Opinion Piece By Premier • Sihle Zikalala • 19 June 2020
On Tuesday 16 June South Africa commemorated Youth Day. Forty four years after the Soweto uprising, the day remains a poignant reminder that South’s Africa’s hard-won freedom is etched in the blood of young martyrs. We can only pay forward their sacrifices by continuing to expand the frontiers of freedom and opportunity for the young people of South Africa. To honour them, we must work together to build a South Africa that is truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, equal and prosperous.
South Africa’s youth remains the best hope for our country. Young people carry the dreams of the nation and are the quintessential agents of change. Our government sees the youth demographic not as a weight or burden but as a resource, an asset, and a dividend for socio-economic development.
To realise the full potential of our youth, the government of KwaZulu-Natal is unrelenting in mainstreaming youth development and empowerment. We are ensuring that departments set aside 35% of their budgets to procure from youth, women and people with disabilities.
We believe that through a small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) revolution we will fuel economic growth and create employment. The province of KwaZulu-Natal is the first to introduce a Youth Empowerment Fund, which provides dedicated funding to SMMEs and co-operatives owned by the youth. In October 2019 we provided just over R71-million to 55 youth-owned businesses.
When we launched the Youth Empowerment Fund, Absa bank supported the initiative by providing R500-million in a soft-loans programme for SMMEs working with government. To date, 51 SMMEs have been supported to the value of R158-million and 65% of recipients are African female and 60% are youth.
The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has also set aside R50-million for the 2020/2021 financial year to support youth-owned enterprises.
We have created instruments for microfinance in every district of KwaZulu-Natal to support small businesses and boost job creation. Through the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), government has transferred R15.9-million to Ithala to ensure the support of SMMEs and co-operatives in the cleaning detergents sector. Ithala also disbursed R226-million in business loans, which resulted in the creation of 546 new businesses and 3,284 jobs during the 2019/2020 financial year.
Through the Enterprise Development Fund and Ithala Development Finance, R274-million was spent to support SMMEs and co-ops. This translated to 574 new businesses and a total of 3,683 jobs. Of these, 153 are owned by women and 274 are youth-owned enterprises.
We call on the youth to get involved in agriculture and agro-processing to realise the full potential of this strategic sector. We have a vision of making agriculture a game changer and a catalyst for radical economic transformation. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) is rolling out a Youth Strategy and all empowerment initiatives targeting the youth are housed under the Department’s Inkunzi Isematholeni Programme.
The provincial Department of Transport is also empowering youth-owned entities for materials sourcing for construction, in line with its iGula programme. Under its National Youth Service, 850 young people will be trained on accredited modules in the 2020/2021 financial year and 50 learners will be trained on bricklaying apprenticeship through the Zibambele programme.
This department is also partnering with the NYDA to train 6,000 Zibambele beneficiaries in business management and entrepreneurial skills. In this regard, we fully support the government’s decision that entrepreneurship must be taught in our schools.
EDTEA continues to strengthen the Radical Agrarian Socio-Economic Transformation (RASET) programme, where emerging farmers are supplying hospitals and supermarkets like Boxer and Cambridge.
Working with the national government, we are determined to revitalise the sugar industry. Government has already published the SA Biofuels Regulatory Framework, which will unlock more opportunities in biofuels and bio-electricity production.
We appeal to the youth to take advantage of the new opportunities that are presented by the cultivation and processing of cannabis for local and export markets. Through the Moses Kotane Institute of Technology, KwaZulu-Natal has a fully-fledged Cannabis Unit.
The province has put together a strong business case for the establishment of a clothing and textile special economic zone (SEZ), stretching from Newcastle to Richards Bay. This initiative will support local designers and expand the manufacturing sector, beneficiation and localisation.
We will continue to support local film productions through the KZN Film Fund. Our economic recovery strategy is anchored on promoting localisation, producing for domestic consumption and the export markets. We are promoting the Buy South Africa and Buy KZN campaigns and urge our young people to be brand ambassadors of goods and services produced in our province.
One of the lessons that we take from the Covid-19 pandemic is the need to accelerate the deployment of internet connectivity to every corner of the province to effectively deliver e-government, e-health, and e-learning. As government, we will continue to fight for the reduction of data costs to ensure that none of our citizens are left behind in the digital economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
As part of a revitalization of the township economy, EDTEA will assist emerging entrepreneurs in the automotive industry. The plan is to have township-based young artisans and mechanics work in automotive repair centres. There is consensus that government departments in KwaZulu-Natal must use these centres for repairs to the government fleet.
Faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, which the World Health Organisation regards as public enemy number one, South Africa commemorated Youth Day 2020 under the theme “Youth Power: Growing South Africa Together in a Period of Covid-19”. We are certain the current generation of youth will draw inspiration and fortitude from the discipline, determination and patriotism of the Class of ’76 to play a meaningful role in overcoming this deadly virus.
With the easing of the lockdown regulations, we urge the youth to be more vigilant and to transform their behaviour. We must continue to stringently observe social distancing and wear face masks whenever we leave home. Our collective fate literally rests in our own hands. Let us wash our hands regularly with soap and water and avoid crowded spaces.
Because of the bravery and courage of the Class of ’76, today the doors of learning and culture are open for the children of the poor and working class at institutions of higher learning. Because of their sacrifices, today children of the poor access no fee-paying schools, receive a nutritious meal and are assisted with learner transport.
We have confidence that today’s youth will protect and advance the gains of our democracy. They will define a new way of living post-Covid-19. For our part, we ask them to remain disciplined and vigilant and to pursue lifelong learning. They must continue to imagine the world anew, apply their innovation and technology know-how in finding solutions to our country’s most pressing challenges.
Government stands ready to support the youth to ensure that the next decade becomes a decade of triumph for the South African youth. DM
Sihle Zikalala is Premier of KwaZulu-Natal.