South Africa: How to Empower the Young, Spur Development and Create Employment


Young South Africans seem to be experiencing a kind of political and social schizophrenia. The economy is strong for some, yet insecurity and inequality continue to gnaw at the fabric of our society. Rigid ideological grids often overlook the complexity of youth development and empowerment.

What we need is a politics of progressive thinking, which South Africans have demonstrated a proclivity for in the past. The desire to go beyond one's muscles and glands, the will to journey into the realm of reflection, always strikes one as a pinnacle in the history of this country, a profound metaphor that sustains an indelible position in youth consciousness.

As former president Thabo Mbeki put it, as youth, "they had to decide whether fear and the instinct for self-preservation would predominate in their minds and hearts, turning their own conscience into their everlasting and constant tormentors, because of what they had been afraid to do."

Today, at the peak of our country's regional power and in the midst of its relative wealth, most South African youth feel uncertain about their future. They are convinced that life will be harder for them than it was for their parents. Even politically active youth feel incapable...

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