Jambo Africa Online’s Publisher, SAUL MOLOBI, looks at new developments on the youth front, gives context to the challenges faced by the youth, gleamer of hope through the appointment of new Board of the NYDA, and the emergence of a new crop of youth geared to conquer the world as entrepreneurs.

will In evaluating the state of affairs with regards to progress towards achieving Vision 2030 last year, 2020, the National Planning Commission’s National Development Plan (ND) Review 2020 findings were indeed cause for concern for us as a country. The report indicated although for almost twenty years there has been a gradual upward movement in the competencies of learners, currently only 22% of Grade 4 learners reach a minimum level of reading. In Grade 9, 39% of learners reach a minimum level in mathematics (though this minimum level is actually intended for Grade 8). 

“The sobering reality is that educational quality,” posited the report matter-of-factly, “advances more slowly than one would want.” This is measured against the NDP’s vision of   90% of learners achieving minimum competency levels by 2030. While this is goal is noble, even with a healthy rate of improvement, it would be difficult to exceed 60% by 2030 based on the international standards of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

These dire key education indicators point to South Africa being behind other middle income countries. The quality of schooling can be said to be at a level more typically associated with a low-income country, for instance Lesotho or Nepal, than its peers. Youths in South Africa are about half as likely to acquire a university degree than youths in countries such as Brazil or Turkey. Currently, only around 8% of South Africa’s youths do – that is, the 57% that passed matric. Furthermore, a paltry 19% of South African youths currently get to obtain any post-school qualification. The rest are doomed into a pool of unemployment or doing menial labour.

This pessimistic situation is what motivated government to establish the National Youth Development Agency in the first first place. And President Cyril Ramaphosa has just appointed new members of the institution’s Board, and looking at the vigorous parliamentary recruitment went through, we have know whiff of doubt that these young leaders, full of zeal and chutzpah, will inject fresh energy to catapult the NYDA into higher echelons. This is a team of highly multi-disciplinary skilled professionals who will give strategic guidance to the executive team in achieving the noble strategic ideal of empowering the youth.

The picture painted by the National Planning Commission’s 2020 review of progress towards achieving the NDP cut the work out for the Board. The NDP envisages the number of people qualifying as artisans to increase to 30 000 annually by 2030. But the current figure is just above 21,000.  Though the NDP has no graduation targets for TVET colleges, enrolment is expected to increase from around 880,000 today to 1.25 million by 2030. It is important to bear in mind that currently 43% of youths – 100% minus the 57% who successfully complete twelve years of education – do not obtain a qualification of any kind with which to navigate either employment or further studies after school. The NDP envisages that by 2030, 80% to 90% of youths would complete twelve years of education, either in a school or TVET college. However, historical trends suggest that a more likely outcome is that 65% of youths would achieve this by 2030. 

This is the dire situation that the NYDA has to tackle. we would like to redress as Rubik Solutions (Pty) Ltd. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed the seven new board members of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), in terms of Section 9 of the National Youth Development Agency Act 54 of 2008, from the 17 names recommended by the National Assembly.

The members of the new NYDA board are:

1. Ms Asanda Luwaca
2. Mr Avela Mjajubana
3. Ms Karabo Mohale
4. Ms Lebo Mulaisi
5. Mr Thulisa Ndlela9
6. Ms Pearl Pillay
7. Ms Alexandria Procter

The President has designated Ms Asanda Luwaca as Chairperson and Ms Karabo Mohale as Deputy Chairperson of the NYDA Board. Ms Luwaca is the first female chairperson of the NYDA board, in line with the President’s commitment to advance women leadership at all levels.

President Ramaphosa said: “The new board of the National Youth Development Agency carries a great responsibility in the country’s drive to empower young people through skills development, employment, work experience and other opportunities.

“I see the NYDA as a vital partner in the implementation of the Presidential Youth Empowerment Intervention and ensuring that young people are prioritised as part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus.

“The new board brings together a group of individuals with diverse expertise and experience in youth development. I have every confidence that they will ensure sound governance of  the agency, and will dedicate themselves to the critical task of building a better future for the youth of South Africa.”

