The 18th of July marks the International Nelson Mandela Day. This day is set aside not only to celebrate the great man he was, but to also encourage people to live beyond themselves and play their play in giving back to their respective societies. This day is especially important in countries such as South Africa where 22 years post-apartheid, there are still many socio-economic and political issues that must be addressed.
Over 60% of South Africa's population is younger than 35 years of age, and most live in extreme poverty; this is a major concern. Earlier this year, Statistics South Africa released statistics painting a miserable future for the youth of our country. The data indicated that young people, especially black and coloured youth, are faced with high unemployment rates, lack of proper skills, hunger and crime. The same statistics show that over 50% of young people looking for work lack the proper skills for the available job opportunities, and even with the right skill-sets, young people also tend to face entry barriers to the job market due to lack of experience and networks. Therefore, one can conclude that South Africa has a youth employability rather than a youth unemployment problem. Unfortunately, this is not unique to South Africa.
The recent acts of terror if anything teach us that if young people, who tend to have lot of energy, are not involved in productive activities, they tend to engage in destructive activities, including joining extremist or terrorist groups, abusing drugs, becoming gang members, and so forth.
The late Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. It always seems impossible until it's done.”
We can change the future of the youth of South Africa by giving them access to education that is fit for purpose, that is fit for the demands of the current and future job market. We need an education system that will equip young people with the right skills and resilience to enterprise and start sustainable companies. We need to create an economic, social and political ecosystem that enables young people to succeed.
The late Oliver Reginald Tambo was quoted by Deputy Minister Buti Manamela at the 2014 Social Development Youth Camp in Northern Cape South Africa, stating that “a nation that does not care for its youth has no future and does not deserve one."
Thus, I appeal to organisations, this Mandela Day, to consider opening up their doors to young people for them to gain skills, be mentored, and incubate companies owned by young people.
I also plead with young people to stand up and be change makers, and to break the barriers in society. Let’s live beyond ourselves and to give back to society. Let’s make everyday a Nelson Mandela Day!
Florence Masetla is a Compliance Training Officer for Barclays Africa Group, and the South Africa Chapter Head for CLIMB Against Sexual Abuse (CLIMB), an initiative which aims to break the silence on sexual violence and create a powerful movement of change. She is involved in several grassroots projects focused on education and youth empowerment.