President Cyril Ramaphosa: NYDA Youth Dialogue

13 Feb 2020

Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the NYDA Youth Dialogue, Cape Town International Convention Centre

Programme Director and Chairperson of the NYDA Board, Mr Sifiso Mtsweni,
Minister in The Presidency responsible for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane,
Deputy Minister, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize,
Representatives of various youth formations and organisations,
Members of the media,
And to our most special guests, the young people present here today,

Your presence here is once again an affirmation of the dynamism of the youth of South Africa.

It puts to rest the notion held in some quarters that young people are complacent and disinterested in playing a role in public life.

Most importantly, it underscores the importance of a concept I have been driving for some time, and that is the need for broad social compacts to be forged across society to drive change.

There is a mantra you have all heard: Nothing about us, without us.”

This critical dialogue that is taking place on the eve of the State of the Nation address underscores our commitment as government to making sure that nothing we plan to do for young people will be planned or take place without involving you, consulting with you, and most importantly, being driven by you.

When we met last year, you all expressed a deep desire to contribute to your communities and your country.

Sitting together around the table, we discussed the issues that are most important to young people and examined ways in which we could align government’s priorities with those of young people’s formations.

Our meeting here today, as it was last year, is social compacting in action.

We are demonstrating that no policy or initiative around youth development will take place without the full and direct participation of those most impacted and affected by those same cies or policies.

For a social compact to operate in good faith, it is essential that all parties to it regularly report back on progress in meeting the objectives they set.

So I think it would be opportune to briefly outline the steps we have taken as government since we met last year to address some of the concerns you raised with me.

We discussed the importance of education in providing young people with access to opportunities later in life; and that a strong foundation should be laid in the early years.

Government has instituted two years of compulsory early learning for all children before they enter Grade 1.

Through initiatives such as the Early Grade Reading Programme, we are ensuring that within the next decade, every child will be able to read for meaning by the age of 10.

And we are taking a range of measures to strengthen the basic education system.

We discussed the urgent issue of access to higher education for students from low-income families.

I am pleased to report that we have expanded our funding for free higher education for poor and working class students from R11.2 billion in 2016 to R35 billion in 2020.

With vocational and skills training becoming more important in the changing world of work, as well as a pathway to self-employment, we continue to invest in supporting the curricula of TVET colleges across the country, as well as in in expanding the network of technical high schools and specialized colleges.

The Department of Basic Education has spelled out plans to have a technical high school in each regional school circuit, and the process of expansion of the network of technical occupational and technical vocational schools will take place over a five year period from 2020 to 2025.

We are also in the process of curriculum redesign in existing schools to introduce subjects like Technical Mathematics, Maritime Studies, Aviation Studies, and others.

This is being done to align the educational curriculum with the skills needed by our economy.

What was most encouraging about our meeting last year was the great interest expressed in self-employment pathways.

We are determined to make it easier for young entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground without having to be saddled with onerous red tape.

We have launched the Bizportal website to allow you to register a company in only one day, which includes getting approval from the CIPC, registering with the Unemployment Insurance Fund and SARS, and even opening a bank account.

And we are expanding our funding for youth-owned businesses through the Department of Small Business Development, the NYDA and the SME Fund.

On the social challenges facing our country, you, like me, have a deep concern about the unacceptable levels of gender-based violence.

Since we announced the National Emergency Response Plan to combat GBV and Femicide last year we have mobilised over R1 billion to fund a number of initiative to support survivors and to expand access to care and treatment.

There has also been demonstrable progress in ensuring access to justice for survivors through the creation of specialized courts. I will be expanding on the other progress areas in the State of the Nation tomorrow.

Fellow South Africans,

The high youth employment rate is unacceptable.

Any country that is serious about its development, prosperity and its future cannot be complacent that such a large percentage of the population of working age is languishing in unemployment.

The results of the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLS) show that 38 000 net new jobs were created in the fourth quarter of 2019, preventing a further increase in the rate of unemployment.

However, unemployment remains unacceptably high, with 29% of South Africans unable to find work.

Of the approximately 1.2 million young people entering the labour market each year, almost two-thirds remain outside of employment, education or training.

Addressing youth unemployment remains my foremost priority, and this is something I want to reiterate here today.

I promised last year that we would develop a comprehensive plan, coordinated from The Presidency, to create opportunities for young people.

And now I am here to report that we are commencing with the implementation of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, which sets out five priority actions for the next five years.

