Saturday, January 16, 2021

Gov’t should strive to reinforce youth empowerment

We appreciate the concerted efforts by Shoshong Member of Parliament Phillip Makgalemele to advocate for youth empowerment. Since he entered the hallowed halls of parliament, Makgalemele has been the champion of youth empowerment, challenging a number of ministries to detail how they enhance youth empowerment in their operations, and the amount of business that they do with youth owned companies. It has to be said that a number of ministries really impressed. In the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, a recurrent budget of P30 million was allocated for the implementation of the Youth Development Fund during the 2009/2010 Financial Year. During the financial year 2009/2010, a total of 244 Youth Projects were funded at the value of P21 million. It is envisaged that approximately 1000 youth businesses will be funded at a total value of P60 million during 2010/2011 financial year.

To support the CEDA Young Farmers Fund, a special program for facilitation of allocation of land to young farmers is in place and being implemented at the Ministry of Lands and Housing.

Government has also disbursed P100 million from the Alcohol Levy to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture from which P30 million will be used to capitalize the Youth Development Fund. Government has also committed forty-five percent (45%) of all revenues collected from the Alcohol Levy to be provided to the Department of Youth to continue funding youth projects.

The Ministry of Infrastructure Science and Technology also offers specific business opportunities for the youth, especially in maintenance. To date the ministry has registered 72 Youth Contractors and 750 youth with vocational skills around the country in its database. During the 2009/2010 financial year, over P24million was spent on youth companies.

While a number of ministries have impressed in their youth empowerment initiatives, some have been very disappointing. We appreciate that youth empowerment might not be the direct mandate of some ministries, but we challenge them to harness operations to ensure that they do more business with youth owned companies. After all, the youth are the future of this country. It will be a disgrace if government and the private sector choose to deal with established companies only, without making an effort to support up and coming youth owned companies. It is becoming more difficult for the youth to find employment, such that a lot of them venture into business to sustain themselves. This is a positive culture that should be encouraged. We applaud government’s efforts to assist out of school youth with funds to start their own businesses. We also applaud the initiative of other institutions like CEDA, LEA and KBL through its Kick start program. It is still unclear if private financial institutions like commercial banks have any youth empowerment programs in place. If they don’t, we strongly encourage them to do so.

But youth companies can only succeed if they get adequate and targeted support from other stakeholders. That is why we challenge each and every organization, ministry and government department to have a clear youth empowerment strategy, and ensure that they do business with youth owned companies. Otherwise initiatives like the youth grant, CEDA loans and Kickstart will come to naught. We cannot afford to pour millions into youth empowerment initiatives only four them to go up in smoke. Many youth owned companies have folded because of lack of adequate support. It has also come to our attention that there is not enough mentoring and entrepreneurship training in youth owned companies. This is one of the reasons why a lot of funded youth projects end up failing. There should be adequate support from both the mentors and the business environment to ensure that funded youth programs become sustainable. A lot of them end up collapsing because of lack of business. Some of them cannot identify markets for their products. This is a clear indication that something is amiss, and now is the time to remedy the situation.

The youth should also pull up their socks and make sure that they sustain their businesses. Poor workmanship should become a thing of the past. Many youth owned companies in the past abandoned multi million Pula development projects, at massive cost to government. The youth must rid themselves of a culture of dependency and entitlement and go out into the business wilderness to look for alternative markets. Laziness, financial laxity and lack of initiative should cease. It takes the hardest workers to make it in business. It takes only those who use their money wisely and save for rainy days, to survive the harsh business world. No successful business man is a lame duck. Successful businessmen are hard working and financially prudent. They don’t rush to buy flashy cars, or blow their money on booze and designer clothes, after getting paid for their first job. They save money, seek more jobs and build their business empires brick by brick. Successful business men do not run their businesses hands off and spend time away from work. They stay at work and make sure that they know everything that is happening in their businesses. They take calculated risks and seek help when they need it. They keep their records and finances spotless, and always make sure that they are credit worthy.

Yes, we strongly advocate for youth empowerment, but the youth must first empower themselves.

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