Mkapa: Invest in youth to unlock region’s potential

16Aug 2019
By Guardian Reporter
DAR ES SALAAM
The Guardian
Mkapa: Invest in youth to unlock region’s potential

FORMER President Benjamin Mkapa has advised leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to invest heavily and strategically in its key resource: youth, if the bloc is to make strides in its development aspirations.

FORMER President Benjamin Mkapa

Speaking at a public lecture on ‘Deepening Integration in SADC: Achievements, Challenges and Opportunities’ at the Library Auditorium of the University of Dar es Salaam yesterday, Mkapa said with a burgeoning population in SADC, the majority of whom are youth, it is apt to harness their potential in an age dominated by digital technologies.

“We must build capabilities that grant us insights into the employability of our young people. Consequently, our education systems must be designed to offer the kind of skills that will not only allow them to survive but to thrive,” he said.

The retired Head of State said governments, organizations, businesses as well as civil society groups should be equal partners in empowering youth with skills that would enable them to exploit opportunities offered by the digital economy.

“Left unresolved, this is a real threat to the attainment of the region’s aspirations and goals,” he declared.

But Mkapa cautioned that such transformational empowerment will not happen as quickly as desired without commitment and collaboration. For, oftentimes when governments point to the private sector to generate the necessary jobs, the private sector also appeals to governments to establish the primary policy and legal framework to enable it create the required jobs.

“At the center of this discourse lie important questions: What kind of jobs do we need for our youth and who bears the obligation to create them and how?” he posed.

 “Surely, these are societal challenges which all of us, government and the private sector, must strive in partnership to address.”

He said he believes the solution is also in developing appropriate digital tools that are relevant to daily lives—the skills needed to instill in youth to render them not only employable but also useful in solving daily productivity problems.

This, he argued, will grant the bloc the resilience to become more adaptive to the learned experiences of youth as they assist in developing the practical tools for mitigating unemployment and un-productivity.

“The prosperity of our region, our people and, indeed, our future, to a large extent rests on our ability to address this challenge, purposefully.”

Mkapa also touched on the realization of the SADC Vision which looks towards a common future. He noted that in the midst of the rise of anti-trade and protectionist sentiments around the world, it would serve the bloc well to not lose sight of the pursuit of collective destiny.

“We are endowed with vast natural resources that offer vast potential for unleashing growth and development for our region. We must distinguish ourselves through learning and adopting new and innovative strategies that truly add value and bring tangible benefits to our people and countries. They remain our primary stakeholders and to whom we are solely responsible,” he told the audience.

Mkapa affirmed that the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap (2015–2063), as operationally sequenced through the Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), lays a firm foundation for industrialization as a framework for the region’s integration since its programmatic focus seeks to promote industrial development for poverty eradication.

 “The success of its central mission will rest on the extent that it promotes and accelerates inclusive and sustainable industrial development in keeping with Goal 9 of the Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.

The SDG 9 calls on countries to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

“These endeavors must rest on strengthening industry partnerships across the region to encourage innovation and the region’s competitiveness. The envisioned public – private partnership can only help our manufactures, including nascent ones to address familiar hurdles for example costs, access to finance and technology.”

The public address was organized by Uongozi Institute in collaboration with the SADC Secretariat, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation and the University of Dar es Salaam.

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