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Like all countries on the continent, we are a country with a young population. A youthful population is an economic asset that has to be harnessed and exploited for purposes of economic growth and development in general. It is young people who make up the bulk of the workforce. They innovate and deliver solutions to local, regional or national problems.

It is a problem, however, when a big chunk of any country’s youth is on the margins of any meaningful activity, when they are neither at school or working. This is a problem facing us and it poses a serious threat to our well-being as a nation. When young people are not meaningfully engaged, they become an asset to the criminals and the underworld in general. They resort to criminal activities such as selling drugs because they need to survive. The illegal economy becomes attractive. They cripple key infrastructure such as electricity and other cables to earn an income.


They steal and vandalise whatever they can lay their hands on including from cemeteries where the dead are supposed to be resting in peace. They become a menace and no-one wins except criminal bosses. They also engage in spontaneous civic activities under the guise of service-delivery protests, barricade roads and cause public mayhem. The causes of this youth unemployment crisis are many and well documented. They range from lack of economically relevant skills to an under-performing economy that is not producing jobs.

There is also a problem of youth development agencies that deal with funding but are unfortunately based in big cities far away from most young people who are left with no idea of what opportunities are available for them. The starting point should be implemented at local and district level youth engagement programmes that instil and encourage meaningful community engagement among young people covering socially responsible, personal and professional behaviour. Although it does not have any immediate financial rewards or remuneration, this equips the youth with a combination of skills, knowledge, values and motivation to make a difference in their community.   

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