills development, work experience, entrepreneurship, youth service or formal employment,” said President Ramaphosa.

October 2020 saw the launch of the Presidential Employment Stimulus.

“The Presidential Employment Stimulus is now the largest public employment programme in our country, and is the fastest to reach such a large scale.

“In the education sector alone, 320 000 young people have been placed as education assistants and general assistants in 24 000 public schools across the country. Of these, 65% are young women,” President Ramaphosa said. –