Addressing scores of young people during the Youth Parliament Sitting today, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala announced that the provincial government is taking far-reaching measures to ensure the economic empowerment of young people through the establishment of the KZN Youth Empowerment Fund, which has been allocated funding to the tune of R100 million in the 2022/2023 financial year.
Premier Zikalala further revealed that KwaZulu-Natal is the first province in South Africa to set-up this dedicated fund for youth enterprise development.
“While we noted minor improvements in the performance of the economy and a slight drop in the unemployment rate, we acknowledged that unemployment remains unacceptably high and continues to disproportionately affect the youth. On the KZN Youth Empowerment Fund, the Youth Parliament resolved that the fund should be made more accessible to young people throughout the province through effective advertising and promotion to reach all areas of our province. It was also resolved that the fund should focus on key sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing because of their huge potential for job creation. As such, the KZN Youth Empowerment Fund has been increased from R50 million to R100 million,” said Premier Zikalala.
The Premier also said that the Youth Fund has put more emphasis on the priority sectors such as Agriculture, Manufacturing, Green Economy, Blue Economy, Information Technology and Tourism in line with the Provincial Growth and Development Strategy.
Premier Zikalala’s progress report also outlined interventions to support township businesses that have been created by the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs through its public entities, mainly Ithala Development Finance Co-operation where the Spaza shop funding programme called “Zimele” has been established. The Zimele Fund which we announced in February this year is managed by Ithala.
IDFC has been mandated to empower youth in rural and township areas with information to apply on these available funding streams through the programme called Inkunzi Isematholeni.
The Youth Parliament resolved that the number of Operation Vula beneficiaries must be increased by 50%.
“We are pleased to report that the Operation Vula Fund approvals and expenditure has grown from just over R19 million in 2020 to over 283 million in 2021 with a number of youth companies benefiting from the fund. We are humbled to also mention that the Department of Education has been able to utilise its Procurement Budget for the National School Nutrition Program to appoint over 2000 SMME’s to source and deliver Dry Groceries and Fresh Produce to schools,” said Premier Zikalala.
Premier Zikalala, who is an avid runner, also said it is encouraging to see the Youth of KwaZulu-Natal taking a keen interest in sports and healthy lifestyle, highlighting that the 2021 Youth Parliament resolved that the Department of Sport and Recreation should embark on awareness campaign programmes that will encourage the youth to take up sports in schools.
“We can report back that already the Department of Education has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture to promote participation of learners in school sport and art activities. The Department is also working with Provincial Sport Confederation to install District Confederations,” said Premier Zikalala.
Premier Zikalala commended the activist and people-centred Legislature of the people of KwaZulu-Natal for hosting the Youth Parliament today in Mtubatuba Municipality which gave the provincial government an opportunity to highlight some of the work being done with the youth to advance their development and roll back the frontiers of poverty.