PF Secretary General Davies Mwila says the Citizen’s Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) is moribund and is not helping youths with empowerment projects.

And UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema says the ruling party has betrayed the youths as evidenced by the high unemployment rates.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party (DP) president Harry Kalaba says whilst the youth of today have significant entrepreneurial skills, the environment is not enabling them to participate in the private sector.

In a statement, Monday, Mwila stated that CEEC had rigid conditions which limited youths’ access to resources.

“As we commemorate this year’s youth celebrations under the theme ‘Zambian Youth; Generation unlimited’ it is high time that the Citizen’s Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) removed the restrictions that limit this generation, and it also long overdue that the Ministry of Youth and Sport reports back on its implementation of the National Youth Policy. The current generation is a youthful generation that is unlimited in terms of innovation and tenacity to contribute to sustainable national development; but it is unfortunately limited by rigid conditions that severely restrict it in accessing financial support and related services,” stated Mwila.

“CEEC therefore needs to adapt to be relevant to the times and must be reconfigured to help young entrepreneurs. The Citizens Economic and Empowerment Commission must therefore develop and implement strategies to raise a pool of entrepreneurs and support the existing ones; it must become a vehicle to trigger a rapid revolution of young entrepreneurs. This will give impetus to His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s vision of industrialisation in line with the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) and Vision 2030. In order to achieve this, we need synergy – all relevant institutions must move at the same pace as our Head of State; CEEC is a vehicle that can be used to drive this youth entrepreneurship revolution. We therefore make a clarion call for CEEC to give this youthful Zambian Generation a Youth Friendly Package and they must reconsider the tough conditions attached to loans such as the demand for collateral. We challenge the status quo and demand that CEEC finds other ways to spread the risk.”

Mwila asked the Ministry of Youth and Sports to endeavor to report back to major stake holders on progress made on the National Youth Policy and National Action Plan.

And in a separate statement, Monday, Hichilema noted that employment opportunities for the youths in the country had remained low.

“Our youth have been betrayed by false promises, evidenced by the high unemployment rates in Zambia. There was a pledge of 1million jobs to be created, this has not materialised. The creation of job opportunities in Zambia is imperative to match the growing number of youth entering the labour force every year. With over half of the global population under the age of 30, the demographics are similar in Zambia, nothing has been done to address this minefield. Many have paid cheap lip service to youth empowerment but the policies in place belie all the rhetoric which is why employment opportunities for our youth have remained pitifully low. Scrapping student meal allowances and the increase of Medical students’ Clinical placement fees by 400% is not just shocking but an aberration. Especially that the very politicians who endorsed these moves were themselves recipients of a free education,” Hichilema stated.

Hichilema said government must ensure that it formulate policies that will facilitate skills transfer instead of leaving the responsibilities to foreign NGOs alone.

“Zambia’s unemployment rate is anywhere between 40- 60% with the youth shouldering the highest burden. Our disillusioned youth have resorted to entrepreneurship and agriculture in a bid to earn a living. Majority of them working in the agricultural sector are still classed as working poor, on low earnings. A significant portion of them work as subsistence farmers or run small-scale businesses however many have neither the skill nor the technical know-how for value addition or scalability. This is where government policy should meet them and facilitate this knowledge and skills transfer, instead it is mainly foreign NGOs who are occupying this space- government has abdicated their responsibility. How much government money was allocated for this purpose in the last budget?” Hichilema asked.

“Government must consider policies that engender an enabling environment for our youth that can bring Zambian farming into the 21st century. There are countless tomato farmers in Zambia and yet there is not one factory in existence that adds value by either canning or producing tomatoes paste. Zambia is home to special varieties of mushroom which we all enjoy during the rainy season, but there is not one farm that grows these varieties and cultures in dried or dehydrated form for sale in the region.”

Hichilema stated that there was need for government policies to be pivoted on youth empowerment.

“Being surrounded by 8 neighbors, Zambia has a market of 250 million people on its doorstep. What should be promoted is a policy to get over 50% of our production value chain locally. Linkages to agro-processing and other value-addition activities would not just create jobs but help invigorate local economy. There are countless other agri-businesses that our youth can be encouraged to start up. Our dairy industry could be increased to supply the entire region but in its current state, it’s failing to meet domestic demand. The Citizens Empowerment Fund was set up to help Zambian citizens set up and grow their businesses, instead it has been reduced to a lending house for the ruling elites who shamelessly default on their loans. Government policies should now pivot and reflect a drive towards youth engagement. The future of Zambia depends on tapping into this infinite pool of talent. Let us be the generation that turned the tide and tackled youth unemployment face on,” stated Hichilema.

Meanwhile, in another statement, Kalaba observed that the youth of today had significant entrepreneurial skills but the environment was not enabling them to participate in the private sector.

“Today I see a youth full of innovation, but his innovation is not harnessed. Today I see a youth with significant entrepreneurial skills, but the environment is not enabling him or her to be a private sector participant. Today I see a youth scientist and technologist returning home from abroad, but the government has no plans to enhance the diminishing science base and industry for technology transfer. Today I see a differently gifted youth yearning for skills, but the government has no plans for such youth. On this youth day, I appreciate the fact that in 2019, we have a youth population that is far more educated than ever before. Today, we have a youth population far greater in numbers with collective zeal and energy which, when well harnessed, can place Zambia on a global development path yielding economic dividends,” stated Kalaba stated.

“This government has simply failed to find the golden key to unlock Zambia’s socio-economic potential and job creation for the youth. Zambia has created a desolate and desperate youth. A few desperate youth are being exploited by politicians as tools of political violence and insults for political expediency, especially by the ruling party. These youths have been used to define politics as a dirty and dangerous field, hence perpetuating fear in those who have a positive agenda for genuine change engendering youth development.”