By Bongiwe Zwane -Maseko
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. This is part of the life-changing Eswatini Youth Empowerment Programme led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the government and supported by the private sector.
In an interview, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Jane O. Yeboah said youth unemployment affects the entire country, and if unaddressed, it fragments the socio-political fabric of any country and derails progress toward achieving the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“On 07 October 2022, UNDP in partnership with the Ministries of Labour and Social Security, and Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs hosted various institutions in the country as part of a call to action for the private sector to partner with the government and UNDP in supporting Eswatini Youth Empowerment Programme. Partnerships are expressed in the form of companies taking a maximum number of graduates as interns, over 12 months, wherein graduates earn a stipend paid for by the host organisation or the programme. In effect, there is no limitation to any institution hosting an intern. Graduates can be sponsored by other institutions and the programme enable placement as an intern in the public and private sector, including civil society organisation or government department. Another form of partnership is local institutions contributing towards the sponsorship of artisanal skills training for out-of-school or non-graduate youth, which includes six core artisanal skills and an energy academy to cultivate skills in the design, installation, and maintenance of renewable energy solutions,” she said.
She said the response from the local private sector has been overwhelming and no single entity approached by the programme has declined support.
“The private sector companies acknowledge the challenges faced by young people and are keen to be part of the solution. The success of the programme is partly contingent upon all institutions, whether in the private or public sector, taking on the maximum number of interns to reach the 100 per cent absorption rate. We encourage patronage of the programme for stakeholders to take on the maximum number of interns possible when the programme portal is open. This is the only way the 100 per cent absorption rate of graduate employment can be attained. Single-digit or lower unemployment rates are possible, and this is evident in countries such as Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria,” Yeboah said.
She said UNDP continues to engage with companies to firm up support for the national initiative. Individual sponsors are also encouraged to adopt one or two young people and support their transformation journey.
The project will be launched by Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini soon and 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.