A youthful call for youth-inclusive policies

Youth inclusive policies_28Apr2015

According to Stats SA, South African youth make up the vast majority of the working population[1]. In the coming years, the youth of today will become the leaders of tomorrow’s society. How that society lives, depends very much on the policies that the country has in place today.

Given the significant role that youth play now and in the future, it is surprising that the youth do not feature more prominently in pertinent development plans for the country. For example, if one looks at the National Climate Change Response White Paper (NCCRWP) and the National Development Plan (NDP) – there isn’t adequate focus or inclusion of the youth. By way of example, if you conduct a quick search for the word “youth” in the NCCRWP document, the word “youth” only appears three times, and twice in the same sentence.

One must commend the Office of the Presidency for taking the initiative to draft a National Youth Policy (NYP) – the document was released for public comment at the end of 2014. The vision for the document says, inter alia, to build better livelihoods for all.

However, the document does not take into account the implications of climate change – an issue that not only has begun affecting lives, but will do so, well into the future. As a young South African, I would have liked to see in the building of “better livelihoods for all”, contingencies around the education of climate change impacts throughout the schooling curricula, so that whatever career choice a learner makes, they will have a firm understanding of the impacts their career poses whether they be environmental or social or economic impacts.

The NYP draft was drawn up for the youth, and as the youth we were given the opportunity to submit our inputs on the draft policy. One of my main concerns with this draft as it stands is that it looks at the youth from the perspective of being receivers or benefactors of the Government’s initiatives and not as contributors or active citizens. In our submission as the YouLead-Collective on the draft youth policy to the Office of the Presidency, we stated this point and offered our recourse. The YouLead-Collective focuses on engagement with youth in South Africa. The YouLead-Collective aims to create a community of young informed global citizens that support positive change specifically around climate-related issues.

If we want to increase participation from the youth and decrease unemployment by way of creating small businesses as outlined by the NDP – creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurial growth is vital. Over the years we have seen investment in entrepreneurship rise steadily, with a number of institutions emerging to foster this need for small businesses and the youth.

What about the creation of a a semi-formal business sector? Where we encourage youth to start at the informal level to gain vital experience of simple concepts like supply and demand. As their experience grows, the young entrepreneurs can migrate into the semi-formal sector, where the focus can be on building business running skills and further deepening business expertise in the lead up to establishing formal businesses. Would this not encourage more youth to opt for entrepreneurship as a career choice, giving the country the opportunity for the economic growth it envisions?

On a number of occasions, we have heard of the difficulties of including the youth in decision-making structures, many of which have direct implications on the future of the youth. The question now becomes one of how do we rally ourselves together as a collective of youth, so we can start to better lobby, advocate and mobilise ourselves to become more visible not only to the state, but also to the youth demographic.

Change is urgently needed from the business as usual model. Change that builds better, more sustainable livelihoods for all that take into account growing global issues that have immense multi-faceted implications such as climate change. There is an urgent call for youth to get involved, to learn, and to take part in policy making platforms and to make our voices heard.

Reading through policies like the National Youth Policy, it bothers me that the youth are seen as benefactors as opposed to active citizens and possible change agents. I was once told by a colleague that movements are created by the youth and the working class. If this is indeed the case, we as the youth of South Africa, and the emerging working class are very well poised to bring about change.

Think for a moment, of a prosperous South Africa. Social prosperity, where our social foundations for food, health, education are being met. And economic prosperity where more members of society become economically active. Finally, environmental prosperity where we are more cognisant of the impacts our way of life is having on the Earth’s systems. That is the South Africa I want to live in. Can we collectively work together to create a prosperous South Africa? I certainly hope so.

Thando is the Community Partnership Programme Intern at Project 90 by 2030 and a member of the YouLead-Collective.

[1] Stats Sa, National and Provincial labour market: Youth

The Budget: A sack of lemons

HKhambuleAfter eagerly awaiting the delivery of the latest budget speech, by Minister Nene, I must say on the balance of circumstances, Mr Nene has done the best he could do with a sack of lemons. Some of the lemons are ripe and some are just not ready while others should be relegated to the compost heap.

