Why pro-youth agenda is important for industrialization initiative

28Oct 2018
Guardian On Sunday
Why pro-youth agenda is important for industrialization initiative

DESPITE a major segment of our country’s population consisting of youths, they still face challenges in pursuing their destiny through decent jobs, access to quality education and participation in decision making.

Youths constitute a major part of Tanzania’s labour force, about 68 per cent, and one-third of the country’s population. PHOTO: File

Such issues result from inadequate initiatives to support youths in their search for economic empowerment opportunities, especially through social entrepreneurship and formal businesses.

There is also minimal recognition of youths in formal governance processes and a mismatch between skills they get in school and the job market requirements.

All this signals untapped youths’ potential as an asset in addressing development challenges facing communities.

Currently at least 64 per cent of the country’s population is under the age of 24 and those aged between 15 and 35 years account for 34 per cent of the population, representing the largest generation in history.

Youths therefore constitute a great share of the country’s labour force, about 68 per cent, and one-third of the country’s population.

This translates into power to drive development in their communities, to participate in decision making or democratic processes.

At a breakfast presentation on Friday organised by Policy Forum and themed ‘State of youth in Tanzania: What are youth’s perceptions in relation to the status of employment, education, health, governance and accountability?’ an assistant Project Coordinator, Restless Development Vivian Ngowi said a research conducted in 2015 on youth employment realized that 2 out of 10 (22%) youths agreed that agricultural inputs were easily accessible at affordable prices.

She said 3 out 10 (26%) youths agreed that grants were provided to small industries, while 3 out of 10 (31%) youths agreed that the National Youth Development Fund was beneficial in increasing their livelihoods.

According to her, at least 6 out of 10 (58%) youths also agreed that there were volunteer opportunities to enable them gain experience and build their skills for future employment.

On quality education, she said 5 out of 10 (49%) youths said school curricula were not at par with changes in economic and social trends, while 7 out of 10 (70%) youths said there was no improvement in accessing higher education, and such comments ranged in various aspects.

A discussant at the debate, Policy and Advocacy Manager at Restless Development Oscar Kimaro called on youths, as the national manpower, to work diligently for the development of the nation.

“The government needs to put in place a conducive environment to enable youths become patriotic for their nation. Patriotism cannot be brought by anybody else, but it is we the youth,” he stressed.

In 2015, Restless Development in collaboration with various civil society organizations including Tanzania Youth Vision Association (TYVA), FEMINA, Youth of the United Nations Association (YUNA), and Youth for Africa (YOA), conducted a study to unveil youth priorities in the country.

The study aimed to identify and prepare a youth manifesto, putting forward recommendations of youths based on their views on priority areas which need to be emphasised and addressed in the five-year period (2015 to 2020) of the fifth phase government.

In the youth manifesto, young people identified 10 priorities: youth employment, quality education, better health services, good governance and accountability, youth engagement and participation in decision-making.

Other areas included natural resources, sports, arts and creative industry, youth living with disabilities, gender equity and equality and youth and diplomacy.

Founder and former director of TAMASHA Richard Mabala advised the government to invest and give priority to the youth if it wanted to industrialise.

“If youths are empowered, they can do whatever comes in front of them because they are energetic and can work hard,” he said.

However, he pointed out that there was a skills mismatch between formal education and job market requirements.

“Curricula do  not go in line with the real situation facing the youth in modern days, by not only getting employment but also by knowing what is going on around the globe,” he said.

According to him, young people stand at the intersection of current trends and pressures to demonstrate the role and influence they can play not only in contributing to development targets in the country, but also globally.

At another platform during marking of the International Youth Day 2018 in Tanzania in August, Anthony Mavunde, deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (Labour, Youth, Employment and Persons with Disability) said that youth are an important resource as they contribute greatly to the country’s social economic development.

According to the UN State of World Population report 2014, the number of young people was 1.8 billion among a total of 7.5 billion worldwide, whereas in Tanzania there were 15.6 million among a population of 44.9 million, equivalent to 35% (2012 Population Census).

“…We are therefore obliged to create a safe environment for our young people in terms of their health, safety at work, accountability, openness, honesty, love and respect, and their participation in various development activities…” he said.

He added that as Tanzania was aspiring to become a semi-industrialized country, the government has been taking various initiatives to ensure equal opportunities among youth, especially in their participation in political and economic activities.

As regards the youth unemployment scourge, Mavunde said, “…the government continues to create employment opportunities for young people through skills training, formalizing their businesses and supporting them in obtaining financial resources for establishing or improving their businesses, e.g. obtaining interest-free loans…”

At the same occasion, UNFPA Resident Representative Jacquiline Mahon emphasized the agency’s intention to ensure that young people are effectively involved in the implementation of various programmes as key to attaining Vision 2025 objectives, enhancing transforming Tanzania into a semi- industrialized country and achieving the SDGs by 2030.

“…We should consider youth as key partners in development, and therefore they should be actively involved in planning, implementation and monitoring of development activities…” she said.

She further urged the government and other partners to formulate policies and strategies to enable youth to fully participate in economic, social and political activities thereby contribute to the achievement of the national development agenda.

For his part, Wellington Chibebe, director, ILO Country Office for East Africa, echoed this year’s theme and emphasized that safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth, engaging in governance issues; interacting virtually, thus enabling them to effectively contribute to socio-economic development.

“…Subjecting youth to unsafe environment, especially at adolescence, can create huge educational, physical, psychological, and social barriers that impede them from competing successfully for decent jobs…” he said.

He urged employers and all workplaces to ensure safety for young workers through thorough checking of machinery, equipment and premises, youth workers to observe laws and regulations and identification of young workers at risk through research.

As regards curbing the youth unemployment problem in the country, Chibebe emphasized the need for implementing quality apprenticeship programmes as one of the skills development strategies which enable the youth to acquire work experience along with technical and professional skills.

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