In a rare moment of verbal exchange, interaction and display of courage, Tati East constituency youth minced no words in enumerating their problems┬áduring a workshop attended by ministers Shaw Kgathi and Dorcas Makgato-Malesu at Siviya Village in the North East District over the weekend.
Kgathi is the Minister Youth, Sports and Culture while Malesu is the Minister of Trade and Industry.
In a no blows barred speech, the Commonwealth Youth Representative, Koziba Malibala, who hails from Matshelagabedi Village, told the ministers that they are burdened with a lot of life challenges ranging from high unemployment, HIV and AIDS, caring for the sick, lack of skills, limited exposure to role models, lack of financial resources to other ingredients that could relieve them from the hardships they endure on a daily basis.
She said the problem of unemployment is more pronounced among the out of school youth who do not qualify to proceed to tertiary institutions and urged government to be more innovative on issues of youth development.
Malibala decried that the available government schemes are disjointed and difficult to access and in that vein called for concerted efforts in the harmonization of assistance programmes to ensure enhanced service delivery and poverty alleviation among the youth as well as job creation.
She lambasted government for failing to interact with the youth in order to learn and appreciate their problems first hand by interacting with them affected so as to design suitable user friendly and easy to access programmes.
“We are not engaged in youth policy making. There is need to develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills among the youth. Government must understand our problems. Youth officers despise us. If we ask for help and are somewhat confused, we are laughed off instead of being guided. Youth officers shun us. Where are we supposed to┬ágo?” Malibala asked the two ministers to the applause of┬áher audience.
She decried lack of collaboration within government departments, likening it to the right hand not knowing what the left is doing and thereby duplicating programmes and efforts in the different government departments and ministries.
Malibala proposed that government embark on a massive entrepreneurship training for the youth so that they become job creators, unlike in the current set up in which, as school drop outs, they are turned into street urchins of sorts.
In response, Kgathi, who brought about 100 youth from his Bobirwa constituency, thanked the area MP, Samson Moyo Guma, for leading the way in finding ways of empowering and developing the youth into future business leaders and entrepreneurs.
“You are inspiring the way we should as government start doing things for the youth. We must start burning the knowledge fire in your constituency and extend it to other constituencies. What you are doing for your constituency is remarkable and ought to be emulated,” he said in addition to acknowledging the problems that Malibala had earlier alluded to.
He said given the problems plaguing the youth, the Botswana Democratic Party should ensure that its 2014 manifesto is youth sensitive since youth constitute 60 percent of the country’s population, adding that the need for political will in matters of youth development.
The minister said it was government’s intention to empower the youth with sports and culture hence the creation of the Botswana National Youth Council way back in 1974 although admittedly the council has failed to deliver on its mandate.
“It’s discouraging that the council has not delivered. We have failed to guide the youth. It is important for us to revamp our systems to ensure the youth are at the forefront and are encouraged to utilize the available programmes to effectively enhance their quality of life,” said the minister who enumerated the available programmes like the Young Farmers Fund, Constituency Tournaments, job internships and others.
He said to ensure the effectiveness of youth programmes, government has deployed youth officers in all the ministries and urged the youth to report wayward officers who are sleeping on the job.
“I will address the officers’ complacency┬ánow that it has been brought to my attention. We will have to crack the whip.┬áThey have been employed to assist and not despise you. We will deal with the deficiencies of our programmes and ensure they are harmonized for your benefit,” said the minister.
He said the Youth Development Fund has assisted 49 projects in the Tati East constituency although┬á11 had collapsed adding that government has set aside P120 million for youth empowerment schemes and every constituency has been allocated P2 million and urged the beneficiaries to exhaust the fund.
For her part, Malesu agreed on the need for harmonization of assistance programmes and urged the local authorities to buy from small businesses within their localities.
She called for a change of mindset among the youth and Batswana in general to ensure that they maximise benefits accruing┬áfrom the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD)┬áinitiative that was launched by government in an import substitution bid.
The trade minister noted that Botswana’s import bill stood at P20 billion and government has identified that at least┬áP13 billion of the imports could be sourced locally hence the EDD. In that context she said she┬áreports on the progress to cabinet every two months.
She said the areas for import substitution identified include among others agro processing, horticulture, recycled material products as well arts and crafts and construction and building materials.
The minister implored CEDA to explain its funding patterns adding that government had established a National Economic Diversification Council comprising of Permanent Secretaries to drive the EDD.
She further implored the private sector to play a leading role in economic diversification.
Other youth who commented raised similar concerns of unemployment, lack of funding to start up businesses and the negative attitude of the youth officers who are supposed to be helping them.
For his part, Guma decried that government programmes were not harmonized and were difficult to access thereby impeding economic development. He also noted that implementation of the programmes was another hurdle that needed to be urgently surmounted.
The workshop was graced by the presence of BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi and other prominent party activists and councillors.