By Phephile Motau
The European Union has placed young people at the centre of its programme for the next seven years.
This was announced by the Ambassador of the Delegation of the EU to Eswatini Dessislava Choumelova, when launching the programme on November 10. The EU will provide about E557 million (£32 million) from 2021 to 2024 and the funding will focus on the priority area of human development and social inclusion, to assist emaSwati youth.
The financial allocation for 2025-2027 will be determined following a review in 2024. The focus of the EU Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) has been defined following extensive consultation with the Eswatini government, the 27 EU Member States and diverse key stakeholders, in particular civil society organisations, including women and youth bodies, local authorities, representatives of the private sector, the UN, and other partners.
The MIP is based on a clear understanding of the EU and Eswatini’s mutual interests and responsibilities and the country’s National Development Plan, reflecting a longstanding and reliable partnership. It responds to the context of existing political and socio-economic challenges that have been aggravated by climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, civil unrest and delays in conducting an inclusive and comprehensive national dialogue.
The ambassador said the reason that the youth was at the core of the funding was that the youth was the future of the country and they felt the triple crisis which included the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and the consequences of the recent civil unrest the most.
“Young people instead of having a plethora of opportunities face the reality where they get an education and stay at home without jobs or they struggle to find a programme that will help them get the skills they need to find jobs,” Choumelova said.
She added that there was a lot of frustration which was confirmed by all stakeholders they extensively engaged with on the new programme.
She said in 2021, they had decided to adopt the same programme area with a different focus, but they stopped in their tracks because they saw the plight of youth and to what extent they suffered the most from inequalities, lack of opportunities, economic downturn and civil unrest.
She said this would also address the root of the social unrest and political instability in the country to bring the country back to peace, stability, and prosperity for all.
“We owe the youth a future and the focus of our programme will try to help Eswatini’s youth, but also women in most vulnerable situations take their rightful place in society,” Choumelova said.
She added that the Eu had issued a new strategy where they will focus on the youth in all their external actions around the world. Choumelova said this was called the ‘Youth Action Plan’ and was adopted last month.
She said statistics showed that the two major focuses in the country for the next seven years involved supporting the youth, which were not only unemployed but also unemployable as they lacked skills the market required. She said to give them those skills, the focus would be on technical and vocational education and training which would be market driven.
She said the second focal area would be empowerment which they saw as social and economic empowerment as the youth needed to take their rightful place and play a role in the economic recovery of the country. Choumelova said previously, they had supported free primary education in the country and helped the country achieve a 97 per cent attendance of school. She said they had seen two problems which include the transition rate from primary to secondary because a lot of parents cannot afford to pay for the children. She said they had looked at the big gap between the skills required by the private sector and those which were available and the new programme would deal with that.