By Francis Tsawayo WINDHOEK THE National Youth Council (NYC) in Windhoek last week held a youth symposium. The convention was targeted mainly at resolving unemployment among the youth. Special reference was made to try and overcome what has become a global challenge. Speaking at the meeting was Charity Mwiya, the Operations Manager of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI). In her opening statement, she described job creation as a serious challenge facing the country at this juncture. Using available statistics, she showed how deep a concern it is to address the matter, as it is estimated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that more than one billion jobs need to be created globally by 2010 if the present level of unemployment is to be considerably reduced. The subject of unemployment is important not only for Namibia but for the entire world. Eradication of unemployment in general but especially youth unemployment has become the biggest developmental challenge in almost every country in the world, she noted. With the reduced opportunities for employment in larger companies and government, attention has turned to self-employment and small firms as some important options for new jobs. Entrepreneurs have a vital role to play in creating jobs. “We need a radical national mindset shift to succeed at this challenge. As young people in particular, we need to psyche ourselves, into a paradigm that gears us to think of ourselves as creators of jobs and not seekers of work. We are a nation of survivors – our political emancipation attests to this – and there is no doubt that we can rise up to the economic challenge. We must do all in our power to turn the tide against joblessness and homelessness. Each one of us can make a contribution in this regard. The challenge is so huge that no contribution can be too small,” she said. “As a nation, we may have abundant natural resources like land, water and minerals but a major thrust of the NCCI is to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship in Namibia. We want to encourage the growth of enterprising start-ups, and to groom strong Namibia-based companies that can venture abroad to become international players. While we cannot make entrepreneurs, we can nurture the entrepreneurial instincts that are in us, and encourage such individuals to surface and thrive,” she said. Mwiya referred to a previous statement by the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Dr Abraham Iyambo in which he described a ” very disturbing syndrome prevailing among Namibians” – what he termed “the NATO syndrome… No Action, Talk Only (NATO)”. “This nation needs a generation of creative minds that must produce results, not promises. You’ll have to start by delivering change. That’s in your best interest and back up your action with words, not the other way around,” she said. Equally, stakeholders need to put up entrepreneurial youth progammes that offer practical solutions. According to Mwiya, Namibia should look at examples from other countries such as Nigeria and South Africa. Nigeria has a history of innovative youth employment programmes. In the 1980s, the government launched an agricultural employment programme directed at youth. The National Open Apprenticeship Scheme (NOAS) is an attempt to link education and training and the workplace provided vocational education and training to unemployed youth in over 100 occupations. It utilized production facilities such as workshops and technical instructors of private industries, government institutions and, by way of a sub-contracting arrangement, wayside craftsmen and tradesmen (informal sector operators). They are also taught management, business and administrative skills to reinforce their understanding of the trade in which they are involved and to complement the practical training received. Another good example of a best practice in the area of youth training for employment is the Youth Enterprise Society (YES) in South Africa. The mission of YES is to empower young people, through enterprise to become masters of their own destinies. Schools provide their premises, teachers serve as advisors/facilitators, and young men and women along with community leaders, educationists, business leaders together contribute to “create awareness and interest in free-market entrepreneurship as a career option amongst young people”, demonstrating the high potential of partnerships between the public education sector and multiple stakeholders in achieving effective education and training. These two programs have succeeded because there was an active response to a felt and identified need of a community and because of the commitment of all the stakeholders, Mwiya revealed. Namibia needs to build and expand on the practices and programmes that have been identified to work and this is a call for all concerned stakeholders. The organized private sector can be an active partner in the promotion of youth entrepreneurship, for example, through provision of internship and apprenticeship programs to young people. Government can encourage the private sector by continually putting in place conducive policies. “I suggest and put to challenge the NYC that organized this symposium to take up documentation of best practices and success stories in the informal sector worldwide and then distribute the information among the youth widely through educational seminars.” She said the Government had taken many steps to create supportive infrastructure schemes and policies to speed up Namibia’s economic development and to meet the aspirations of our young people. For example, there is massive investment in improving the road connectivity of both highways and rural roads. Telecom connectivity is expanding by leaps and bounds. This connectivity revolution should help thousands of new entrepreneurs to set up businesses. Calling for an attitude change, she said people need to change the common attitude that “things are bad and that it’s God’s will”. “This attitude convinces us despite all evidence to the contrary, that things are just awful. Instead of getting up and seizing opportunities, we are busy mourning and looking everywhere for new things to mourn at.” According to her, the youth have the power to change this norm and in encouraging them she quoted Oscar Wilde who said, ”You must be the change you want to see, you must as budding entrepreneurs and change agents, aim high and dream big.” The theme of the symposium was “Start Within”. Mwiya reminded her audience about the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, ”What lies behind me, what lies in front of me is nothing compared to what lies within me.” Within you is infinite power, before you is endless possibility and around you is boundless opportunity “.
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