Private Sector Commits to UNDP-Supported Youth Programme

October 10, 2022
Speakers at the private sector engagement on Eswatini Youth Empowerment Programme.

UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Mr. Jane. O. Yeboah, (second from left) poses with speakers at the private sector engagement on Eswatini Youth Empowerment Programme.

UNDP/Mantoe Phakathi

Insufficient job opportunities and the economic downturn post-COVID-19 are some of the reasons the country has more than a third of its workforce without a source of livelihood. The worst affected group is the youth with about 60% of them without jobs. Young people with tertiary education are not immune from unemployment. According to Eswatini National Skills Audit Report (2022), more than half of Eswatini’s graduates are unemployed.  

In response to this challenge, the government has endorsed a youth empowerment programme that targets young people between 18 to 35 years old to gain work experience, skills, and access to jobs. Supported by UNDP in partnership with the private sector, NGOs, and tertiary institutions, the Eswatini Youth Empowerment Programme’s ambition is to reduce youth unemployment by 50% by 2030. This will be achieved through private sector companies committing to giving internships to the maximum number of graduates they can afford for a year and paying them a stipend. Companies can also sponsor their smaller counterparts including NGOs who may not be in a position to pay the stipend but would like to allow young graduates to work with them.

The programme also reaches out to young people with little or no tertiary education for training on entrepreneurship for business start-ups.

Unpacking the programme to leaders of private sector companies on 07 October at an engagement session held at MVA Conference Centre, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Ms. Jane Yeboah, said this programme will significantly transform the country. Yeboah said this programme is different from the various internships run by companies in that it brings everyone together to move toward one direction at the same time.   

“We are calling on every company and NGO, to take a young person, the maximum number they can, and if we do it together, we can transform this country,” said Ms. Yeboah, adding: “Eswatini needs you. It is not so difficult to change and transform this country. Other countries have done it.”

She pledged UNDP’s support in piloting this initiative, which will be launched by the government before the end of October, and rolling it out to a national programme, that runs systematically every year to absorb every graduate.

In response, Eswatini Bank Managing Director, Ms. Nozizwe Mulela, pledged her support to the programme which she said was not only trying to help the country deal with unemployment but also giving companies access to skills they need. She said young people are talented and have incredible ideas which are needed by the private sector.

“The youth has become more relevant to the workspace, and we should absorb them as much as possible because it’s about the sustainability of the institutions and that itself will drive the economy of the country,” she said. “You cannot drive economic growth without driving youth development and empowerment.

She urged companies to take up this programme because it is good for the country, communities and families. 

Echoing the same sentiments was Eswatini Royal Insurance Corporation (ESRIC) General Manager, Mr. Zama Ngcobo, who said conversations on corporate social responsibility should go beyond sports and donations here and there but address challenges such as youth unemployment.

“If we don’t deal with these things (youth unemployment and climate change), I can tell you, they have the potential of threatening our existence as humankind,” he said.

While pledging ESRIC’s support, Ngcobo said the contribution of the private sector may not solve all the problems the country is facing but it would make a difference by giving young people an opportunity to get the much-needed experience in the workplace.

“I know we ask ourselves what will happen to our companies in terms of increased costs but ask yourself that, if you don’t get involved in this initiative, what will happen to the unemployed youth,” he concluded.

MTN Eswatini head of corporate affairs, Ms. Thandiwe Mashinini, applauded this programme adding that such initiatives help corporates to implement their social responsibility.

“We don’t the capacity to implement our social responsibility programmes because it’s not our main focus," said Mashinini, adding: “So what I like about this programme is the partnerships it is creating so that we can all work together.”  

In response, the Director of Vocational Training and Education at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Mr. Ernest Simelane, confirmed the government’s commitment to the programme and commended the private sector on responding positively to it. He said the government policies talk about a private sector-led economy.