It is not enough for young people to be beneficiaries of programs and policies; they must be allowed to act as architects of their own destiny. This, according to the Gauteng Government’s Director of Inclusive Economy, Mathopane Masha, is key to promoting inclusive economic growth and transformation in the province, while building a more cohesive and equal society that harnesses the potential of young people within it. lead as leaders. of tomorrow.
It is for this reason that the Gauteng Provincial Government places youth at the center of its policies and policy-making, and invests in human capital projects focusing on youth entrepreneurship, education and business development. skills. “An example of this is how we actively sought youth participation and input when developing the Gauteng Township Economic Development Act,” says Masha. “This commitment translates into tailor-made programs for young people, taking into account their specific needs and concerns.”
Masha says the Growing Gauteng Together (GGT2030) plan cements the province’s commitment to radical transformation, modernization and reindustrialisation, and aims to ensure young people are not left behind in empowerment and opportunity. “The Growing Gauteng Together plan charts our path to shared prosperity and is replete with bold and expansive interventions that have been shaped and refined through extensive results modeling, shaped by both policy and programmatic experience,” explains- he. “At the heart of this is diversifying ownership models and facilitating easier access for new entrants across all key sectors of the economy.
The Gauteng of the future
This, says Masha, is the path to the future and to a different and much better Gauteng by 2030. But what does that look like in practice? “It feels like a global city-region that has focused economic development and growth along fair lines, equitably distributed to create opportunities for everyone, including the most vulnerable among us. It looks like a Gauteng that has seen unemployment halve from 2020 levels and where job growth consistently outpaces population growth.
“This is a Gauteng where crime rates are also halved and where the process of building true social cohesion is a daily experience for all who call this province home. In this future, we are not only a gateway to an integrated and more prosperous Africa; we are a global model of development. GGT2030 is the roadmap we need to follow to achieve this Gauteng – and young people are an integral part of realizing this vision.
Derived from the vision of the National Development Plan for 2030, the objectives of the GGT2030 strategy will be achieved through the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the five regions of Gauteng, the promotion of Gauteng as a destination for trade and tourism. investment, the development of economic and tourist infrastructure, and finally, revitalizing and developing the municipal economy.
An Inclusive Township Economy to Transform Gauteng’s Economy
Gauteng Premier David Makhura said the Gauteng Township Economic Development Act, which he signed earlier this year, is already having an impact: “Entrepreneurs, especially young entrepreneurs, have met many challenges, and as government we have a responsibility – a duty – to support them as they realize their dreams and achieve their full potential.The economic development of our townships is one of the drivers that will transform Gauteng and the lives of its people, bringing us to a growth rate of over 3.5% and reducing unemployment in the province by 20% by 2030.”
The law requires the provincial government to spend 40% of its procurement budget on township businesses and aims to turn townships into bustling commercial zones.
Masha says, “Townships and informal settlements continue to represent the lived realities of one of the most unequal societies on the planet, and young people often bear the brunt of these injustices and inequalities. These are the people we need to include; these are the regions that we need to empower.
He says that an inclusive economy is one in which all members of society can participate in and benefit from economic activities: “Traditional finance systems exclude many people in a number of communities, for example, and that means that the criteria for inclusion should also take these people into account; therefore, any positive change in the economy becomes inclusive.
Young people make up the bulk of the province’s population of 15 million and have always been central to the development or restructuring of the province’s economy, Masha says. Their continued inclusion must be encouraged and nurtured if the province is to benefit from the demographic dividend that accompanies a younger population. “Township development initiatives also focus a lot on young people, who struggle with limited employment opportunities, skills mismatches and funding challenges for their businesses.”
Unique challenges and opportunities
While young people are the largest demographic group in the province, that is not the only reason to invite them to the table: “Yes, they are the majority in the province and they represent the future leaders of our economy, but young also have a lot of brilliant and unconventional ideas that have the potential to change our future for the better. And of course, young people bring positivity, which must go hand in hand with a favorable environment if we want them to release their ideas and contribute to the creation of jobs and the development of new technological solutions.
In terms of inclusive economic development and youth participation, there are still many challenges to overcome. “High costs and lack of access to information remain a challenge, and we are seeing a mismatch of skills to market requirements,” he explains. “There is also an experience conundrum – young people lack the market requirements for certain jobs and are often excluded from business funding opportunities due to a lack of experience.”
These obstacles, says Masha, are not insurmountable: “Young people need to be able to fend for themselves and steered towards income-generating career opportunities, especially in sectors that are likely to grow in the future. Young people should also be provided with a supportive environment to experiment, nurture and commercialize their ideas. We also need to facilitate access to finance for youth businesses, which is why Gauteng has established the Township Partnership Fund which prioritizes youth-owned businesses.
The government is also working with the private sector to increase investment in areas that will enable these businesses to succeed. “This includes investments in broadband infrastructure in historically underserved communities, as well as alternative energy solutions, such as microgrids, in townships,” he said. “In addition to training, which will be critical, we hope these interventions will provide young people with reliable and affordable internet access and energy, which can enable them to succeed in business and enable them to tap into the spectrum of technological opportunities. “.
A focus on high growth sectors and beyond
In addition to focusing on 10 high-growth priority sectors, MEC for Tau Economic Development Parks says the Gauteng city-region is taking the lead in implementing the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) . “The Skills Development Strategy for Economic Recovery outlines interventions to address the skills needs of the ERRP, including those to be implemented as part of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention,” explains he. “These interventions include targeted skills programs, adaptation of TVET curricula, access to work, integrated learning, upskilling and reskilling to preserve jobs that would otherwise be lost.”
This is facilitated by integrating skills planning into sector processes. “That is why we invite all partners, from the private sector, organized labour, civil society, individual citizens, and especially young people, to walk this journey with us and lead the way using the opportunities that exist,” says Tau.
Masha says young people also need to use the spaces for empowerment and self-improvement that exist, and should look to government programs to see where there are gaps to fill: “There are opportunities in the maintenance and repair of mobile devices and electronics. , last mile delivery, manufacturing, construction, global business services and agribusiness, which includes new sectors like cannabis,” he explains. “There is also a focus on the arts, the creative economy and the gig economy, and green energy and waste management solutions remain a priority for both the province and the country.”
He urges young people to get actively involved in shaping the future they want: “The government is looking for new and innovative ideas that can contribute positively to the construction of our country and, in doing so, create new jobs, but we cannot do it alone. ”