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Well over 350 young people from across the country descended on Parliament yesterday to take part in a two-day Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund Youth Summit. 

Parliament hosted the Youth Summit in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund to honour the centenary anniversaries of South Africa’s liberation icons, Mr Nelson Mandela and Ms Albertina Sisulu. A fitting tribute to the two liberation stalwarts because it is MaSisulu who nominated Mandela to the position of a founding president at the first sitting of the democratic Parliament on 9 May 1994.

This inaugural summit themed: “A Mandela in Every Generation” re-enacted the ideals and aspirations that now constitute the legacy of Nelson Mandela and his love and affection for children.

The summit sought to create a platform for the youth to interface, share ideas and experiences. And to harness them and come up with strategies to address youth despondency caused by a lack of gainful employment and equal access to life opportunities that would afford them a chance to participate actively in our mainstream economy.

To achieve that, it was realised that there is a need for new approach in dealing with the economic empowerment of the youth. This approach is predicated on a compassionate topic; Business With Heart: Changing the Way We Do Business with Youth, which formed part of the consultative discussions of the summit.

The facilitator of this discussion Ms Trisha Naicker, underlined the fact that our youth are key enablers in creating sustainable entrepreneurial development initiatives in their respective communities. “The regional initiatives of the Mandela Children’s Fund continue to encourage youth to be social entrepreneurs through its funding and skills development initiatives.”

The fund has realised this through its Efeng Bacha; Give it to the Youth, initiative which seeks to nature the entrepreneurial spirit of the youth. Founded in 2003, this fund has assisted well over 300 youth projects to date, said its Ambassador, Ms Nasiphi Bewana. “The fund has assisted the youth to formulate their business proposals and to explore the viability of their ideas. To date, Efeng Bacha has funded 300 projects that promoted youth entrepreneurship.”

She advised the youth to make sure that they profile their businesses well for them to stand a chance of getting funding. “State clearly how the fund will be spent. How your business will encourage social entrepreneurship. Some youth projects are good, but their proposals don’t clearly stipulate their potential to bring about economic and social change in their respective communities.”

The CEO of the Mandela Children’s Fund, Ms Sibongile Mkhabela, said although the fund was minimum in size, it managed to yield desired outcomes. “The fund had small seeds but it managed to cater for the multiplicity of needs.”

Efeng Bacha Fund’s first phase has shown that small investment could have a huge social and economic impact. But what we learnt was that the youth should be in a position to defend their business ideas, she said.  

Represented also in this consultative discussion was the National Arts Council. Its Arts Development Manager, Ms Julie Diphofa, presented a plethora of funding programmed available in the National Arts Council that could help to empower the youth that is involved in the arts.

Julie was asked about what the NAC do to ensure that those who have studied art get employed.

She responded: “When you are an artist you don’t necessarily have to be employed, you create your own employment either through writing books, plays or setting up arts initiatives. That is what is so interesting about arts.”

There other concern was that artists find it difficult to secure their livelihood in the arts because it is a dog-eat-dog industry that is not properly regulated. To that she responded: “It is difficult to intervene in such situations because there are unions that operate in that space that are meant to protect artists’ rights. If they have a difficulty to do, they can approach us and we would see how we can help them to protect the rights of the artists.”

The Chief Whip of the City of Ekurhuleni, Mr Dlabathi Jongizizwe, presented some of the 10-Point Plan of his municipality which include a R100 million earmarked for sports, arts, culture and other business opportunities aimed at supporting youth entrepreneurship. “The youth must lobby us to ensure that they get access to the entrepreneurial opportunity available for it in our 10-Point Plan.”

However, he was quick to caution the youth: “We want sustainable and genuine business ideas from genuine role players. Not ideas of self- entitlements, but ideas based on the principles of hard work.”

One of our thriving youth initiatives is the Learner Constructor. This project is aimed at giving the youth involved in construction an insight and business opportunities in this industry. “Those involved in this project are taught project and business management. And through this we seek to eradicate the culture of dependency among the youth.”

The Director for Domestic Tourism Facilitation in the Department of Tourism, Mr Thulani Sibeko, said his department has a variety of enterprise development programmes for the youth. One of which is the Chet Programme. “There are more than 100 young chefs who went to the United States and other parts of the world on a learning programme. When they done with their studied they stand a good chance of gainful employment in the tourism industry. Those passionate about cooking can join the programme.”

Apart from that, we have hospitality, food security, blue flag and safety monitors programmes, he said. “These are some of the programmes that can enhance the career paths of those who have an interest in pursuing a career in the tourism sector.”

But those interested in entrepreneurial development can apply to be part of our incubator proggramme, he said. “In this programme we mentor those interest in starting a business in tourism. We also introduce them to the value chain of the businesses of their choice and the existing opportunities thereof.”

The Transformation Fund, which seeks to change the racial representation of tourism in the country, is one the funds that has opened up new opportunities to new entrants in this industry, he said. But those who are interest in tourism, but not entirely sure what kind of opportunities exists in this sector can attend the tourism expos that the department often host to familiarize themselves with what this industry has to offer, he said. “Tourism is the new gold. We cannot always rely on our minerals as a source of our economic empowerment for those previously disadvantaged because they will in the future be depleted. But tourism won’t. It remains our crowning jewel. That is why we need the youth to explore the sector and make use of the business opportunities it presents to it.”

In her concluding remarks, the facilitator of this discussion, Ms Naicker, stated that the youth must believe with all their hearts, dream with all their minds and achieve with all their strength.      

By Abel Mputing
12 July 2018