8 February 2013

Namibia: Pragmatic Solutions Needed for Jobless Youth

Photo: Laura Lopez Gonzalez/IRIN
Unemployed youth in the streets of Namibia (file photo).


THE contentious issue regarding 'struggle kids' refuses to die down and can simply not be wished away. Year in and year out there have been spontaneous demonstrations involving angry, placard-wielding 'struggle kids' demanding jobs from government.

Currently, 200 despondent 'struggle kids' who walked on foot almost 800 km to the capital from the north are squatting in a make-shift camp in Katutura, demanding that government gives them jobs.

Youth unemployment is a much more complex issue in Namibia. For starters, our economy is failing to create enough jobs for all and secondly even a university degree is not a guarantee that its bearer will get a job. Employers also lament that graduates are inadequately skilled for the labour market.

Our government has been concerned and is sympathetic about the plight of not only jobless 'struggle kids' but all other unemployed youth. Government has all along taken a bold stance to tackle this issue in a mature and systematic manner. It has thus far recruited thousands of jobless 'struggle kids' and other youth in the army, the police and other government ministries and departments.

Our caring government has not only given jobs to thousands of 'struggle kids' and other Namibian youth, but it has spent an arm and a leg to skill them.

Also in its collective wisdom government, through parliament, enacted laws to ensure all the jobless, the infirm, the indigent and the previously disadvantaged are accorded social benefits and amenities.

But on the other hand, the private sector seems conspicuous by its absence to help government deal with this issue though they claim to be "partners" in development. We should point out that the government is there to ensure there is an enabling environment to enable business to flourish and create jobs.

The lack of gainful employment among 'struggle kids' and other youth is a serious developmental challenge that should not be left to the government alone. Business should be developmental partners all year round and not only when they stampede for tenders.

The private sector should be cognisant of a study published last year that warned about unemployed African youth potentially destabilising the continent.

Africa has the youngest population in the world and its ranks are growing. The number of Africans aged 15 to 24 is set to double to 400 million by 2045. The African Development Bank (ADB) and the UN last year predicted the current rate of job creation - already insufficient - will not keep pace with the population boom and this next generation of Africans will struggle to find work.

This is a dangerous prospect because the World Bank found that one in two young people who joined rebel movements - in countries where there is unrest - cited unemployment as their main motivation.

Economists say Africa currently experiences what they call "jobless" economic growth, and it's more than a security risk. It's a waste of Africa's valuable resource: its young people.

Business should re-invest a portion of its profits into youth programmes that will secure its investments.

The consequences of any instability are too ghastly to contemplate and in that light we urge the private sector to put in place recruitment programmes that give preference to unemployed youth such as 'struggle kids' and other unemployed youth.

Alternatively, they should plough back a percentage of their profits into youth training programmes so that at the end of the day these youths are given skills.

The current cursory approach of giving a handful of bursaries to a few, select Namibian youth is not pragmatic and does not serve the interests of the nation at large because this record unemployment could one day potentially explode in our faces.

We need pragmatic solutions and not impulsive knee-jerk solutions because the mishandling of this issue could in future come to haunt all of us.

Our Constitution clearly says no Namibian citizen shall be subjected to any degrading treatment and that the dignity of all citizens shall be inviolable.

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