Generation 2020 moving our South Africa forward

Thursday, March 5, 2015

By Deputy Minister in The Presidency Buti Manamela

This year our democracy is turning twenty-one. In many of our cultures, the age of 16 and 21 are synonymous with the coming of age.

A young person goes through the rites of passage into the entry phase of adulthood, which comes with a huge emphasis not only on rights but also on responsibilities.

As our democracy comes of age, we will coincidentally be adopting the National Youth Policy 2020 (NYP2020).

The NYP2020 is a set of government commitments and goals in advancing youth development.

The current draft, which has gone through various consultative phases over the last two months, details how collectively we will deal with unemployment, poverty and inequality.

The NYP2020 has bold new commitments, which I will touch on later, but places emphasis on the fact that there are government’s policy and strategy commitments made in the New Growth Path, Industrial Policy Action Plan (and its various iterations) and in the National Development Plan that requires urgent implementation if we are to deal with the triple challenges that faces young people.

We have identified four priority areas as the main focus for the NYP2020. There is an emphasis on (i) education, skills and employment; (ii) economic participation and entrepreneurship; (iii) health and lifestyle; and (iv) social mobilization and national cohesion.

When the policy is adopted at the end of March 2015, our aim is to introduce the Integrated Youth Development Strategy, which will be the implementation plan of this NYP2020.

The success of its implementation will however lie in our ability to strengthen the NYDA, government departments youth units, provincial and municipality youth units and the coordination of youth focus in State-Owned agencies.

The role of civil society will also be crucial in this regard as an important organ that mobilises young people to get involved and counted.

Many young people in the civil society area of work have already expressed their commitment to work with government in ensuring that the overall goals of the NYP2020 are implemented.

Already, we have met with the youth formations of various political parties and many have committed to support any initiative that seeks to advance the needs, interest and aspirations of young people.

Beyond the process, it is critical that we address the coincidence of the coming of age of our democracy parallel to the responsibilities bestowed by this phase.

Since 1994, due to the huge socio-economic backlog that was created by the apartheid government, the new ANC government committed to massive social spending on housing, water, education, health, electricity, roads and an elaborate social grant system.

Above these, many incentives and grants were established to support small and emerging black businesses, a huge tertiary fund (now at R9.4bn) was established, fully funded internships and learnerships and a whole range of basket of goods and services that in other economies were not freely available to the historically oppressed.

Many people from the continent and all over the world even ask the question how is it possible for government to provide for all of these, and we all know that these services are in the long run not sustainable if they are not based on increased government investments.

For instance, as a response to the global economic crises of 2008, government increased its spending in order to stimulate spending, and thus grow the economy and employment.

This has been the trend over the last seven years and should begin to yield the necessary sustained growth and employment figures.

All of these still continue and plays a critical role in addressing the socio-economic imbalances of the past.

However, it is important that we emphasize the importance of young people, through the youth policy, to take responsibility for their own development.

I may now know what the implications of the statement made by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu that at some point we need a cut off in terms of the age for people who benefit from government’s free housing, but should we not be emphasizing the creation of work so that the youth can build their own houses instead of getting a pack of freebies from government?

The NYP2020 is definitely about facilitating opportunities for young people and getting government to create an enabling environment for them to better their lives.

It is about giving young people a hand-up, and not a handout.

As one Grade 11 teenager in Mount Ayliff said, “government can only do so much, and help us get this far; the rest relies on what we are able to do as individuals.”

The “2020 Generation” is not a losing generation, but a generation that will get involved, get into action, move mountains just so that they build a better South Africa.

They live by the mantra: Uzoyithola kanjani uhlel’ ekhoneni.

Through this NYP, we are indeed moving South Africa forward.