The Premier of the Eastern Cape, Mr Oscar Mabuyane, reported to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) that the Eastern Cape provincial government has been focussing on turning around the socio-economic fortunes of the youth, as set out in the Provincial Youth Development Strategy which is driven by the Office of the Premier.

The Eastern Cape’s youth development strategy is embedded in the work of every provincial department and agency, he claimed. During the last financial year, 13 375 unemployed youth benefitted from programmes in manufacturing, automotive skills, the ocean economy, agro-processing and SMME development to the tune of R33.8 million investment in the youth of the province. This translates into 1 230 young people who will undergo daily skills training and receive a stipend every month.

Acknowledging the fact that the labour market would not absorb all the young people, the province has, through the Isiqalo Youth Fund, devised a dedicate support programme for young entrepreneurs, who can in turn employ other young people. Since 2019, 49 youth-owned businesses have received support to the value of R16 million, with a further R38 million budgeted for assistance in the current financial year. This fund, together with what the other spheres of government and the private sector are doing, aims to place the youth at the centre of economic reconstruction.

Premier of the Free State, Ms Sisi Ntombela, reported that her government spent R35.2 billion on various youth focused programmes from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2021, of which 7% (R2.4 billion) directly benefitted youth-owned companies. She admitted that more still needs to be done to empower young people in the province.

One of the projects aimed at realising this is the Mangaung SMME Hub located in Bloemfontein, which houses a total of 35 SMMEs, of which15 are youth owned. These businesses include manufacturing, bakeries, restaurants, salons and information and technology (IT) companies. The hub has created 110 employment opportunities for young people, amounting to a R6 million investment in rent and equipment for the businesses. Another critical infrastructure intervention is the procurement of various construction materials from youth companies.

The Department of Police, Roads and Transport spent R26 million on this, while in the Department of Social Development, 43% (over R9 million) of procurement benefitted young suppliers. Lastly, she said, a process has begun to appoint an inclusive and representative Youth Advisory Team in the current financial year to assist the provincial government to achieve the overall objective of youth development, youth participation, and youth emancipation in building the Free State.

Gauteng Provincial Government’s MEC for Education, Mr Panyaza Lesufi, reported on behalf of Premier David Makhura that the 2030 National Development Plan established various targets, including the creation of 11 million jobs by 2030. At the time, he said, it was estimated that about 7.7 million jobs would need to be provided through SMMEs, to produce a total of 17 million formal jobs in SMMEs.

Gauteng provincial government’s youth employment strategy is underpinned by four pillars, namely: Skills development initiatives that provide working and/or income generations for young people; transition and placement mechanisms for the preparation and placement of Grade 12/NCV 4 graduates, including establishment of a support mechanism; direct employment - mainly into public sector jobs which includes government-facilitated private sector employment; and youth entrepreneurship development and training.

As part of its long-term interventions to reduce youth poverty and unemployment, Mr Lesufi said the Premier announced the province’s flagship Tshepo 500 000 programme in 2014. The programme has proven the value and impact of matching young people to opportunities based on their individual circumstances and preferences. The programme will now expand the range of opportunities available and is enabling support and opportunities not just for youth, but for township-based SMMEs and co-operatives that must hire young people as a condition of being supported.

The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Mr Sihle Zikilala, reported that more than R26 million from the KZN Premier’s Discretionary Bursary Fund is supporting 170 students from impoverished backgrounds across tertiary institutions in South Africa. Furthermore, he said, through the Aerotropolis Institute Africa (AIA), the province supported a skills development programme with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) to develop aviation skills and empowerment of the youth.

He reported that the UKZN is also implementing the Provincial Integrated Youth Development Strategy, which looks comprehensively at youth development, including the holistic health and wellbeing of the youth.

He said a job preparedness programme is also being implemented to capacitate unemployed graduates with necessary job-hunting skills alongside an online Unemployed Graduates Database. The database will be accessible to government departments, municipalities, government agencies, and the private sector. This support is brought to youth in remote rural areas through the youth mobile offices.

Mr Zikala told the NCOP that the government has also devised a comprehensive youth empowerment programme, called Sukuma 100 000, to address some of the challenges of the youth unemployment and enhance placement and absorption of youth to job opportunities. It is implemented through various programmes, such as internships, learnerships, apprenticeship, in-service training, work integrated learning program, and the like. In 2020/21 financial year, 131 156 young people were placed through this programme, which aims to create more than 500 000 youth employment opportunities over the next five years.

Through the Department of Human Settlements, KZN has developed the Siyakha Incubation Programme which offers training, capacity building, mentorship and targeted procurement, while also assisting vulnerable youths through poverty alleviation programmes like the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

Limpopo Provincial Government’s MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Mr Thabo Mokone, reported that youth unemployment continues to be problematic in the Limpopo. He reported that 54,6% of young people aged 15-24 cannot find jobs in the province. In order to address this challenge, interventions contained in the Limpopo Development Plan (LDP) are being implemented.

