#SONA2022 plan requires urgent action to tackle youth unemployment, dire poverty

Afrika Tikkun has welcomed government measures aimed at boosting youth employment and plans centred around strengthening small to medium enterprises (SMMES).

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) for 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the first two phases of the Presidential Employment Stimulus programmes, which launched in October 2020, have created 850,000 job opportunities. In addition, the Social Employment Fund is set to create a further 50,000 work opportunities using the capability of organisations beyond government in areas such as urban agriculture, early childhood development, public art, and tackling gender-based violence.

The plans highlighted in the address, including the cutting of red tape to enable growth in the small businesses and informal sector, are promising, says Onyi Nwaneri, CEO of Afrika Tikkun Services (ATS), a division of Afrika Tikkun specialising in recruitment, training, placement, and corporate transformation. “The apparent political intent to implement this policy direction shows there is consensus that as the sector with the most employment potential, small businesses must be the government’s first priority in its economic recovery plan, but dedicated and urgent action is necessary to ensure change,” she says.

The first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic saw 20 million people, mostly youth, suddenly out of work and unable to go out and seek employment.

“We agree with the president that fundamental changes are needed to revive economic growth, and we look forward to seeing how the government implements measures to give small and informal businesses the boost they desperately need. Small businesses generate the most jobs and provide opportunities for the poor to earn a living, yet they have suffered the most financial damage since the onset of the pandemic,” adds Nwaneri.

Nwaneri believes that among encouraging prospects mentioned in #SONA22 is the announcement that 10,000 unemployed Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) and university graduates will be given jobs by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

“With more partnerships with civil society and the private sector, there is potential to make this a larger initiative, reaching more unemployed graduates,” says Nwaneri. The record unemployment numbers experienced last year were not just a product of the pandemic but a culmination of years of decline in investment into the economy. “We are pleased to learn that strengthening the private sector through various legislation and funding measures will be prioritised in the government’s economic recovery plan,” says Nwaneri.

About the author