FORMER United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said, "Young people should be at the fore-front of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society's margin, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies".
Of importance to trigger youth participation in national development, is the willingness of the leaders in government and political parties to give opportunity to well-meaning youths who are not just interested in talking the talk but also want to work vigorously in making society better.
The elders need to know that success of the future lie in the youths.
More importantly, what is needed is the effort for all citizens to change the present picture and build a healthy society by engaging the youth to expose themselves to the struggle, encouraging them to be leaders of the future, equipping them with knowledge and roles they have in society, providing them with the venue to re-double their participation in the lives of their society and developing their knowledge and awareness on the real issues facing the society.
A highlight of the World Bank's Zambia Economic Brief of 2013 entitled, "Zambia's Jobs Challenge: Realities on the Ground" states that in 2010 about 130, 000 young workers were added to the labour force.
The report adds that the figure will shoot to about 300, 000 in 2030.
It says the current structure of the economy and sources of growth are such that formal wage jobs are being created slowly.
"This pace is nowhere close to being able to absorb the new cohorts of youth that are entering the labour market," the report indicates.
Against such background, youths are the target, they are the frontrunners of growth for Zambia's economy, hence the need to continue investing in their well-being. Why so? The reason is simple; they will take charge of the country's affairs at one point in time thus cannot be left to wallow in doom caused by the effects of poverty and other social ills.
Unlocking the entrepreneurship potential of the country's youth is priority of any Government and political rhetoric has no room in this focus.
Hence there is no undermining the recent statement by President Michael Sata that youths are a critical component of the country's development process and no country can attain social and economic developmental goals without their active participation.
Mr Sata has called for the youths in Zambia to position themselves as key players of economic emancipation and that Government will on the other hand play its role to create more job opportunities and a schedule of empowerment programmes.
This focus by Government is cardinal in ensuring that our youths realise their potential instead of opting to indulge in social vices that dilutes their ambitions and zeal. Alcohol and drug abuse are among the vices that are taking a toll of the Zambian youths potential.
On the Facebook platform that the Head of State joined a million other subscribers to interact and state Government's achievements, he says Zambian youths are enjoying their rights and freedom but they also need to reflect on their obligations, responsibility and contribution towards national development.
"This is also a challenge to every Zambian youth to tell the nation of what has been their personal contribution to self and national development. It is a challenge to every Zambian youth to critically look at oneself to find out whether you are part of society's problems or you are part of solutions to society's problems. It is time for a paradigm shift and reposition oneself in an effort to contribute positively to national development," he says.
Personal reflection is a duty-bound to oneself as this helps one to prepare oneself mentally and psychologically to challenges in life's cycle, hence the call by the President to air this strong message to the youths who are the leaders of tomorrow.
Because of their importance, Government has placed the interest of the youths at the core and guarantee educational, skills training and employment opportunities.
He emphasises that Government also seeks to address some of the challenges facing youths by using locally driven socio-economic initiatives through the empowerment of Zambians while recognising the vital role the donor community played in complementing such initiatives.
In extending an olive branch, President Sata says, "we are seeking an inclusive government and open our doors to all stakeholders including the youths in running the affairs of the state. Your government is committed and determined to come up with initiatives that are meant to provide a framework and guiding principle for an informed and effective support in the design, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes that will promote productive and job-rich growth for our Zambian youth".
His target, as Head of State, is to among others in the next five years, to design and include youth employment strategies in national development frameworks, improve the livelihoods and employability of the youth and establish sustainable political will, leadership and technical capacity for achieving results on youth employment creation.
To start achieving results from his pronouncements, President Sata has announced that Government has partnered with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
The partnership has drawn a programme to create 3, 000 decent jobs for youths and improve food security through the development of sustainable livelihoods in rural areas and this will be done over a period of four year under a financial package of US$6.9 million.
This programme seeks to improve the financial performance of at least 5,000 youth owned-managed rural enterprises as well as boost food security for the local population by way of increasing the volume of production of soya beans.
The country's agriculture sector has untapped potential that can see the country double economic growth from the current dependency on the mining sector, hence the youths especially in the rural dwellings can utilise these opportunities to position themselves in this undertaking for their emancipation and the betterment of the country.
Other measures being undertaken have been highlighted in the establishment of youth resource centers around the country.
In this vein five youth resource are so far being established at a total cost of K86.4m.
In Chongwe, Chiyota Youth Resource Centre was being developed at a cost of K12m with 99 per cent of the works being carried out to date while in Chililabombwe Youth Resource Center on the Copperbelt, was also being developed at a cost of K10.5m with 80 per cent of the works being undertaken so far.
Kwilimuna Youth Resource Centre had a budget cost of K11.6m and the works were also in progress while the Kalabo Youth Resource Centre has gobbled K23.9m with works in progress and the Kafue Youth Resource Centre was costing K29.6 million and the project was in the process of awarding a tender.
Youth empowerment programmes have been rolled out with a total disbursement of loans and grants totaling K23.1m since 2012 under the Youth Development Fund.
This has helped to create more than 1, 039 employment opportunities among young entrepreneurs.
"This is aimed at supporting the growth of sustainable youth led SMEs into the private sector for wealth and employment creation," Mr Sata indicates.
Youth participation in the country's development cannot be undermined hence the interventions by Government are timely and it is entirely up to the youths to utilise opportunities in the offing to better their livelihood.