The high rate of youth unemployment in South Africa is unacceptable, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa was speaking at the Pre-SONA Youth Dialogue hosted by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in Cape Town on Wednesday.
"Any country that is serious about its development, prosperity and its future cannot be complacent that such a large percentage of the population of working age is languishing in unemployment," the president said.
Statistics South Africa announced that the official unemployment numbers for the fourth quarter of 2019 remained unchanged at 29.1% - the highest rate since 2008 compared to the third quarter of 2019.
Fin24 reported that the number of employed persons increased by 45 000 to 16.4 million and the number of unemployed persons decreased by 8 000 to 6.7 million in the fourth quarter.
Speaking at the gathering, ahead of his State of the Nation Address on Thursday, Ramaphosa said addressing youth unemployment remained his priority.
He said that, after promising last year that he would develop a comprehensive plan that would be coordinated from the Presidency to create opportunities for youth, the implementation of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention had now got under way.
"What distinguishes this intervention is that it is being driven by a specialised Project Management Office in the Presidency. Its aim is to increase levels of alignment and focus across government and begin to tackle youth unemployment at scale," he said.
Ramaphosa added that he would be announcing some of the immediate steps that the government would be taking to make the intervention a reality.
Accelerating the growth of competitive, export-oriented, labour-intensive industries and ensuring that the most marginalised youth had the support they need some of the things that needed to be tackled to create opportunities for youth, he said.
"Our first priority is to create a National Pathway Management Network for young work-seekers to view and access learning and work opportunities, to receive a basic package of support and work readiness training, and to be matched to employment and other economic opportunities."
Another priority, according to Ramaphosa, is to ensure that young people have the skills that they need to access opportunities in key growth sectors, such as global business services, digital and technology, tourism, agriculture, and social services.
Touching on education, Ramaphosa announced funding for free higher education for poor and working class students had been expanded from R11.2bn in 2016 to R35bn in 2020.
Government had also instituted two years of compulsory early learning for all children before they enter Grade 1. The programme was to ensure that, within the next decade, every child would be able to read with meaning by the age of 10 he said.
Ramaphosa will deliver his much-anticipated SONA on Thursday at 19:00.