Youth are an asset, not a liability

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By Vince Musewe
THE youth all over the world have been acknowledged as an important human resource with the potential to contribute significantly to national development and, therefore, must be accorded such recognition and be involved in national development by government and all other stakeholders.

Youth are an asset and not a liability. Perceiving young people as a resource allows us to focus on long-term solutions, identifying needs and developing policies in order to let young people realise their full potential as citizens and let society benefit the most from their intellectual capital which unfortunately lies idle and marginalised especially in Africa.

For the avoidance of doubt, youth is defined as a male or female person aged between 15 and 35 years, in line with African Youth Charter.

In Zimbabwe, about 60% of the population are youths. In order to harness their skills, energy, creativity, ambitions and aspirations, it is critical that a new policy framework is developed in partnership with the youths themselves.

Such a policy framework needs to consider how we can deliberately put in place an environment in all sectors of our economy which creates broad access to new opportunities and possibilities for our youths.

Any sustainable youth policy needs to focus on three pillars; economic empowerment of youth through education and skills development, employment creation and entrepreneurship development;

Education and skills development are the bedrock of a better future for our youths. Under this, it is important that we:

  • Promote informal and skills training and development at local level including basic life skills
  • Advocate for increased access to school infrastructure, especially in rural areas
  • Establish sector-based youth incubators and create broad access for youths
  • Provide scholarships and bursaries for youth to further their education
  • Establish youth exchange programmes
  • Undertake  youth leadership training and development programmes in each province
  • Address issues that may be preventing youth from accessing basic education
  • Intensify internships in specific sectors  as developmental tools for youth
  • Ensure that our education curriculum prepares youth for a future driven by digitalisation
  • Employment creation remains a major challenge given lack of long-term investment to increase the productive capacity of our economy and thereby offer youth decent jobs and incomes. It is, therefore, critical that we:
  • Facilitate the certification of skills gained outside the formal skills training sector
  • Establish national apprenticeship and internship programmes to prepare youth for employment
  • Develop a comprehensive and accessible database of labour market information.
  • Incentivise employers to engage more youths
  • Engage investors to fund youth projects or companies
  • Entrepreneurship development has become central to economic survival due to the informalisation of our economy. A majority of Zimbabweans now survive through self-employment and to empower our youths we must :
  • Promote entrepreneurial education and skills training at all levels of education.
  • Facilitate the transition of informal enterprises into the formal economy.
  • Promote the use of ICT for improved productivity, creativity and innovation in youth enterprises. Enhance financial literacy programmes targeting the youth.
  • Promote the participation of youth entrepreneurs in national and international business linkage programmes and industrial clusters.
  • Establish and support business and technological hub/incubators
  • Advocate for youth preferential procurement both in public and private sectors
  • Engage the private sector on initiatives and linkages to promote youth enterprise development
  • Facilitate youth access to land for enterprise development
  • Engage local leadership to support youth participation in local economic development

In my opinion, these should be the fundamental cornerstones of youth development initiatives which must be applied in all sectors of our economy, the key sectors being agriculture, mining, energy, ICT, tourism, industry, trade, infrastructure, arts and entertainment.

I want to address issues around the participation of youth in agriculture.

Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector has long been vital to its economic stability and growth.

Not only does it form the basis of the direct and indirect livelihoods of almost 70% of the population, but overall economic growth, including that of all the other sectors, is also directly linked to the performance of this sector.

Agriculture must, therefore, remain a priority sector given its potential exponential impact on the rest of the economy.

Around 11 million hectares of arable land, is currently under the control of the government and this has to be distributed fairly and include youths.

The participation of youths in agriculture value chains is key to economic growth and can provide massive employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for them.

Key principles
Productive economic opportunities in the agricultural sector need various components. These include;

  • Capacity development adapted to the youth’s levels of understanding
  • Facilitation and mentorship in adequately accessing land,
  • Access to credit and markets while also enhancing the opportunities for youth inclusion in policy and strategic debates in the agricultural sector.

key issues

  • For young people to be fully vested in society, they must be given the resources to be empowered for productivity
  • Youth must begin to see agriculture employment as attractive. Attracting youth to and retaining them in the agricultural sector remain a global challenge.
  • Agriculture mechanisation is key for success
  • Access to finance is a critical factor in developing self-employment opportunities
  • Access to markets can be a major constraint
  • Access to suitable and well developed land is critical

Key action required

  • Facilitate the access of youth to government loan/input facilities in agriculture
  • Establish “youth in agriculture” forums or clubs in each province focusing on crops that are grown in that province
  • Establish model farms/incubators where youth can receive training and exposure in partnership with the Agriculture ministry
  • Establish a youth agricultural finance mechanism which funds youth who have graduated from incubators
  • Create linkages for youth farmers with contractors in the farming sector
  • Identify unemployed agricultural graduates and create employment opportunities in the sector
  • Provide agriculture product/export markets information

How do we achieve the above?

Get organised:

Establish a youth national body with provincial chapters or clubs

  • These will be used for dissemination of information, training and development initiatives including accessing opportunities
  • Must be established and run by youths themselves
  • Facilitate the access of youth to government loan/input facilities in agriculture;
  • Partner with government and service providers to create access and mediate for youth to access command agriculture facilities, and
  • Monitor and assist in the  effective implementation of youth projects under government credit or input facilities.
  • Model farms/incubators
  • Scope agricultural projects with a minimum size of five hectares per individual
  • The infrastructure will then be upgraded and the farms subdivided.
  • Farming equipment will be shared
  • Farms will be in every region so that we can spread development.
  • Youth must apply to participate and they will be allocated a five hectare unit.
  • 50% of participating youth must be female.
  • Allocate an experienced mentor to each group.
  • Each youth must have a viable business proposition for thefive hectares.
  • Each unit will be allocated a  minimum seed capital
  • Finance
  • Encourage agriculture financiers to allocate funds to youth
  • Ensure the youth Empowerment Bank prioritises agriculture as a key sector for youth participation

Contract farming
Link youth farmers with contractors in the farming sector and ensure a certain percentage of contracts are allocated to youth farmers

Initiate specific contract growing projects targeting only youths

Unemployed agriculture graduates

  • Create a national and up-to-date youth agriculture skills base which can be accessed online
  • Establish youth agriculture graduate placement agency which links youths to opportunities in that sector

Provide agricultural products/export markets information

Create an accessible agricultural product/export market database to be accessed by youths in all provinces.

Establish a commodities exchange platform for youths

In my opinion, if each of our provinces does the above under the devolution initiative, we will begin to see youths who are included in national development and are provided with the necessary tools and support.