Government and its social partners continue to work towards transforming the South African economy so as to address unemployment and other challenges, said President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma.
Speaking at the Japan International Cooperation Agency seminar, he said “Government, along with our social partners, continues to work hard to implement policies that have a potential to transform the South African economy, including reducing high levels of inequality, creating decent jobs, and reducing the concentration of economic ownership to a small section of our society.”
South Africa has adopted the National Development Plan (NDP), supported by the New Growth Path (NGP) and other programmes. The plan calls for government to look beyond current constraints and to look at the long-term transformation imperatives of the next 20 to 30 years.
Youth unemployment, said the President, features prominently on the NDP as the country has an urbanising and youthful population that bears the brunt of unemployment.
Racial exclusion also formed part of the country’s economic legacy. “The system of apartheid also created a serious skills deficit in our economy,” he said.
Studies show that almost three quarters (72 percent) of South Africa’s unemployed are younger than 34 years. For the next 20 years, South Africa will have over 14 million young people between the ages of 15 and 29. This number will peak in 2021, reaching 15.1 million.
“This presents us with a tremendous opportunity – but it also constitutes a serious challenge, given that joblessness in South Africa tends to mirror our historical past where 65% of our unemployed are black youth,” explained President Zuma.
Government also focused on sectoral strategies especially on skills development to meet these challenges. A Youth Accord between government, business, labour, civil society and youth organisations was recently signed. This would go a long way in addressing challenges.
“We are also considering a revised youth employment incentive that is aimed at boosting opportunities for young work seekers,” said the President.
The NDP identifies areas in the South African economy that have the potential for creating employment on a large scale. These have been termed as “job drivers” and are namely: the agricultural value chain, the mining value chain, the green economy, manufacturing sectors, tourism and certain other high-level service sectors.
“The New Growth Path, despite the challenging global environment, is poised to enhance our interventions that target youth employment. The challenges of youth development confront all of us on the continent and it requires a collective effort of all of us,” said Zuma.
President Zuma also participated in the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development. TICAD is a strategic partnership between Africa and Japan that was launched in 1993, with a view to serve as a consultative forum for development assistance to Africa.
This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the TICAD Process and this coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (which is now the AU).