Opposition says ‘NO’ to Khama’s ‘YES’ youth programme
by Edgar Tsimane
Opposition parties have dismissed President Ian Khama's latest initiative, targeting youth unemployment, as unsustainable and, instead, called for the restructuring of the economy to arrest the situation.
President Ian Khama announced last week in Kweneng District that, in addition to the existing Youth Grant and Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA), his government has a new programme called the Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) aimed at uplifting the livelihoods of the youth.
Official documents regarding the modalities of the new programme, however, still remain unknown by the public except for the cabinet.
The Botswana National Front (BNF) says before the government can come up with new strategies to empower the youth of the country, the country has to first restructure the economy.
"We have a situation where every year, we have a huge army of youth who are thrown into the streets unarmed with skills to deal with challenges and demands of our economy. On the other hand, we also have grown ups who also have a challenge because of retrenchments and poor salaries," said the BNF spokesman, Moeti Mohwasa.
He said that another problem that frustrates the situation lies in the country having a group of powerful and influential class who compete and contend with the less privileged for economic opportunities. That powerful group, Mohwasa holds, is intent on making super profits to the detriment of a large pool of the citizenry.
"If the government of the day does not address this problem, we are going to continue to have poverty as well as high levels of unemployment. The solution is to change the structure of the economy which is in favour of the powerful and influential elite," says the BNF spokesman.
The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) said that although they do not have any official government information on this new initiative, their Movement has noted a series of Government initiatives aimed particularly at the Youth of Botswana.
“Our observations are that while the Government continues to seek and implement such piece-meal policies, our Movement has fathomed alternative policies that we believe will yield greater impact in uplifting the lives, not only of our youth but of our people in general," says the BMD spokesperson, Merapelo Letebele. ?She offers that the core beneficiaries of all BMD policies will be the youth.
"It is for this reason that the foundation and priority of our policies centre around establishing cutting edge, technical and practical education system and approach, to ensure that our young people are better prepared for the labour and business markets," she says.
The BMD spokesperson says her party's policies contain a litany of programmes such as that of a “green society” in which young Batswana will benefit from tree-planting, conservation, sustainable energy and other green sustainable projects as well as more comprehensive local and external internship or placement programmes. ?"Our comprehensive wealth fund system in which sectors such as energy, food, tourism, transport and manufacturing sectors in which Botswana has potential to excel, will, through its impetus on promoting wealth creating joint ventures, absorb our youth talent; our new approach to Agriculture in which vocational training centres will be directly involved with aspiring youth farmers will also bring hope to youth in the rural areas,” says Letebele. ?She added: "Our movement’s emphasis on research and development, especially in the area of indigenous foods, potentially leading to the processing and packaging of wild fruits, wild flowers, will also be a major instrument of youth empowerment."
For his part, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) spokesman, Taolo Lucas, says his party would want to first appreciate what the new initiative by President Khama entails. Nevertheless, Lucas says listening to the President on national television, it [YES] sounded like an internship or job placement programme.
"It does not necessarily address the structural problem of youth unemployment. The problem of youth unemployment in Botswana is a product of a narrowly based economy that does not create jobs. Piece meal youth programmes or knee jack announcements such as YES will not necessarily arrest rampant joblessness amongst the young people," argues Lucas.
He said that to address the problem of youth unemployment, the country must address the basis of such a problem which lies, according to him, in diversifying the economy.