The role of youth in the economy
Frantz Fanon’s famous quote cited from his book, The Wretched of the Earth, remains true today, “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it”. These exhilarating words are particularly relevant in the current juncture informed by the COVID-19 outbreak that has engulfed the globe and South Africa, if the coronavirus statistics are anything to go by. Thus, the role and influence of the youth is crucial in the reconfiguration and fundamental change of the country, economically, politically, technologically and educationally. The destiny of the country and the continent lies in the hands of the youth, to drive new initiatives tailored to drastically change the form and content of the construction of the new economy opined by President Ramaphosa.
Historically, the youth has in many ways influenced the course of history, be it politically or otherwise. Nelson Mandela and his generation boldly and courageously shaped a political struggle that yielded a new democratic order in South Africa. In the domain of arts and culture, a generation of young artists also assumed a central role in the regeneration of South Africa’s cultural and linguistic identity. The field of science and technology is now largely dominated by prominent young individuals who have since invented intellectual properties, apps and technologies that have catapulted corporates into global multinational giants as well as major disruptions in the mainstream economy. The name of Nkosana Makate comes to mind here as the inventor of the “Please Call Me” for Vodacom. The youth may also draw inspiration from the fact that Albert Einstein discovered his physics intellect at the age of 26 years and thus, became a genius that went on to win a Nobel Prize. His seminal work is still authoritative to this day.
The advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution further requires active involvement of the youth, to be at the forefront of producing innovations in the domains of education, trade and commerce. The brimming ideas and entrepreneurial spirit of young people remains critical in the economy and the youth should be afforded opportunities to unlock their potential with minimal hurdles and dedicated support. Development Finance Institutions such as the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA), and commercial banks should start to design and package funding products specifically aimed at enabling the generation of young entrepreneurs who require funding to kick start their businesses in manufacturing, telecommunication, financial services, retail, agriculture and mining. Young entrepreneurs should not be despondent by rejection of their ideas, business plans and failure. However, they should embrace risk taking, resilience, agility and acquisition of knowledge as the sine qua non (requirement) to fulfilling their generational mission as iterated by Fanon. To put it bluntly, the youth cannot afford to be bystanders or passive participants in the running of the economy. The youth should face the post COVID-19 era with determination, zeal and focus.
03 Jun 2020