Appeasing Namibia’s frustrated youth

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Desie Heita

Windhoek

The latest report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has ranked Namibia as the third highest African country whose young population face a bleak future of prevailing high rates of unemployment, even for youth with university or college qualifications. This is despite the youth generally being better educated than their parents.

Issued last week the report, titled ‘Africa at a Tipping Point’, points at the need to address runaway unemployment and discontent among youths, if the continent is to “harness the energy and meet the expectations of Africa’s [already frustrated] young people”.

Namibia’s National Planning Commission, when invited to comment on the report, said the government is paying special attention to youths through strategies outlined in the fifth National Development Plan (NDP5) that seek to tackle youth empowerment.

“Under the ‘Economic Progression’ pillar, subsection ‘Rural Economic Development’ we talk about encouraging ‘youth and female entrepreneurship through a value chain approach of providing skills, and access to finance and market information through rural development centres.’ Under the ‘Social Transformation’ pillar, you will find the section on ‘Youth Empowerment’,” said Suta Kavari, the special assistant to the Minister for Economic Planning at the National Planning Commission, Tom Alweendo.

The Ibrahim report pitches Namibia as having the third highest unemployment percentage of a population aged between 20 and 24 years, just behind Swaziland and South Africa at the top. Nearly half of Namibia’s youth population is not employed, and is counted among the 29.5 million young Africans who were unemployed as at 2015.

The report points out that many of today’s youth feel devoid of economic prospects and robbed of any say on the future of their own continent, and how this is a test to democracy, which although free and fair, has failed to translate into job opportunities for the many educated youths on the continent.

Nevertheless, Kavari pointed out to New Era that the strategies contained in NDP5 include the strengthening of enterprise development and sustainability. “This strategy will ensure that young people contribute to the growth of the nation by improving access to adequate (needs responsive) credit and production equipment in a more equitable manner, and introducing mentorship programmes,” he said.

Other strategies under NDP5 for youths are to improve and promote youth health and well-being. This would ensure that Namibian young people are educated and empowered in sexual and reproductive health so that they are able to make informed decisions.

Further, there is a call to improve and strengthen technical skills. “The strategy will expand and improve the capacity and quality of technical and vocational education by implementing a comparative advantage-based curriculum with non-elective arts and vocational subjects. It will establish a link for available unemployed youth and potential employers,” said Kavari.

The report says the commodity cycle of the past decade may have supercharged many African gross domestic products but it created almost no jobs.

“Young people may have spent more years in school but too few have been equipped with the skills the economy needs. The more educated they are, the less likely they are to find employment on their own continent,” says the report.

The report says the bulk of African youth continue to study arts and humanities instead of engineering or information and communication technology (ICT), or other technical courses, with the exception of youths in Zimbabwe – the highest in this regard in Africa; Gambia – highest with youths enrolled in ICT technology, and South Africa.

Another aspect of the report is the finding that many youth enrol for studies in subjects that would not contribute to the development of the continent, or those in line with Africa’s development agenda.

The report finds that while the continent is still making progress, it is faced with a real risk of falling back. “The future will depend, more than anything else, on Africa’s ability to harness the energy and meet the expectations of its young people,” it says.

The report was released ahead of the upcoming Ibrahim Forum next week where its content would be the centre of discussion in Morocco. The focus of the 2017 Forum is ‘Africa at a Tipping Point’ and what needs to be done to ensure that Africa’s progress continues to rise rather than fall back.

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