Guest Column

Siyaphakama! This is a call to the youth to rise

2018-05-23 15:55
(Picture: Theana Breugem)

(Picture: Theana Breugem) (Theana Breugem)

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Luyolo Mphithi

Since gold was discovered in the 1880s, Johannesburg has been a city of vast opportunities, of dreams and inspiration, for young and old. The most fortunate and sometimes hardworking struck it rich in Egoli, the Place of Gold.

All the major banks and Africa's largest stock exchange are in this city. Johannesburg accounts for roughly 47% and 17% of Gauteng and South Africa's economic output respectively. Johannesburg's economy is one of the fastest growing economies in the country, averaging a rate of 6% per year. 

In 2013, by World Bank criteria, Johannesburg has been categorised as upper-middle income. The City's GDP per capita at current prices is R104 666.

This city stands for inspiration, hope and opportunity. For young people, living, working, studying and even visiting Johannesburg, the city provides a sense of identity. It gives an opportunity to young artists, community development activists, corporate executives, public servants, entrepreneurs and writers to be the best of the best in their fields and to be an inspiration.

Johannesburg is a beacon of hope that also creates opportunities for young people who are less-fortunate.

However, despite Johannesburg's reputation as a place of fortune, there remain serious youth unemployment challenges.

These, in fact, affect the whole country. Let me remind you of the lived experience by most of South Africa's youth. With little to do but loiter, too many young people who are not in education, employment or any form of training find themselves in a poverty trap. Youth unemployment is at crisis levels in our country. A painful struggle which affects over 3.3 million youth. 

Youth unemployment between 2013 to 2017 has averaged 51.95% and fails to drop. Behind the numbers and cruel statistics are the faces and stories of individuals from diverse backgrounds. We must never forget this. 

The reality is that, as put by Unicef South Africa, "as one child sets off to school, dressed in a crisp school uniform and polished shoes, another knocks on a car window at a traffic light, begging for money. As one sick child is given medical attention in time, another dies on the back of his frail grandmother, who arrived at a health clinic too late." 

Our country is paradoxically one of the best and one of the most challenging countries for young people to grow up in. We are faced with too many laws, policies, budgets and programmes that overlook the above-mentioned narrative. We are failing to address the plight of especially the most disadvantaged. Deep-seated inequalities exist.

Our young people who deem themselves young leaders need to step up, shape up and possess critical thinking skills to address the myriad of challenges facing young people across the country. We owe the youth, who are desperate in seeking better opportunities and yearn for quality education and skills training, a better message.

Siyaphakama! This phrase translated into English means: We are rising.

As young people, we must be allowed to rise. We must be capacitated to rise and must be encouraged to rise. And when we do, we must be embraced. We need our state and the private sector working with civil society organisations to be creative and innovative regarding the inclusion of the youth. We have a substantial number of projects and programmes aimed at empowering our citizens, particularly the youth. This is one way in which young people can build successful careers for themselves which will enable us to rise.

Let me share some of the City of Johannesburg's programmes which I deem important for the youth to be able to rise. These programmes will be run and administered by local government since this is the sphere of government closest to the citizenry.

Youth@Work

This programme will directly confront poverty, unemployment and inequality, while changing the way the state does business and provides services. The programme can be rolled out through co-operatives and community-based companies. The youth themselves will be able to propose innovative projects.

iKusasa

This programme will aim to break down barriers for young people. It will offer advisory, placement, assessment, training, work readiness and opportunity readiness services to thousands of economically disconnected young people in the country. It will allow each candidate to build their own path, combining different training and work readiness modules to unlock specific opportunities. And it will do all of it using digital platforms. A platform increasingly undermined by the state.

From both these programmes, the state will be in a better position to address deficits in the marketplace in terms of access for youth and digital empowerment.

Smart Cities 

Our local government needs to start investing in projects designed to technologically empower the youth by bridging the digital divide whilst ensuring service delivery.

Massive open online courses, citizen engagement clouds, techno-literacy and even the simple enabling of public access to the Internet all are part of the solution. Right now, the continent has the fastest growing self-paced e-learning market on the planet – growing 16.4% annually since 2016.

Digitisation, used smartly and accessibly, breaks down rather than raise barriers to entry. It is also evident that the vast untapped potential in young people that this new digital era can unlock. The backbone, of course, must be widely available internet access.

Access can only mean one thing. And that is having cities with free Wi-Fi hotspots to enable access to the internet being a free basic to a basic basket of data per person per day. This is crucial for cities such as Johannesburg of 5 million people, over 50% of them without regular access to the internet.

These are just some of the major transformation drivers the state can utilise enable the youth to participate in the economy. If the state invests, these programmes can ignite inspiration, hope and opportunity for the youth of South Africa.

We, the youth of this country can rise. We want to rise. We yearn to rise. It is for this very reason that I, as a black young man have put myself up to run for the leadership of the Democratic Alliance Youth in April. I have risen not only because I have the time or money to, but because it is my duty to. The state, private sector, and civil society organisations must create these opportunities similarly to what the Democratic Alliance has for me.

This is a call to rise.

This is a call for the state to come to the party.

Young South Africans: Siyaphakama!

I, Luyolo Mphithi, Ndiphakamile!

- Mphithi is the federal DA youth leader.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    da  |  youth
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