Windhoek - The chairperson of the SADC Committee of Ministers of Youth, and Namibian Minister of Sports, Youth and National Service, Erastus Uutoni, has called for action in evaluating, assessing and implementing current youth empowerment programmes in the region.
Speaking at the official opening of the SADC Ministers of Youth Summit on Thursday, Uutoni said member states should use the outcomes from the situation analysis study on youth innovation to ensure youth employment is achieved.
“The high unemployment rate among the youths across the region remains a very explosive situation and a cause for concern. We are grateful to the SADC which commissioned a situational analysis study on youth innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership and participation in the region. The findings force governments to pause and reflect on whether the current youth programmes have any positive impact on youths.
"Are the programmes we have in place yielding the desired results? Where do we need to change and who needs to change and how? How can we collectively, through various sectors, deliver on youth empowerment? We cannot and should not expect positive change if we continue to address youths development the same way year in and year out,” said Uutoni.
He said one of outcomes from the analysis study on youths innovation shows that member states should learn from each other, adding that it should be done.
“We can share knowledge, skills and resources where possible. Thus, keeping a regional database which talks to our achievements, challenges and envisaged activities will make it possible for the region to prosper in our endeavours,” he said.
Uutoni also urged member states to lobby their governments for adequate financial allocation towards the development of the youth sector.
The regional situational analysis reveals that youths remain largely marginalised in socio-economic processes, in employment and entrepreneurship, said SADC Deputy Executive Secretary in Regional Integration,Thembinkosi Mhlongo.
Mhlongo said youths in the region continued to face significant barriers in many ways despite the existence of a number of policies and initiatives at both regional and national levels.
“Indeed, a pressing area of great concern for the region is high youth unemployment and underemployment. The prolonged depressed rates of economic growth in the region means that our economics are not creating adequate demand for labour, resulting in youths failing to transition into decent employment.
"While the rates of unemployment are statistically low, the high prevalence of informal employment means that the majority of people, including youths, are engaged in largely precarious and less productive jobs, as well as self-employment in the informal sector,” said Mhlongo.
He said some of the challenges were attributed to lack of funding and initiatives which were falling short of demand to reach a critical mass of youths to make a difference.
Mhlongo, however, said the SADC Secretariat acknowledged the strides that were being made in a number of member states including the introduction of statutory levies for appropriation of funds towards youth development.
“As we go forward, it will also be necessary to ensure that we take concrete and determined steps to revamp our education curricula to address mismatches between skills needed in the labour market and those being supplied,” he said.