Today is International Youth Day and President Hage Geingob have wished our young people a Happy International Youth Day and assuring them that the government will continue to live up to its responsibility to accompany and support young people in ‘’their endeavours to become productive citizens’’.
The many programmes the government has set in motion to empower the youth, including its spend in the education sector, show that the government is concerned with where the youth find themselves in the Namibian society.
What concerns the government and the society at large is the slow off-take of these programmes and their success rate.
What is of particular concern is the general unemployment among out-of-school youth, as well among graduates.
In his youth day wishes the president call on the youth to ‘’devise innovative ideas to pursue their acquired skills to create innovative business ideas’’. But, when we have invested so much money in our youth to study only to come and roam the streets, is it not an investment in futility. We should not only ensure that our youth get tertiary education, but ensure that they are gainfully employed after completing their studies and contribute to growing the economy. But, if the economy does not grow and create additional jobs, we will remain with this conundrum.
The government has created tailor-made programmes to advance the interest of young people, which are DBN’s Skills Based Finance for Young Artisans, Equipment, Training and Operational Capital, Youth in Agriculture funding programme for Agribank, 8 million loan facility through the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service etc. Through the youth in agriculture facility, 38 million was disbursed in the 2020/21 financial year by Agribank for agro-business.
Between 2010 and 2020, the Development Bank of Namibia budgeted 1.1 billion Namibia dollars for youth economic empowerment programmes. But did these programme had desirable returns. We will say no, because we don’t see evidence thereof. Again it could be the slow off-take of these programmes and our wish is to see tangible results so that the youth do not lose faith in these programmes and the government’s efforts.
What we have realised is that it is not only the Namibian government battling with youth unemployment, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
In the just released report of International Labour Organisation titled ‘’Global Employment Trends for Youth 2022’’ the ILO deputy director-general Martha Newton observes that “the Covid-19 crisis has revealed a number of shortcomings in the way the needs of young people are addressed, especially the more vulnerable such as first-time job-seekers, school dropouts, fresh graduates with little experience and those who remain inactive not by choice”.
The report also says global youth unemployment is still six million higher than the pre-pandemic level of 2019, with the recovery in youth unemployment lagging behind the bounce back in other age groups.
The ILO in June last year said that ‘’the crisis (covid) has profoundly disrupted the education, training and employment of young people, making it even harder for them to find a job, successfully transition from education and training to work, continue education or start a business and posing the risk of a reduced trajectory of earnings and advancement over the course of their working lives.”
According to the 2021 ILO report young people have also been disproportionately affected by the economic and employment consequences of the pandemic.
Namibia and its youth want to see tangible changes and better impact of youth intervention programmes in the post Covid era..
While, the global youth unemployment rate is projected to be 14.9 percent in 2022, that of Namibia is higher and stood at 48 percent according to the 2018 Labour Survey.
We shall count on the President’s promise on the International Youth Day when he says that ‘’the largest percentage of our national budget is dedicated to developing young people in the fields of education, agriculture, entrepreneurship and other fields that are pivotal to our national development. We have created an environment in which young people can thrive and remain committed to ensure our children and youth a secure setting for learning, development, and growth’’.
Mr President let it happen. Let us find those 30 000 children who did not return to school after the Covid-19 lockdowns and let the 4000 girls who fell pregnant during these lockdowns be accorded the opportunity to complete their education.
The positive on the ILO 2022 report is that young people are well placed to benefit from the expansion of green and blue economy, in which Namibia is well positioned.
We find comfort in the fact that the report also indicate that investment will also increase in the hospitality sector, where 17.9 million more young people can be absorbed by 2030.