By Bongiwe Zwane-Maseko
There is light at the end of the tunnel for about 2 700 unemployed graduates and artisans as corporates, municipalities and the private sector continue to throw their full weight behind the Eswatini Youth Empowerment Programme (EYEP).
The Public Service Pensions Fund (PSPF) is one of the partners who have pledged their support for the programme. They have contributed an impressive E600 000 toward the programme, which will turn around the lives of young emaSwati.
PSPF CEO Masotja Vilakati said although their focus was on the elderly due to the nature of their work, they were still keen to assist young people as they form a significant part of the population.
“We believe that if young people get on-the-job exposure, they will be more marketable. We have been offering opportunities to the youth for the past three years through our Graduate Trainee Programme and I am happy that the first cohort we worked with were all able to gain employment in different institutions, following the exposure they got,” he said.
The UNDP and Eswatini Government-led programme was launched by His Majesty King Mswati III. On Thursday morning, the UNDP hosted a partners’ MOU signing ceremony where companies who support this initiative were present. These include PSPF, the Construction Industry Council, Ezulwini Municipality, Siteki Town Board, Nhlangano Town Council and Mankayane Town Board.
The programme applicants come from all regions of the kingdom and 58 per cent are females. Since the EYEP launch, the UNDP has been calling on different stakeholders to support this initiative. In an earlier interview, UNDP Head of Youth Programme Zenanile Dlamini said young people are the most important asset for development and UNDP is eager to create new opportunities for young people to develop skills and drive development.
She said they aim to have 1 000 graduates placed within different institutions during this pilot phase and are already looking at expanding the programme and accommodating up to 4 000 new graduates per year in the next phases.
A resource envelope of at least E200 million per year will absorb over 4 000 graduates coming from all the tertiary institutions in the country and further train about 5 000 artisans annually on varied skills. The project is in line with the commitment made by UNDP Africa Regional Director Ahunna Eziakonwa to His Majesty King Mswati III in New York, during the Eswatini Investment Forum to end poverty within five years.
It is also an offer to Eswatini contained in the UNDP Country Programme Document (2021-2025). Implementing partners include the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Ministry of Education, academia, municipalities, private sector companies and youth networks.
The Programme supports young people between 18 to 35 years old to gain work experience, skills, and access to jobs. Supported by UNDP through a partnership with the private sector and tertiary institutions, the National Programme also reaches out to young people with little or no tertiary education for training on entrepreneurship for business start-ups.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Ezulwini Municipality CEO Mathokoza Shongwe said youth empowerment is one of their core mandates and they were glad to be part of this exciting initiative.
“We look forward to a partnership that will not only change the livelihoods of young people from Ezulwini by offering them employment opportunities but also empowering them with skills to start their own businesses and become employers,” he said.