Gladness Nkoana tells Deputy Minister of Planning and Monitoring Buti Manamela how he used a National Youth Development Agency grant to set up business. Picture: Siyasanga Mbambani/GCIS.
Gladness Nkoana tells Deputy Minister of Planning and Monitoring Buti Manamela how he used a National Youth Development Agency grant to set up business. Picture: Siyasanga Mbambani/GCIS.

NYDA steers a course of service to the youth

By KKenny Morolong Time of article published Mar 27, 2016

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Kenny Morolong writes that the once-troubled agency has turned its fortunes around and is hard at work helping SA’s youth.

THE board’s term ends in the next two days, a proud moment for the distinguished young men and women tasked with steering the ship and restoring confidence in the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA).

I have had the greatest privilege of serving my country as an executive board member alongside great young minds whose passion for the development of our youth has been a source of inspiration.

I recall vividly the Presidency’s unequivocal orders to a newly appointed board: “Clean up and restore the NYDA.”

Last year, the Deputy Minister of Planning and Monitoring, Buti Manamela, who is also the custodian of youth affairs in the Presidency, hinted at the unemployment “time bomb”among the young.

Speaking at the Young Africa Works Summit, Manamela said if the economic situation did not improve soon for young people, South Africa would not escape the type of youth unrest and regime change protests that had been seen in other parts of the globe.

The International Labour Organisation put the global figure for unemployed youth at 73.4 million. In South Africa last year, 1.38 million young people, more than 60 percent, were unemployed.

The student protests and #FeesMustFall campaign reflect a youth desperate for education and development. If left unheeded, this could lead the country into chaos and instability.

All this makes the NYDA’s work all the more urgent if the country is to avert a revolt by the youth.

In a few weeks, the Presidency is to table in Parliament the youth status report that gives an account of the agency’s work over the past three years.

To expect this report to be a panacea would be unrealistic. However, the executive team and board who took over in 2013 to implement a turnaround strategy for an agency in distress, are proud of their achievements in advancing the goals of youth development.

The board shifted the agency’s core focus from enterprise finance to education and skills development. This important change entailed the conversion of loans to young entrepreneurs to grants, with significant results.

As the National Youth Policy and Strategy enjoin us, our major task is to bolster efforts to increase youth employment.

The status of youth report details our efforts to create opportunities for young people in public employment schemes like youth brigades, expanded public works programmes, and internships in government departments, municipalities, and state-owned enterprises.

We have also forged partnerships with critical sectors of society and agencies in and outside South Africa. These have proved important catalysts in our youth development initiatives.

The report details the beneficial programmes we have implemented with such institutions such as the Industrial Development Corporation and Small Enterprise Finance Agency.

Linked to all this is the role of the private sector as a critical player in the economy.

In line with the imperatives of the national youth policy, efforts have been made to engage the private sector to make clear commitments to provide internships, apprenticeships, and work-integrated learning opportunities. These would contribute immensely to skills development.

Since the board took over in 2013, there have been marked improvements in the NYDA’s operations and management.

Irregular expenditure has been by slashed by 97 percent and the agency has achieved its first clean audit. These changes have set the agency on a winning path.

The board believes its first clean audit was due to its achieving a proper balance between leadership, governance and management. The agency’s leadership is ethical, with a respect for acumen and good governance.

As the agency progresses in its crusade to be credible in the eyes of the youth, the state, and South Africans, adherence to ethical standards and good governance principles will assist it immensely.

It is encouraging that a few months after the board took over, a public perception survey found that 83 percent of youths thought the agency was an important and relevant institution.

Later, in a customer satisfaction survey, 95 percent of young people said they were happy with the services received from the agency.

The lessons learnt during the journey is that the needs of the youth cannot be postponed or divorced from social and economic growth.

For youth development initiatives to succeed, the capacity and integrity of institutions tasked with these need to be guarded jealously.

Madiba warned us on National Youth Day in 1996: “We owe it to the youth who perished in struggle on June 16 and in the many years that followed, to ensure that we achieve what we have set for ourselves; to build a better life for all South Africans.

“As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the gallantry of the Class of 1976, we must vow as a youth and as a nation that regardless of our circumstances we will never betray our generational mission.”

* Morolong is a member of the outgoing board of the NYDA.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent

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