ZAMBIAN youths cannot effectively participate in the country’s economy because the current PF regime does not want to give them any meaningful job opportunities, says National Democratic Congress (NDC) president Chishimba Kambwili.

And Kambwili says it hurts him to see the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Child Development, which he fought so hard to build, become a “Cinderella ministry,” which cannot even assure young people a better future.

In an interview, Kambwili lamented that young Zambians were stuck under the PF government because no matter how educated they were, they could still not get employment opportunities.

“Under the current circumstances, youths have no hope! Reason being that there are no jobs for them. Today, Zambia has got over 40 universities; if you say that each university graduates 1,000 students on an average per year, you are talking about over 40,000 youths graduating every year and the job market is saturated. The job market is saturated because of two things; one, the retirement age is too much at 65. So, if you get a job, you only leave it at the age of 65, meaning, therefore, that you’ve occupied the period in which the coming youths should work. This would simply mean by the time these old people retire, those youths would no longer be youths and they would start working when they are old. So, there is no room for youth employment, currently, in Zambia,” Kambwili observed.

He also said lack of industrialization and had led to limited or no jobs in the country.

“There are no industries; the mines have reduced their labour force, then, government is also trying to reduce its labour force. Now, where are the youths going to get employment? It’s sad for them. That’s why when I was Minister of Youth and Sport, we put much emphasis on entrepreneurship and youth empowerment. When I was Minister, every year, we were giving out Youth Empowerment Fund; it was not a secret where you would come to my office in the night and you are given as a youth, no. We used to have ceremonies in every province where we used to choose youths from all walks of life with different skills, they used to put in proposals, then people would analyze their proposals and refund them. But since I left the Ministry of Youth and Sport, the last thing we did was when we bought the buses for the youths under my leadership. Afterwards, the Ministry’s budget has reduced,” Kambwili said.

“When I went to Ministry of Youth, I found the annual budget was K43 billion. I fought and raised it to K167 billion. But today, it has reduced to about K60 billion. This shows you that the leadership, which is there, does not care about youth empowerment. But when you empower youths, they can do survival entrepreneurship business. During my time, some youths bought taxis, others opened up Internet cafes and others started trading in many other areas. But today, there is no youth empowerment to talk about and this is all because the current leadership has failed!”

Kambwili said the Ministry of Youth and Sport had stopped functioning since he left government.

“I don’t even know why we should have a Ministry of Youth and Sport, now, because sport has gone down, you can’t even qualify to the Africa Cup (of Nations). Youth employment, there is nothing. So, why have a Minister? For what? When I was Minister of Youth and Sport, that Ministry become one of the major Ministries in this country, but today, it’s a ‘Cinderella ministry,’ a by-the-way Ministry. So, that differentiates Kambwili’s leadership to other people’s leadership. Because as a Minister, you don’t have to wait that the President will give you, you have to fight! Every Minister must fight that the budget in his Ministry is increased in order to carry out the programmes that you want to do. If you are not aggressive, you will not get because there are a lot of competing needs in the economy,” he said.

“The youths are doomed under the current administration, and going forward, I see very little of youth contribution from the youths to national development. Just imagine; a child goes to university, passes with distinction, but still comes back to live at his father’s house, waiting for mother to cook food for him! A child, who has been to university, should become a ‘John Solwe’ ubwali, what kind of a government are you? We need to prioritize industrialization. This money we’ve spent on unnecessary roads should have gone into productivity. The loans that we have gotten should have gone into projects that were going to generate more money to pay the loans. Not where we are paying loans using tax payers’ money, which is unsustainable.”

But Kambwili, the former Roan PF member of parliament, said youths should not lose hope because an NDC government would ensure employment through industrialization.

“Things will change under NDC and Kambwili. Just check wherever I have been, check all the Ministries have worked. Ministry of Information was ‘Cinderella,’ nothing was happening there. But when I moved there, it changed. When I moved to Labour Ministry, employees were respected. But look at today, people are hired and fired at will, no voice from the Ministry of Labour! Now, I want to be the driver, driving the main train and you will see the results. Ine mfwaya ukutashiwa, mfwaya uko napita bashala balelanda ati kwalipitile abaume (I like to be appreciated and remembered everywhere I have been, I like it when people say, ‘a real man had been to this place’). Some people don’t have targets in life, but some of us, when we go into an office, we ask ourselves: ‘what do I want to achieve’? Then, we work towards that target. For me in this country, what I want to achieve is industralization. I just want to industralize because I cannot allow tooth picks being imported from China!” said Kambwili.