ADDRESS BY THE DEPUTY MINISTER IN THE PRESIDENCY, MR BUTI MANAMELA, TO THE BREAKFAST SESSION ON THE YOUTH EMPLOYMENT ACCORD
IDC AUDITORIUM, SANDTON, GAUTENG
27 JUNE 2017
Deputy Minister for Economic Development – Mr Madala Masuku
Director General of the Economic Development Department – Mr Malcolm Simpson
Chief Executive Officer of the Industrial Development Corporation – Mr Geoffrey Qena
Leaders of Youth Formations
Representatives of the Labour and Business Community
At a time when youth unemployment had reached unprecedented levels, both locally and globally, the South African government and its social partners signed an accord at the Hector Pietersen Memorial in April 2013.
A 2000 strong contingent of young people cheered on as they witnessed the government, labour, business and community sectors acting in concert in addressing the key issue that threatens to derail our young democracy. After months of protracted negotiation, discussion and consensus building, the Youth Employment Accord was birthed.
The Accord carried the hopes and expectations of young people for decent jobs, expanded opportunities for education, training and entrepreneurship. The belief that young people could be part of the mainstream labour market and economy seemed no longer a mirage but a very real and distinct possibility. The firm commitment displayed by government and its social partners anchored the belief that youth economic participation must and will happen.
Accords are not worth the paper that it was signed on if they are not implemented, not monitored, not reviewed, the results not communicated and the accord not evaluated.
And most importantly the success of the Accord depends on the opportunities that it creates for its intended beneficiaries. In this case, the Youth Employment Accord must create opportunities for young people if it is to be successful.
The various aspects of the Youth Employment Accord have been monitored by the Presidential Working Group on Youth through the Committee of Deputy Ministers. Regular reports are received on the key indicators and programmes related to second chance education opportunities; work placements; internships and entrepreneurship. Good progress has been noted in some areas; fair progress has been noted in other areas and mediocre progress has also been recorded. The DG of the Economic Development Department will give a more thorough presentation on the implementation results of the Youth Employment Accord.
A key weakness of government is its poor communication in spite of its successes in implementation of programmes and projects.
The Youth Employment Accord has recorded many successes through the efforts of government, business, labour and the community sectors. Over 15,800 youth were given a second chance to complete their matric. Through the higher education system, over 900,000 youth have enrolled and benefitted over the last 3 years. The War on Leaks Programme will train 15,000 youth as water agents, artisans and plumbers. Government has targeted a total of 100,000 interns to be given work exposure over the 2015-2020 MTSF period. Since the signing of the Accord, over 48,000 artisans have been trained. There is a good story to tell. However, we are guilty of not properly communicating the implementation results of the Youth Employment Accord.
This has led some within the youth sector to believe that the Accord is dead or the Accord is limping along towards the graveyard. Many youth organisations and young people have lamented about not hearing anything. In this case, no news is not good news. So one thing is for certain.
We have to jack up our communication game if we want to keep the momentum of the Youth Employment Accord by communicating the progress of its implementation. If we don’t do this, we run the risk of the Accord dissipating.
The Youth Employment Accord has raised the expectations of young people. These expectations are not unrealistic.
They want to find a decent job; be placed in a good training programme; assisted in their job search and placement; and to get capital to start their own business. Four years has passed since the signing of the Accord. A young person who was 35 at the time of the signing of the Accord would be 39 years old today.
If this Accord has not produced any opportunity for this young person then his/her transition to adulthood would be jeopardised. Without a job, without skills, without further education or even a basic education this young person would find themselves in adulthood but without the basic foundational supports to carry them through. This is a situation that we cannot allow.
The Youth Employment Accord promised that public agencies will encourage and support youth enterprises and youth co-ops. Government departments such as the Small Business Development; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Trade and Industry have all responded to this call.
Indeed, the IDC, SEFA and the NYDA has answered this call through dedicated programmes and funding set asides. In fact, the IDC in the last financial year, has already approved over R1,2 billion in loans to youth enterprises and youth empowered enterprises.
However, the biggest complaint that I hear from young people is that they cannot find the finance to start a small business or the support needed to grow their business. Government is spending vast resources on youth entrepreneurship across it’s departments and agencies. Is the youth entrepreneurship pipeline working? Are young people efficiently receiving the services that they need?
How do we align both financial and non-financial supports to support the youth entrepreneurship ecosystem? We cannot allow fragmentation to rule the roost. If we are serious about youth entrepreneurship we must define this youth entrepreneurship ecosystem, align the players and get the ecosystem to work for effective results.
The private sector remains a key partner in the Youth Employment Accord. Commitment 6 of the Accord is about private sector measures and notes that specific measures will be announced by the private sector by June 2013. The private sector has contributed to various initiatives that promote youth employment. The Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator is one such initiative that has successfully placed young people in private sector jobs. This initiative led by a group of private companies built a world class non-profit job placement agency through investments made by private companies and government. The Deputy President is leading an initiative with private sector CEO’s to place a million youth in internships within the private sector over a three-year period.
However, the jury is still out on whether the private sector has played its part since the signing of the Youth Employment Accord. This is discouraging for many young people.
We call upon the signatories of the Accord representing the private sector, the leadership of the Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), the Black Business Council (BBC) and the Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), to own and live up to the commitments of the Youth Employment Accord. Without your support and action, the spirit of the Accord will be compromised.
Let me conclude by stating that we need to celebrate the successes of the Accord. However, we also need to review the implementation of the Accord, noting the areas with poor progress or no progress at all. This review must include an actionable plan to get back on track with the implementation of the Accord and must be supported by all signatories to the Accord. Without a refocused commitment, the Accord runs the risk of a fizzled out implementation.
We dare not betray the hopes and dreams of millions of young South Africans for economic participation through employment and entrepreneurship.
I thank you.