The Minister in The Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane – who is the executive authority for the NYDA – said: “I congratulate each and every one of the newly-appointed Board Members and look forward to working with them to contribute to lifting the NYDA to even better heights, improved service delivery and positive impact on the lives of young people.

“I am certain that this Board understands that they need to hit the ground running. The NYDA is a critical part of the South African youth development machinery in dealing with the issues facing the youth of our country.

“We look forward to tapping into their individual and collective skills, passions and intellect to contribute to making our country better.”

The members of the board, which must reflect the demographics and geographical spread of South Africa, are appointed for a term of three years

In 2008, over 1 122 114 learners registered for Grade 1 to receive public education. But in 2019 only 409 906 passed matric exams. This means the public education system is like a sieve with holes through which learners are dropping out every year from one grade to another.

Of the 400 000 who have made it, some will proceed to receive university education. But many of them will contribute to the over 31% unemployed university graduates in the country and over 50% unemployed youth younger than 30 in the country.

There are a number of interventions designed by both the public and private sector aimed at empowering the unemployed university graduates – and these include learnerships, internships and apprenticeships through the support of the Youth Employment Service (YES) and the SETA-accredited programmes.

Sadly, these interventions exclude those who dropped out of primary and secondary schooling. They also to a large extent exclude this who passed matric and couldn’t pursue university education or even take a step back to register with TVET college. These are youth who are disillusioned; have lost hope; and have no prospect of living a better life honestly simply because they are unemployable. These are the main threats to any African country’s national security – often these youths resort to committing heinous crimes for their survival; drafted into illegal military activities as militia; or their untenable prospects drive them into drug addiction.

These drop-outs qualify to be described as what Franz Fanon referred to as “the wretched of the earth”. 

Granted, there will be some of the drop-outs who have acquired skills from helping their elders in their backyard or village workshops as mechanics, builders and electricians. But because they have no qualifications, village or township customers will always exploit their labour.

This is where innovative interventions of NYDA have to come in – to give a break to these youths. To give them a second chance in life. We believe these are no “children of a lesser God”!

A new era beckons: “Brave enough to be the light”

While the legacy of bantu education persists to this day which produced graduates whose hope lies in them becoming employees, a new era has given birth to a generation of youth whose dream is to become entrepreneurs – to be their own bosses and become employers.

One such fired trailblazer is Thara Mokoka, a 26-year old entrepreneur based in Mokopane, Limpopo. “When I graduated with an N6 Diploma in Human Resource Management (HRM) from college,” said the affable and sassy Thara, “I knew from looking at some of my family and relatives; friends and fellow residents who were afflicted by unemployment that it was almost impossible to get a job. I then regarded my education as a foundation upon which I could embark on an entrepreneurial journey.

“I then decided to pursue business prospects centred on human resource and development that I studied at college. I thus chose events and promotions management with particular specialization on developing children.

“I believe my peers and I are motivated by the words of the founding father of our democratic, non-racial and non-sexist country and the world’s global icon, Nelson Mandela, when he said: ‘Education is the weapon to change the world!’ Yes we are arming ourselves with education to empower ourselves.”

Besides the global icon, Madiba, Thara was inspired by the then 22-year old United States’ young poet laureate, 𝘈𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘢 𝘎𝘰𝘳𝘮𝘢𝘯, who performed a moving rendition of her poem, “The hill we climb”, at  the inauguration of United States’ President, Joe Biden, on 20 January 2021, w𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘏𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘞𝘦 𝘊𝘭𝘪𝘮𝘣”, and she said:

            “𝘍𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘭𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵.

            𝘐𝘧 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘣𝘳𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘪𝘵.

            𝘐𝘧 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘣𝘳𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘪𝘵…”

This spoke to Thara. Indeed though we are young, we are brave enough to not only ee the light but to be the light at the end of this dark tunnel which is berserk with challenges such as despair, unemployment, hopelessness and despondency. Some of us believe we have to be the light not only to our peers, but to those younger than us. That’s why I focus on children as they are our future. That’s why fully embracing this quotable quote from the poet, I have adopted it as my company’s brand mantra: ‘brave enough to be the light’.”

