24 January 2013

Zambia: Role of Youth in Economic Development


THE old saying that youths are the leaders of tomorrow is not just a delaying tactic but an old and worn out adage because it has become clear that youths should be leaders of today.

Youth participation in the drive to economic recovery for our country cannot be over emphasised.

Youths should realise that their involvement in any development activity in the country is what would make this nation go forward.

Last month, Minister of Youth and Sport Chishimba Kambwili said the youths were cardinal in moving the country forward and that is why the Government has decided to partner with them so that they were integrated in social and economic development programmes.

So far, a number of stakeholders, apart from Government, have come on board by pledging to help the youths in many ways that would at least guarantee that they come out of their static comfort zones.

These stakeholders have made this bold step because they have identified youths as an important component of national development today and not tomorrow.

The challenging aspect, however, has been that youths seem to be ignorant about this fact and appear as if they do not care.

While there are all these pronouncements, youths seem to be nowhere near these experiences.

The only time they are heard is when they are roughing up someone, engaging in riots and even undertaking unnecessary demonstrations.

That, to me, is not worth of youth's participation.

The youth should not waste time on such things but focus all their energy and talents on how they could help develop our country.

A reader and business consultant from Ndola, Gideon Syabeene, who gave kudos to this column, shared these sentiments by stating that the majority of youths who are supposed to be involved in many projects that would develop our nation Zambia are ignorant about so many issues.

Mr Syabeene's point was that if youths knew what, where, when and how they could participate in the development of their communities and the country as a whole, this country would have seen even greater things by now.

Not to make this column sound like a sermon, Mr Syabeene's concerns are shared by the Bible which says my people perish due to lack of knowledge.

It is true what they say therefore, that knowledge is power.

The column this week has decided to compile and share a number of youth projects that have been going on.

Besides the Youth Development Fund, there are other programmes and projects going on right now, projects that are just waiting for youths to take advantage of.

During Youth Day commemorations in 2012, the President of the Republic of Zambia, Michael Sata urged the youths in the country to take advantage of the policies his Government has put in place for them to defeat poverty and unemployment.

The President noted that in the past two decades, youths were not at the center of national development and hence he promised to provide adequate resources targeted at youth empowerment to reverse the status quo.

To follow up on the President's declaration, youth skills training centres have been dotted around the country with the Government constructing 12 more centres in all the 10 provinces.

According to media reports, apart from the training skills centres, the Government also intends to put up district youth development offices countrywide.

Districts like Ndola and Lusaka already have these offices in place.

Other stakeholders are also trying to supplement Government's efforts to empower youths.

A good example is the Yapya Investment Trust in Solwezi, North-Western Province which launched a motivating KR1.6 million Dairy initiative to enhance economic empowerment among hundreds of youths in their area.

According to Yapya Youth Investment Trust of Zambia chief executive officer Likando Mukumbuta, the dairy project would go a long way in assisting 50 young women aged between 16 and 30 years who were selected to benefit from the initiative.

On the Copperbelt in Luanshya, a youth group called Fisenge Youth Empowerment Project (FYEP) has come together with their talents to improve their lives.

FYEP seeks to reduce the problem of drug abuse, child marriages and other illicit vices that are common among the youths.

Last year, an extraordinary partner when it comes to social responsibility, The Zambia Breweries (ZB) PLC and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) signed a KR60,000 Youth Entrepreneurship Partnership which would see Copperbelt youths empowered with start-up capital and business management skills.

This initiative has since seen youths from Mackenzie Township of Ndola benefiting from the gesture.

Diamond General Insurance recently jumped on the bandwagon to bail out youths by assuring that the company would focus on investments aimed at empowering youths through changing their mindsets for them to explore more ways of creating job opportunities.

The African Development Bank, (AfDB) has also affirmed to help reduce youth unemployment by announcing that the bank has formulated long-term strategies focusing on inclusive economic growth to spur job creation, especially among youths.

And Education Minister, John Phiri said during a Better Education for Africa's Rise (BEAR), a KR10.6 million project was to be introduced to help change the lives of youths in Zambia.

The BEAR project seeks to strengthen technical and vocational education and training (TEVET) through increased equitable access to skills training.

BEAR is a five-year project financed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the government of the Republic of South Korea to support the development of TEVET.

This was reported by the Times of Zambia recently.

Additional stakeholders include the Turkish government, which has pledged to train youths in various fields including agricultural and entrepreneurship skills.

Turkey's Labour and Social Security Department announced in a media statement that the Turkish Government was ready to offer vocational training for the youth in Zambia.

These are just some of the pledges and action by stakeholders who have decided to empower youths as they have seen that it is crucial that youths who are the icons of change are engaged in development activities today.

Development is a complex and involving process.

It requires balanced social, economic and political policies.

Therefore, these stakeholders have projected a society of youth participation backed by strong youth policies that outline a clear road map for youth empowerment.

With this information at a youth's disposal, they should, without doubt be motivated and enlightened to know that a lot of action is being taken by the Government and its stakeholders to see that the youths made a difference in their communities and the country.

Let us keep abreast on the happenings around us and get fully involved so as to contribute to the general wellbeing of our beautiful motherland Zambia.

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