What distinguishes this intervention is that it is being driven by a specialized Project Management Office in The Presidency.

Its aim is to increase levels of alignment and focus across government and begin to tackle youth unemployment at scale.

In my address tomorrow evening, I will announce some of the immediate steps that we are taking to make this a reality.

To create opportunities for young people, we must achieve two things.

Firstly, we must accelerate the growth of competitive, export-oriented, labour-intensive industries where the rate of youth labour absorption is high.

Secondly, we must ensure that the most marginalised young people have the support that they need to access these opportunities – young people who have been unemployed for a long time, who cannot afford the costs of searching for work, and who lack strong social networks.

Our first priority is to create a National Pathway Management Network for young work-seekers to view and access learning and work opportunities, to receive a basic package of support and work readiness training, and to be matched to employment and other economic opportunities.

This is especially important for those young people who are marginalised and excluded from the economy.

Through this platform, young people will receive support in person and online to create their CV and to develop their job search and interview skills.

They will also complete online assessments to show their capabilities, so that they can be matched to jobs and opportunities that are available in the market.

This will be a game changer for many young people who simply don’t know where to start.

Our second priority is to ensure that young people have the skills that they need to access opportunities in key growth sectors such as global business services, digital and technology, tourism, agriculture, and social services.

Our skills development system must be more responsive to demand, in the immediate term as well as the long term.

We are working with these sectors, together with the Department of Higher Education and Training and the various SETAs, to create opportunities for young people to undertake shorter courses in specific skills that employers require – either to help them transition into their first job or to top up some training that they have already received.

For example, it takes only 12 weeks to train a young person for a job in a call centre, even if they did not complete their matric.

The global business services sector has created more than 20,000 of these jobs in the past year, and it can absorb even more young people without having to spend three years in a TVET college or a university.

We have formed partnerships with the digital and technology, tourism and agriculture sectors to replicate this model and to agree upon youth employment compacts that will allow more young people, more quickly to take up opportunities in the economy.In addition, the UIF has committed to train 130,000 learners over the next three years.

For example, a cohort of 50 young people received training for their Pilot License last year, and many of them are already employed in companies like FlySafair.

Thirdly, we must find new and innovative ways to support youth entrepreneurship and self-employment.

We can do this by removing regulatory obstacles to small enterprise, and creating public spaces that allow businesses to thrive in townships, villages and urban centres. We are focusing on both the enablers that must be in place to support young entrepreneurs, such as connectivity and affordable data, and the opportunity areas that are ripe for innovation – such as the food economy, the green economy, and the waste economy.

Then there is an issue that was raised forcefully last year and it is the issue of work experience.

Our fourth priority is to help young people to get work experience so that they can gain a foothold in the labour market.

We are scaling up the Youth Employment Service and working with TVET colleges to ensure that more learners receive practical experience to complete their theoretical training.

Finally, and this is something close to my heart, we are developing a Presidential Youth Service programme that will provide opportunities for young people to give back to their communities and contribute to nation building, while improving their employability.

We are developing a model that will allow national youth service to achieve scale and prominence, in activities such as sports, arts and culture, rejuvenating public infrastructure and working on community-driven projects.

These five actions represent an ambitious and unprecedented new agenda for youth employment, working both to create more opportunities for young people and to unlock the energy and potential that young people have to offer.

What makes the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention different is that it brings together The Presidency, the NYDA, the Departments of Employment and Labor, Higher Education and Training, and Small Business Development, and public-private partnerships such as the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and the YES program.

We will only tackle this crisis if we are willing to change the way that we work, and to do things differently.

Aligning our programmes and initiatives under the broad umbrella of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention will ensure that there is impact at scale.

It will also serve to inspire confidence amongst you, our young people that this issue is being dealt with at the very highest level, and that everyone who needs to be on board, is brought on board.

I am extremely excited about the immense potential presented by this new frontier, and I am sure you are too.

This is a country whose young people are blazing a trail as entrepreneurs, as engineers and scientists, as sportsmen and women, as farmers, as comedians, musicians and artists, in politics, and in many other spaces.

You possess great energy and potential, and fill me with hope and optimism for the future.

Indeed, the people in this room are going to determine what that same future looks like.

I am inspired by your determination and perseverance, and want to issue a challenge to you today.

Never stop trying. Always dare to dream.

Do not be afraid of starting something new or going out on your own.

It is within your power to realize the South Africa of our dreams.

I thank you and look forward to engaging with you today.

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