In the agricultural sector, these interventions include introducing agricultural support programmes to enhance productivity; establishing linkages between small-scale farmers and retail outlets/factories to support localisation; partnering with academic and research institutions to conduct research, share information, and conduct training in climate-smart agriculture; and funding and implementing a climate change awareness and skills-building programme.

In the tourism sector, the focus is on protecting and rejuvenating tourism assets and commercialising state-owned properties, especially nature reserves. In the mining sector, the province aims to engage meaningfully with mining companies in forums, where relevant, and act as mediator between communities and mining companies. In the manufacturing sector, the province is concentrating on increase beneficiation in all sectors. It also provides support to local SMMEs who engage in activities that improve the lives of local communities through service delivery, such as waste management and recycling services.

The province recognises the need to prepare the youth for work in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). This is achieved through installing enabling information and communications technology (ICT) networks, adapting curricula for the digital economy and the 4IR, implementing digital hubs, and developing and rolling out the Limpopo 4IR Strategy.

Reporting on behalf of the Premier, Mpumalanga Provincial Government’s MEC for Provincial Treasury, Economic Development and Tourism Prince Vusumzi Mkhatshwa Mkhatshwa reported on a number of provincial interventions aimed at including young people in the economy.

The Provincial Youth Development Coordinating Forum (PYDCF), which includes stakeholders from different spheres of government and the private sector, aims to expedite the inclusion of young people across the province in the mainstream economy, for example. This is supplemented by the Mpumalanga Youth Development Fund (MYDF), which offers a wide range of financial and non-financial support services to Mpumalanga youth owned businesses, prioritising SMMEs owned by historically marginalised groups of young people including, young women, young persons with disabilities and, above all, youth residing in rural areas.

The Mpumalanga Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan includes prioritising the development of youth-owned enterprises. One way in which this is done is through the creation of 19 649 employment opportunities in the Expanded Public Works Programme, of which 12 254 or 62% of the beneficiaries are young people. Youth-owned enterprises in the tourism sector will also be assisted through the Tourism Equity Fund to the value of R20 million.

Furthermore, the Fortune 40 provincial programme has capacitated 97 young people who are currently operating their own farms and participating within the agricultural value chain in the province, while another 144 people will benefit by the end of the financial year. All of these initiatives are augmented by a concerted effort to ensure that procurement is geared towards capable youth-owned and managed enterprises, such as a commitment to ring-fence 40% of government expenditure in programmes such as government school nutrition, sanitary towel distribution, creative arts, stationery and office furniture towards youth owned enterprises.

The North West government’s MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Ms Kenetswe Mosenogi, reported that a Provincial Youth Advocacy Programme assists the youth to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on youth poverty and unemployment. It aims to link youth to opportunities from government departments and entities and other youth formations. Through this platform, the Office of the Premier is playing a central role coordinating all provincial departments and key stakeholders to advance collective interventions to address youth unemployment and poverty.

The province has embarked on an intensive youth empowerment and development intended to assist during Covid -19 and beyond. At the end of Quarter 1 of 2021/22, the department supported a total of 581 households with agricultural food production initiatives and 1 784 smallholder producers were supported with agricultural advice.

Food security interventions are also planned for the month of August 2021, which will include social relief to identified indigent communities across all four districts of the North West Province. These efforts are further supplemented by various learnerships, skills development programmes, and bursaries, in partnership with private sector businesses and institutions, with a specific focus on artisanal training, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and the green economy.

The Western Cape Provincial Government’s MEC for Social Development, Ms Sharna Fernandez, said the Western Cape Government has implemented a recovery plan in response to Covid-19 which takes into account Covid recovery, jobs, safety, and wellbeing.

Given the urgency of the impact of the Covid-19-related job losses, which led to hunger, malnutrition, and crime, immediate interventions were implemented to provide relief by getting income into households by supporting and creating jobs within the public and private sectors.

As a result, over 7 493 job opportunities were created or sustained through interventions supporting businesses to retain or grow employment opportunities by December 2020; over R1.3 billion worth of investment value recruited into the region and over 3 000 companies provided with support; municipalities were prepared to take advantage of the recent legal approval for municipal self-generation of power, which will have a positive impact on economic growth and energy security; 1 095 provincial public works projects provided 27 690 work opportunities as at December 2020, of which an estimated 6 766 full-time equivalent work opportunities were provided.

The key success within the public sector has been the upscaling of the Expanded Public Works Programme and fast-tracking of existing projects through re-prioritising departmental budgets. Going forward, an additional R50 million has been allocated to municipalities to provide public employment opportunities and thereby offer some short-term relief.

Liezel Visser
9 September 2021