Zimbabwe Has Its Young People At Heart in All Spheres

24 February 2021

Correspondent

The nation marked the National Youth Day on Sunday, the fourth time such a commemoration has been held under Zimbabwe's new political dispensation.

The day is very important as it signifies recognition of the critical role that this demographic dividend has played over the historic epoch.

Our independence is rooted in the supreme sacrifice of youth, some of whom exchanged their books for guns in their formative years.

The New Dispensation is not lost to the fact that the youth are the potential strength of a nation upon which it (nation) is built.

Zimbabwe, like many other countries, is a youthful country in terms of its demography with the youth constituting over 67 percent of the population.

With this demographic pattern, Government is fully aware that the youth are a critical mass that represents a tremendous potential for future growth.

For years, the youths have been the hardest hit by socio-economic challenges facing the country. For instance, the pattern of unemployment by age shows that the youth have the highest unemployment rate.

There is a clear acknowledgment by the New Dispensation that the youth are a vulnerable group that needs protection by Government.

The nation cannot move forward when its youth are trapped in cycles of poverty, thus there have been a number of thoughtful affirmative measures to create an enabling environment and marshalling the resources necessary for undertaking programmes to fully develop the youths and improve their quality of life.

The New Dispensation has done well in eradicating all forms of social, political and economic exclusion of the youths.

In their National Day message on Sunday, ZANU PF Youth League appreciated the revolutionary measures that the Second Republic has taken to empower the youths.

They also flagged some areas which they beseeched Government to improve in order to enhance their full participation in the shaping and building of the nation.

This was in synch with what the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry had said.

Minister Coventry said the National Youth Day was a window of opportunity for engaging the young people with a view to hearing their views and create dialogue with Government aimed at closing intergenerational gaps.

For a long time, the youth have been lacking opportunities for their economic development. This has been caused by the slow economic growth and rising unemployment mainly due to sanctions, drought, Cyclone Idai and lately the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nevertheless, Government established the Empower Bank that is dedicated to providing financial solutions to the financially excluded population with greater focus on the young people.

The bank increases financial inclusion, entrepreneurial skills and access to finance for the youth.

Business initiatives

It identifies, nurtures and supports business initiatives by young entrepreneurs. The youth, irrespective of their political affiliation, can get loans from the Empower Bank at a concessionary rate ranging from 5 percent to 7 percent per month. With this facility, the youths have potential to create wealth and employment.

However, as the ZANU PF youth noted, the bank needs to be adequately capitalised to cope with the ballooning financial demands of the youth. The lending conditions should be improved to make the fund accessible to all the youth even those in the rural areas.

Also in pursuit of youth empowerment, Government introduced the Presidential Youth Entrepreneurship Programme (PYEP) which subsequently led to the establishment of the National Venture Capital Fund (NVCF) which was financed to the tune of $500 million.

The facility enables the youth to access affordable loans, with the bigger picture being to encourage them to be job creators not seekers.

Government has also introduced tax incentives for those who create employment for the youth. Under this programme which is known as the Youth Empowerment Taxi Incentive (YETI), any job created for the youth attracts a percentage tax rebate for the employer.

The youth empowerment drive was decelerated by the Covid-19 lockdown.

However, the New Dispensation cushioned the youth by introducing the Youth Relief Fund which is being administered by the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation.

Government availed $17 million to the fund for all the youth whose businesses were affected by Covid-19 pandemic.

Government introduced a number of quotas for the youth to enhance their economic inclusion.

The young entrepreneurs have been finding it difficult to compete with established companies in the public procurement processes.

Government therefore introduced a quota system in the tendering system. President Mnangagwa also directed foreign companies that win local tenders to reserve 40 percent of the total work to locals especially youth.

Most of the youth were still very young during the land reform programme, thus most of them have no farming land.

Government has instituted a land audit that will see the repossession of underutilised farms and those possessed by multiple farm owners. Sixty percent of these farms will be allocated to the youth and the President reiterated this position during the burial of national hero, retired Police Commissioner General Moses Griffiths Mpofu on Saturday.

The education system has been adapted to meet the needs of the current and emerging world of work. This has been done through curriculum revision to increase quality and relevance to labour market and national developmental needs, particularly through an emphasis on skills development.

The new education system is now capable of enhancing the employability (including self-employment), productivity and competitiveness of the youth.

Political Front

The National Constitution section 20, which is in line with the African Union Framework, provides for the effective participation of youth in the political affairs of the country. In that regard, the New Dispensation is pushing for the amendment of the Constitution as an intervention to increase youth participation in the political economy of the country.

One of the proposed amendments seeks to reserve 10 seats in the National Assembly for youth. This will definitely enhance the role of the young people in politics beyond being mere supporters of the elderly politicians.

ZANU PF is already ahead of the proposed amendment as its stable in Parliament has a sizeable number of youthful legislators.

The New Dispensation is fully aware that the youth, for long, have been facing structural barriers which have prevented their meaningful participation in politics and governance processes of the country. That cognisance has seen President Mnangagwa increasing the number of youthful ministers in Cabinet.

The minister responsible for the affairs of young people, Honourable Coventry is a youth herself, so is her deputy, Honourable Tinoda Machakaire.

The ruling party went a step further by appointing a youth as secretary of the youth league. This is a major shift from the previous dispensation where an elder was imposed as their leaders. The mantra that the youth are tomorrow's leaders abetted in shrinking the political space for the youth in the previous dispensation. They are today's leaders.

Former Vice President, Joice Mujuru became a Cabinet minister at 25 in 1980.

Dr Simba Makoni was only 30 years when he was appointed Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

This goes to show that today's youth can participate meaningfully in politics beyond being members of vigilante groups.

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