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Turning youth bulge into a national dividend

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By Trevor Ncube

Zimbabwe commemorated National Youth Day last week amidst the worst conditions, by any measure, that our young people have experienced in decades.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the negativity and yet the enormity of the challenge demands leadership, innovation and strategic thinking.

The government, business, labour unions and civil society must get together and find a durable solution to one of the most urgent challenges of our time.

Even against the prevailing situation, we must focus on turning our youth bulge into a dividend and not a time bomb.

It is a daunting task, but it can be done.

The facts are sobering and unpleasant! Eighty percent of our youth are currently unemployed.

Without purpose and meaning, our youth are turning to crime and self-medicating through drug and substance abuse.

In 2021, 60% of psychiatric admissions at local health institutions were due to drug abuse, according to the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network.

Mental health cases are up and so are people suffering from depression and anxiety.

Suicides are a matter of grave concern. Our youth are leaving in droves for menial and demeaning jobs elsewhere.

How did we get here?

This is part of Robert Mugabe’s complicated legacy, which falls on us to course correct.

After playing a gallant role in delivering black rule, Mugabe’s decades in power delivered repression, poverty, unfreedom and economic collapse.

Corruption, poor governance and economic mismanagement have all coalesced to create a suffocating environment for the youth.

And sadly, the youth have been politically weaponised.

This damage can be reversed with intentionality and clear-sighted policy actions.

We need courageous leadership that creates an enabling environment for our youth to play a meaningful role in nation building.

We must go back to the basics of nation building.

Political freedom, which was a key demand of our liberation struggle, is central to this enabling environment.

A vibrant democracy, constitutionality and rule of law would create the certainty for local and foreign investors who create real jobs.

Governments don’t create jobs.

The private sector creates jobs if the environment allows it.

Right now, that environment does not exist.

Our youth require decent jobs and opportunities to express their God given talent.

We must give them the permission to dream big and hope for a better tomorrow.

So, what is to be done?

Government must declare a defined and time bound national state of emergency to pull back this generation to normalcy.

Instead of dangling patronage and handouts such as land and livestock, government must go all out to educate, train and retrain the school and college leavers currently roaming our streets.

Government must introduce a robust youth economic national service targeting the high school and college leavers as well as the unemployed.

The objective of the economic national service is to avail opportunities for the youth to acquire skills that will see them enter the job market or become entrepreneurs.

Youths must be deployed towards an aggressive infrastructure rebuilding project that is also time bound.

This will kill two birds with one stone, namely boosting the economy and giving badly needed training and jobs for the next generation.

Devolution will ensure communities lead in identifying infrastructure priorities and influencing budgetary allocations.

Give practical skills to those with a foundational education and educate those currently unemployable.

Government must offer a package of incentives for companies to implement a concerted apprenticeship programme.

All government departments and parastatals must be part of this robust apprenticeship programme.

We also need more technical colleges focusing on imparting practical skills to the youths.

No to a lost generation, should be the rallying call.

Our desperate circumstances can ill afford writing off the contribution of approximately 60% of the most productive segment of our population.

The future belongs to them only if they have a material stake in it.

Trevor Ncube is the Chairman of Alpha Media Holdings and the host of In Conversation With Trevor

In Conversation with Job Sikhala

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Job Sikhala’s heartbreaking story of being arrested and spending 595 days in pre-trial detention has touched a lot of people. Part One and Two of this Must Watch Episode have gone viral. Watch his episode
here..

Audience Responses

From Job Sikhala episode, our community had this to say:

@vongaizee2377:
Job you’re a selfless man. Your journey is inspiring
@LeeMagarasadza-hv5rj:
I just like to comment on Trevor’s camera quality it’s super
@thembachaza7718:
I agree with Wiwa . That if you are dealing with public affairs issues and problems come you should be financially prepared for the trouble. This means that leadership is for the rich!
@marianudemba9141:
Trevor, in this interview I like your discerning attitude. “Wisdom is profitable “

Coming Next: In Conversation with Mudiwa Ashley Mundawarara

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Don’t miss the next episode with Executive Director Island Hospice & Healthcare Mudiwa Ashley Mundawarara In Conversation
with Trevor.

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Podcasts

in conversation with trevorZimbabwean entrepreneur and newspaper publisher Trevor Ncube
sits down with various high-profile guests in a series of
candid, conversations that seeks to go beyond the headlines and
beyond the sensational.
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