Thara’s company, Mary-Ann Events and Promotions (Pty) Ltd, has been  giving light to many children as it’s often called upon to host children’s events such as birthdays, graduation parties and other celebratory moments. “While my core business is about making children’s events special and memorable,” she asserts matter-of-factly, “my ultimate goal is to partner with many brands in promoting them among the children. By the way, Martin Lindstrom has done research published in his book, “Brand child”, that clearly shows that children play a major role in influencing their parents in consuming particular brands. Besides, children are a huge market in themselves. So brands have to target them by do it within ethical framework, that’s where I also want to come in to advise them.”

She explains that her services are highly affordable. “Any brand to succeed has to provide value to its consumers and my clients may attest to this. My services are customized according to a customer needs and affordability. Do remember that I serve clients in and around Mokopane, in Polokwane and the entire province, though we do have a top-end market, our desire to make a difference among our people means I also have to prioritize ordinary customers who make the bulk of the population. I make people’s dreams come true as every person aspire to achieve greater things in life, and my company provides them with that opportunity.”

To build her company’s brand equity, Thara utilises social media that she knew was accessible to all her targeted publics. “Digital platforms are the most cost effective and efficient in terms of communicating with our customers,” she said with a wry smile. “They are vehicles through which we engage our customers. Indeed, through them we inculcate awareness of our brand; build customer loyalty, affinity and trust; afford us the opportunity to price our services and products competitively as our marketing costs are down, and thus providing value for money to our customers; and these translate into building customer loyalty to our brands.”

Though government and agencies such as the NYDA do provide both financial and business services support to entrepreneurs such as Mary-Ann Events and Promotions (Pty) Ltd, Thara hasn’t benefited yet. “I have seen many people not being a to chase their dreams because they’re waiting for some big funding coming from somewhere,” Thara said zooming with self-confidence, “I didn’t want to fall into this trap. I knew though I didn’t have financial resources, I was endowed with human capital as a resource, so I relied on this investment to start small. But I decided then that even before formally registering a company, I could start by trading under my company’s name. I knew once the business has taken off the ground, I could then have capital to register and grow it. This is the advice to hawkers that don’t allow yourself to be branded a hawker but give yourself a business name to show that you have a dream of growing into a credible business entity. People knew Mary-Ann Events and Promotions long before I was in a position to formally register it.”

Growing up in Polokwane, Thara matriculated at the Westernburg High School in 2013 and then proceeded to the Baal Perazim FET College where she completed a N6 Diploma in Human Resource Management  – and the modules she passed were Entrepreneurship and Business Management; Management Communication; Personnel Management; Labour Relations; and Computer Practice. “This gave me a holistic approach to business as I acquired both theoretical and practical experiences. I knew while studying that I was destined to become an entrepreneur. Although it is challenging, I joined this world prepared for all the pitfalls. Yes, it was difficult seeing some of my former classmates who chose to get employment brandishing their pay slips every month end, but my determination to become an entrepreneur helped me not to be bothered by that. I knew my business required I sacrificed short term satisfaction and for me to work hard to build this brand. It was too difficult considering I am a single parent, but I knew the sacrifices will benefit my daughter in the long run.”

As Jambo Africa Online, we are highly embraced by young entrepreneurs oozing with tenacity, resilience and harbouring big dreams to succeed against all odds – and one such is Thara and we hereby call on all stakeholders – both public and private sectors and consumers in general to support these young trailblazers in achieving their dreams. The public sector could provide both financial and business services support mechanisms such as funding and mentorship. The private sector should procure their services as part of their enterprise development and even empower them as part of their supplier development programmes. Consumer should partake their services and respect them as businesses. We at Jambo Africa Online commit to continue promoting these youth-owned enterprises and young entrepreneurs in every edition through our youth desk; and we will soon embark on youth mentorship including conducting masterclasses on brand development and management. Those interested in joining us, should send their details to info@brandhillafrica.com


Thara Mokoka is on +27 72 193 5534 and mokokathara8@gmail.coom