Kathy Gibson reports from the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town – The issue of youth unemployment cannot be shelved, and needs to be tackled now.
President Jacob Zuma, speaking the World Economic Forum on Africa this morning, stresses that young people need to be employed sooner rather than later.
“I think the youth should be our main target as society, and the youth should be part of shaping the future,” he says. “If they are not embraced and if we say they will only participate in future we are missing the point.”
Youth unemployment is a global problem, he adds, but particularly in Africa where young people are in the majority.
“At the AU level we have come up with Vision 2063, a programme to open up more possibilities for young people. We are creating the infrastructure and connecting Africa, so the youth can participate in shaping the future.
“Young people need to be employed now, and this means we must create opportunities for them.”
History ensured that Africans were not responsible for their own destinies for many years, President Zuma says. “That gap shows today when we decide how to move forward.
“We need to be have clear programmes that give the youth a role in the economy. But they must also be empowered. We must not only qualify them to get better employment, but create entrepreneurs so they can create jobs too.
“It is important that youth participation is visible and effective because they are shaping their own future.”
Part of this empowerment, President Zuma says, is letting young peole participate in leadership positions.
“We should not be afraid to have youth in leadership positions. They should be empowered and should be part of the economy now. We shouldn’t create a gap between now and the future – the youth must be part of the process.”
Education and skills training is vital to empower young people, says Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF.
“Skills development is key,” he says. “And this requires that special attention is paid to the education system.”
Schwab believes Africa could use technology in education to leapfrog developed economies, but warns that this requires a special focus on education, and particularly on teachers.”