Thought Leadership
A Presidential View.

Present day South Africa presents many problems for our society. As our populations grow, their demands and needs similarly grow. These increase expectations on government, business and civil society to provide answers and solutions for. At the centre of many of society’s problems is the economy. High unemployment, lack of sufficient support and resource, and the rising cost of education have swayed the optimism amongst youth to that of a pessimistic outlook. Is the future as bleak as it may sometimes seem?

The Youth Economic Alliance advocates for the full and active participation of youth in the mainstream economy of South Africa. As an independent organised business organisation, we look at exploring different ways and means to find solutions for our constituency. This we do with all sectors of society by engaging, assessing, partnering and or collaborating. As a national structure, our mandate is focused across South Africa. Our headquarters are in Gauteng and here is why - Gauteng is South Africa’s biggest contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, accounting for a third of the GDP. A deeper look into the economy of South Africa shows that Gauteng province consumes a third of South Africa’s energy output, dominates a third of the activity of manufacturing, finance, retail, real estate, motor trade, accommodation, logistics, communication and general government services.

Furthermore, Gauteng is the financial services capital of the continent, with global first ranking for its regulation of securities exchanges by the World Economic Forum Competitive Report, 2011. Gauteng is responsible for 50% of all company turnover. But, how many of our youth participate in this gigantic economy? According to Stats SA, youth unemployment has risen from 32.4% to a 39.8% in 2015. Discouraged youth work seekers - a term used to describe individuals who wanted to work or start a business but did not because they believed there are no jobs available, opportunities to start a business, or were unable to find jobs requiring their skills, or had lost hope of finding any kind of work - affect youth more than any other population group. Inflating the crisis is the rising cost of tertiary education, a key enabler for economic opportunities.

In recent years we have witnessed a rising increase in frustrated students due to the constantly rising costs that make education inaccessible. We are adamant that the call for free education is a legitimate and just cry. As the nation aspires to attaining freedom in its most holistic form, that is political, social and economic transformation and equality, relies on any person, regardless of socio-economic background to access quality education. Education plays a critical role as a vehicle for class mobilisation, without which many find themselves locked in a cycle of poverty. As businesses, the quality and access to education of South Africans directly affects us and our success. Without a highly skilled and educated work pool to draw from as a resource, our ability to sustainably compete in an already difficult terrain is heavily reduced. The country needs a young, energetic and skilled work force to drive economic growth which in turn drives progressive social change. Its needs a youth that taps into existing experience, research and doctrine to enhance its own innovative capabilities and determine the skills of the future.

Who, then, will rise to the occasion and fight for you to play an active role in the economy if not the youth themselves? We stand during a critical time for the continent and it having to re-engineer its focus and approach to the world economy. This is a result of but many revelations of success in global societies based on a competitive SMME market fuelling their economies to inclusive growth and tackling high unemployment and vitally, youth playing a profound role in this.

The Youth Economic Alliance was established in July 2018, both symbolic as it is South Africa’ Youth month but also two decades late. The youth Economic Alliance should have existed immediately after the democratic elections, if we had a clear entrepreneurship vision for ourselves. Nonetheless we have undertaken the mammoth task of creating a structure that is focused on tangible deliverables as opposed to verbal rhetorical prowess, as a means to effectively address the issues of youth in business. We dedicated immense time to focus on capacity and efficiency building of our founding leaders, enabling them to understand that YEA is unique only in its thinking and ability to effectively implement. We did this by sharing knowledge, developing common tools and quality standards, and by innovatively developing opportunities for youth collaboration. Furthermore, we bridged the gap in understanding between various stakeholders whilst moving within the strategic confines of the National Development Plan, African Union vision 2063.

With this background, we have themed 2019 “The year of the Economy of Youth” with the goal and intention on focusing on more opportunities, more youth partnerships and more participation from youth in the development of solutions to open up the economy for our youth! Our partnerships with government, corporates and civil society organisations will play an immense role in realising our goals. To the team, your valiant dedication to volunteer to this mammoth task remains your point of humility. We will work harder than before, together and with others to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves this year! We look forward to the challenge.

Afrika Mkhangala,

YEA President