SONA 2020 renews hope for the Youth and SME’s
KIZITO OKECHUKWU | FEBRUARY 17, 2020
A small business owner sells food at a stall at Market on Main in Johannesburg. Picture: www.brandsouthafrica.com
As the exodus of skilled South Africans to greener pastures abroad grows, citing a poor economic environment, lack of opportunity, weak education systems, load-shedding and a high crime rate, President Ramaphosa did give solid and targeted assurances to all South Africans that a brighter future looms.
I’d like to focus on those aimed at the unemployed/unskilled youth and small businesses. To save your time reading the entire address, I have cherry-picked and paraphrased the initiatives that I feel are most relevant.
- Nine new TVET colleges will be built this year which will definitely empower lots of young people in townships and rural areas with an opportunity to learn and possibly become self-employed.
- A bilateral student scholarship agreement has been signed with various countries, which sees a substantial cohort of young people going abroad for training in critical skills, such as the hugely successful Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Medical Training Programme in Cuba. This leads me to mention that’s it’s crucial for us to retain skilled people in the country.
- A new University of Science and Innovation in Ekurhuleni will be established to train the youth in high-impact and cutting-edge technological innovation for current and future industries.
- Providing student accommodation at universities and colleges can prove challenging, so government will spend R64 billion to address this and at least another R64 billion from private investment.
- Government will implement the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention – comprising six priority actions over the next five years to reduce youth unemployment, these are:
One – build cutting-edge solutions to provide young people everywhere with active support, information and work readiness training to increase their employability and match themselves to opportunities.
Two – provide shorter, more flexible courses in specific skills that employers in fast-growing sectors need.
Three – develop new and innovative ways to support youth entrepreneurship and self-employment.
Four – scale up the Youth Employment Service and work with TVET colleges and the private sector to ensure that more learners also receive practical experience.
Five – establish the first cohort of a Presidential Youth Service programme that will unlock the agency of young people and provide opportunities for them to earn an income, while contributing to nation building.
Six – lead a youth employment initiative to be funded by setting aside 1% of the budget to deal with the high levels of youth unemployment. The Minister of Finance will give more details on this.
- The National Youth Development Agency and the Department of Small Business Development will provide grant funding and business support to 1000 young entrepreneurs in the next 100 days, while an ambitious programme to assist 100 000 young entrepreneurs over the next 3 years to access business skills training, funding and market facilitation, will be launched.
- The empowerment of women is critical to inclusive economic growth and I was pleased to learn that the SheTradesZA platform to assist women-owned businesses to participate in global value chains and markets will be launched, with substantial financial support of R10bn from the Industrial Development Corporation.
- Also launching, is a Tourism Equity Fund to stimulate transformation in tourism, which I assume will also benefit the previously disadvantaged communities and support new entrants into the sector.
- To create a larger market for small businesses, the Procurement Bill will soon be presented to Parliament as part of its efforts to empower black and emerging businesses/suppliers and advance radical economic transformation.
- The Poultry Master Plan aims to support chicken farmers/processors and save 54 000 jobs while creating new ones. Soon, a new poultry import tariff adjustment will be set to support the local industry. Similarly, a Sugar Master Plan has been developed with farmers and industrial users to save jobs in the sugar industry.
From a broader perspective, the President, as Chair of the African Union, has prioritised women empowerment with financial inclusion, preferential procurement and preferential trade arrangements. He will also define the Made in Africa product, the tariff lines that will be reduced to zero over the next five years, and the services sectors that will be opened up across the continent in line with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCTA).
In conclusion, impactful implementation will be key to achieving all these. I am still confident that hope for a brighter future for all will prevail, and that government will walk the walk as promised.
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