It is important that this budget be looked at through the lens of a young South African person, a digitally wired global citizen, a person who will be between the ages of 40 to 60 by the year 2050. It is one thing to expect the 2015 budget to tackle issues of inequality, poverty and job creation, but it is another to understand that the budget speech speaks to the operationalization of already established and promulgated plans and policies. In this regard Mr Nene made lemonade out of lemons.

My initial response to the budget was that South Africa, and more importantly, the ordinary citizen like myself will have to drink this sour concoction. It is no secret that South Africa is going through structural reforms that are akin to austerity measures. Households are bearing the brunt of these measures. A 1% increase in income tax is not a big deal if households were not already cash strapped from high levels of debt to ever increasing energy costs. The problem also lies in the fact that this 1% increase strikes the middle income earners, more so it affects young professionals who have just entered the job market, notwithstanding, the fact that many young people have student debt that need to be repaid.

In all honesty the use of national revenue needs to be improved. The fact that state owned enterprises have to be consistently bailed out using existing and expected tax revenue is unacceptable. It is something that leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Mr Nene said that tax revenue is the single largest revenue source for the government. Notably income tax makes up a large portion of the said income. This revenue should be used for social development such as the increasing of free basic services and the implementation of universal access to basic services for areas in need. South Africa cannot forget that climate change is happening. South Africa needs to undertake an aggressive adaptation and resilience building programme. Any programmes and initiatives that further social development help alleviate the exposure and risks of climate change.  Such an approach sounds more credible than bailing out the monopolistic electrical utility, an ailing broadcaster or a failing postal service.

The state needs to open up conversations on what can be done with the archaic models of running state owned companies and how they operate. This sack of lemons is fast turning bad.

Electricity

The electricity crisis is one example of a failing system of governance as well as a deteriorating model of service. It has been accepted by many quarters that the electricity tariff needs to be cost reflective, however, the electricity tariff needs to adjust for the majority of citizens who cannot afford the current tariffs.

The temporary increase in the electricity levy is concerning. Why should society pay more for less power and less reliability – even though the increase is said to help in addressing the problem of climate change and increase the revenue for electricity utilities.

An important aspect of the present-day state utility is to have a surplus of money, to maximise profits. This paradigm conflicts with the aim of providing a social service affordably. It is therefore necessary that an increase of social floors takes place. Some low-hanging opportunities in energy efficiency measures such as solar water heaters and structural insulation present immense co-benefits. These measures are important in decreasing energy costs. Thus the allocation for free basic electricity needs to account for modern energy needs by including more efficient alternative sources such as liquefied natural gas for cooking and space heating.

The conversation of electricity needs to include the end use perspective, and not just the supply side. The days of a one-stop shop electricity wholesale delivery for all services are over. The days of Eskom monopolising the sector are coming to an end, and it is important for our leaders to recognise this. Eskom needs to essentially focus on transmission and distribution to a lesser extent. The state utility must bring in other role players and play a coordinating or facilitative role.

The government cannot continue with its sweet and sour approach to energy planning. It is time that it recognised the role of rooftop photovoltaics but more importantly it needs to acknowledge that decentralised energy production is the actual game changer.

The idea that costs of inadequate planning and implementation is passed on to us, to me the ordinary citizen, and ultimately future generation is shortsighted. The state has effectively bailed out Eskom and yet there are measures such as demand side management that suppress demand from energy intensive users. The problem lies in the fact that it is a double-edged sword, as most of these companies pay highly subsidised and unethical electricity tariffs.

Let us not forget that underlying the bail out of Eskom and state companies that provide essential services is the issue of non-payments. I put this beverage to you – is it not more beneficial to bail out the customers, the residents of Soweto and areas alike as well as indebted municipalities, rather than to finance Eskom with an indebted customer base?

This year we seem to have a harvest of lemons, when we are used to harvesting oranges and some bananas, some apples and lemons. I am not particularly fond of the lemons but that’s what we have at this point. What we need to do is sort the lemons out and keep the good ones and use the bad ones for a better more productive purpose. I for one will be around for a while and I am not going to be drinking lemonade for the next decade. Government needs to recognise the diversity of activities that are available to the country. When it comes to energy services there is nothing better than a good old-fashioned fruit salad.

 

 

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