A partnership to further youth employment by bringing together innovation, infrastructure, 4IR thinking and a commitment to jobs for youth in township and peri-urban communities has just been announced between the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and YES (the Youth Employment Service).

This public-private partnership, a hallmark of YES operations, promises exciting and impactful outcomes with the two organisations finding common ground in their mandates and objectives for South Africa’s youth and achieving this through innovative, technology driven models and new thinking on local economic development.

The DBSA exists to transform the sub-continent and is looking to drive deeper impact to “Make change happen” faster locally. This resonates with the Youth Employment Service which exists to push youth employability and youth jobs in South Africa. The DBSA has historically targeted infrastructure for development and YES is acutely aware that to create local jobs in marginalised high unemployment communities such as Bushbuckridge, particular infrastructure is very necessary.

The organisations will partner in the development of youth precincts modelled on the YES Hub concept and value chain thinking supported by the World Bank, the Swiss Development Agency (SECO) and other best practice partners locally and globally. Elements of this model can be viewed at the Tembisa Kago Hub and soon to be launched hubs in Bushbuckridge, Alexandra township and townships in the Western Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal.

YES has been crowding in private sector, enterprise development and grant funding to create opportunities for youth where they would not otherwise have existed, which makes the collaboration sensible and powerful. Each party is able to have significant growth in impact by pooling know-how, other partners, funding and resources.  

Township hubs create real work experience and grow the economy

Youth at the hubs are engaged in the production of high quality produce through tech-driven aquaponic urban working farms, sanitary pad manufacture by young women, crafts and baby blankets for purchase by Netcare, training restaurants and kitchens feeding the hospitality and tourism space, local distribution centres for FMCG firms, small business support and a multitude of digital training programmes leading into digital jobs across sectors.

The hubs aim to foster new centres of economic activity and growth within disadvantaged communities through developing economic value chains, enabling market access to attract, create and retain economic value within the communities themselves.

Tashmia Ismail-Saville, YES CEO, explained, “In thinking about how we would reach the jobs numbers we need as a country, there was no ignoring the sore lack of accessible community-level opportunities for skilling and employment for local youth. Cultural, geographic and educational distance to the centres of the economy are just too wide for young people without tertiary or even matric to traverse. The system simply does not cater to their needs, and they are the majority.”

Carey Jooste, Head of Innovation and Culture of the DBSA, commented, “The DBSA found common ground in seeing a method to create new pathways for youth to become skilled and productive economic participants by overlapping their infrastructural plans nationwide with the YES pattern of township, peri-urban and rural locations of the hubs.”

The effect of the hubs and full precinct development is intended to in some way remedy the deficit created by apartheid spatial inequality and apartheid legacy. This is achieved through targeted enterprise development, creating lasting and sustainable small businesses, market opportunity, extended local circulation of income and social grants and most importantly, local employment opportunities for youth most easily absorbed by small local businesses.

Key focus areas

The DBSA-YES partnership will focus on several key areas:

·       The delivery of digital skills and programmes ranging from online courses through Udemy and Udacity, to virtual reality jobs training and extending into software and web development, digital marketing and other 4IR relevant courses;

·       The creation of opportunities for young women and specifically young women in the digital space;

·       Micro-manufacturing facilities for local sanitary pad production and distribution by local youth

·       Small business support in construction and green energy sectors

·       The rollout of hubs through leveraging the DBSA’s pedigree and expertise in infrastructure development, and

·       The creation of hub precincts, which creates a safe and common space for other partners in youth development to share in the resources. This will offer youth a wider selection of programmes such as R-Labs, Safe-Hub sport and mentoring programmes and other partner programmes from digital collaborators IBM, Google, Microsoft and a range of corporate investors such as Nedbank.

Benefits to South Africa and businesses

“The country needs many more partnerships such as this, where we work together and avoid reinvention of the wheel. Some organisations already have great capabilities and just need partnerships to scale. It’s about assembling the right pieces on a neutral platform. We see a like mindedness in the DBSA approach and a real appetite to try new models,” notes Ismail-Saville.

YES already has close partnerships with the dti, which has used the NPO to further youth employment with a ground-breaking Gazette Amendment which rewards the private sector when it invests in youth jobs.

Lionel October, DG at the dti, commented, “The YES-dti relationship is a commitment to the implementation of sustainable economic and development solutions for boosting youth employability in South Africa. With partners, YES can have significant impact through the various innovations for employment opportunities in peri-urban and township areas.”

DBSA Chief Executive Officer Patrick Dlamini adds, “The DBSA has a rich heritage of supporting economic and social development through investing in infrastructure. We are very proud to be able to join hands with the YES initiative to equip our country’s youth to become dynamic, productive participants in the economy.”

“Not only does this mean that the youth themselves are afforded the opportunity to gain access to new employment and skills development opportunities, but the South African economy benefits through overall economic growth and reduced fiscal strain,” he says.

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