The Policy Monitoring and Research Centre says the private sector has a key role to play in empowering the youth by complementing government’s efforts in order to make it sustainable.

In a statement, PMRC executive director Bernadette Deka Zulu, observed that having a youthful population gave the country an opportunity to create tangible and sustainable development for itself by placing strong emphasis on youth empowerment for the future.

“Many young women and girls in the world today are breaking barriers that previously made them vulnerable in the face of unequal opportunities and conservative society. Things have changed and many young people in the world today are taking the lead in science, leadership in the public and private sectors. The government [of Zambia] has created multiple policy frameworks aimed at addressing youth unemployment and encouraged increased participation of young people in the country’s economic development agenda. This is evident from the number of young women and men who have been given the platform to lead in government and the private sector. Despite these efforts, challenges remain with youth unemployment in Zambia estimated at about 10.5%, above the national average unemployment of about 7.4%,” Zulu stated.

“The private sector has a role to complement these efforts by introducing homegrown sustainable youth empowerment strategies for Zambia. Having a youthful population gives us a huge opportunity to create tangible and sustainable development for Zambia by placing strong emphasis on youth empowerment now and for the future. With approximately 75% of Zambia’s population under the age of 30 years, the country needs to reconfigure its strategies to harness this youthful generation and create opportunities for the future.”

Zulu recommended strengthening labour regulations and skills development programmes in order to achieve better market matches.

“This should include but not limited to skills training, education, expansion of education access with quality, especially for low income households. Zambia’s industry use of foreign skilled workers demonstrates further evidence of the shortage of well-trained nationals in some fields and provides an opportunity to re-double efforts to increase education coverage and quality. There is also a need to shift university programmes towards producing professionals who can meet the needs of industry….Improve quality and technical and vocational education and training programmes by focusing on generating young entrepreneurs that are relevant to the times and industry needs. This should be focused on support to up skilling and skill training to support economic diversification into agribusiness, tourism and construction which provide opportunities for large numbers of young people to engage in non-farm work in both rural and urban areas,” Zulu stated.

Zulu noted that Zambia also needed to redesign labour regulations in order to support growth of formal and informal jobs by easing the cost of compliance and encouraging the expansion of small businesses run by the youth.

“The youth are also encouraged to show responsibility by utilizing funding resources based on their business plans to yield better outcomes for repayment and subsequent benefit for other youths because these loan facilities are designed to work as revolving funds. Non-payment of loans by youths presents a challenge for growing the base of young entrepreneurs and government must align its strategies to increase incubation support to businesses to create a generation of innovative entrepreneurs with unlimited potential to grow,” she stated.

“Given the tenacity, brilliance and innovation demonstrated by many Zambian youths is apt and befitting and clearly demonstrated by the abilities and milestones that have been scored by our youth in the agricultural and economic sectors, sport, media, mining, robotics innovation, leadership, film and music Industry and many others too numerous to mention. And this has been made possible by government efforts to deliberately create a conducive environment for the youth to thrive and giving leadership opportunities to young people that are serving as members of parliament and senior government officials and those leading in the private sector.”

Meanwhile, Zulu said there was need for the Ministry of Youth and Sport to report on progress on youth empowerment projects.

“In line with the government’s national youth policy and national action plan themed ‘towards skilled, enlightened, economically empowered and patriotic youth impacting positively on national development’, there is need to break more barriers through closer collaboration between the Ministry of Youth and Sport and relevant government agencies and stakeholders to report on progress and resolve challenges affecting the youth in the country,” stated Zulu.