11 July 2023
Unlocking Potential: Addressing Youth Unemployment in South Africa By Makano Morojele
South Africa stands at a critical juncture in its pursuit of sustainable and inclusive economic growth. One of the most pressing challenges we face is youth unemployment, which not only hampers individual potential, but also hinders the development of our nation as a whole. As an active force for good, Absa recognises the urgent need to address this issue head-on.
For Makano Morojele, Corporate Citizenship: Education and Youth Employability at Absa, understanding the causes and barriers of youth unemployment is imperative to being able to address this critical issue. Moreover, she emphasises the transformative role that Absa and its partners can play in driving impactful change. Change that, while enabling a social impact has to drive economic value, aligning to business strategy and purpose as well as priorities within the ESG framework, which according to Morojele, set the direction of travel and help to define the outcomes and goals to be achieved.
Youth unemployment in South Africa is a multifaceted issue with complex causes. With the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2023 results showing that the total number of unemployed youth (15-34 years) increased by 241 000 to 4,9 million, a total of 46,5%, this is a crisis we cannot ignore.
Among the prominent factors contributing to this crisis are a mismatch between skills acquired and industry needs, limited access to quality education and vocational training, and structural barriers that hinder youth integration into the labour market. These challenges disproportionately affect marginalised communities, exacerbating existing inequalities and hindering social mobility.
This is further aggravated by the gap that exists in looking at the needs of industry through a single lens. We need to take a step back to understand the nuances of the various economic sectors and unpack the key unique parameters that exist in each. A one size fits all approach does not work, creating policies that try and enforce this in fact creates more barriers.
Furthermore, the rapid growth in technological advancements and everchanging future workplace renders some traditional job roles obsolete, leaving many young people ill-equipped to navigate this evolving landscape. This digital divide once again disproportionately affects marginalised communities who don’t have access to these tools or insights, further deepening existing inequalities.
These barriers and others including the lack of work experience, access to internships or mentorships as well as the social networks that often open up these doors, further hampers the youths’ chances of securing meaningful employment. Additionally, systemic issues such as gender inequality and spatial disparities further compound the challenges faced by our youth.
Added to all of this are the growing financial constraints which pose significant challenges for young people seeking further education opportunities or even to start their own ventures. Limited access to capital, coupled with a dearth of financial literacy, restricts their ability to pursue entrepreneurial endeavours and limits their prospects for success.
To address these complex challenges, the development of a partnership eco-system, where the underlying acknowledgement is that to achieve scale and drive innovative systemic change, coalitions of the willing are critical.
Government is a key component in this eco-system, as working outside of the national network is not an option, rather the TVET college framework provides a critical vehicle for delivery and the agility for growth sectors to upskill, reskill or cross skill. We need to work at bringing transformative change not only to the system itself but to the young people that are served by it. By leveraging our expertise, resources, and extensive network, we can drive transformative change alongside government, educational institutions, NGOs, labour, and the private sector.
Our vision as Absa extends beyond philanthropy; we view our role as being co-creators of sustainable, long-term initiatives that create a lasting impact and fulfil our social goals. For us, adopting a project-by-project approach is not enough, it suggests a finite beginning and end, which is not sustainable. Rather, we look to build on what we have seen works, adapt where necessary, and learn as we go, creating foundations on which we can grow and extend our impact.
Our participation in Installation and Repair Maintenance (IRM) initiative in collaboration with the National Business Initiative is a key example of this. The initiative aims to unlock demand for IRM skills across the formal and informal/township economy and support young people with the necessary skills and on-the-job training that enables their transition to employment, self-employment and/or further training. The project has forever changed the lives of those involved and demonstrated how the impact and impetus that was created matters, as we were able, through this targeted approach to empower these young people to become drivers of economic growth. Through this incremental approach and our learnings that we have applied into our bigger picture thinking, we are seeing that the gains made are worthwhile.
Through collaboration with our partners, we will continue to design and implement sustainable initiatives that empower young individuals, foster economic growth, and drive positive change in our society. Working together, we can empower Africa’s tomorrow together…one story at a time and achieve lasting impacts that ultimately will secure and pave the way for a brighter future for all.