Positioning the youth for economic recovery

By the numbers, the youth are the country’s greatest resource.

If we are focused on benefiting from our natural resources, then we should be aware of the most important resource of all. Our citizens! Let’s focus on the youth seeing that over 50 percent of the population is under the age of 35.

Many skilled youths have no avenue to enter the workforce. As countries are competing for exceptional human capital, the best talent tends to leave for better rewarding countries. A few weeks ago at an Indigenisation conference, Minister Chinamasa conceded that it was necessary to attract foreign management. His remarks were an indication that there’s a gap of managerial proficiency in terms of world class industrial management.

The market itself seems to agree in certain sectors. According to Industrial Psychology Consultants, Zimbabwean customers prefer to have foreign-owned institutions managing their funds ahead of locally managed banks.

There is no economic policy that provides immediate remedy to brain drain so it is imperative to the workforce that does stay is just as capable as the one that is lost. Next man up. Hopefully the next man is just as good, if not better.

In deteriorating economic situations society begins to compromise on efficiency, competitiveness and world class business conduct. We must ensure that the youth remain exposed and encouraged to maintain high standards. This is necessary to create a reliable base for corporate succession into the future. I am not a proponent for state involvement in entrepreneurial drive. I think that is something that has to exist as a private self-sustaining sector. The state must simply focus on creating a conducive macro-environment for local entrepreneurs; a task that is far from fulfilled. 47 out of 69 listed companies on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange were founded before 1980.

The misplaced focus of state involvement in entrepreneurship has marginalised the formal professional.  Youths are responsive to social stimulus. Modern economic culture idealises the tycoons and moguls. Add on the harsh pressure of needing immediate means of survival, formal professions are no longer appealing.

This will have future repercussions. If the majority of youth are entrenched in entrepreneurial activities, in 10 years will we have a wide base of technical experts to execute the daily operations in those enterprises? For every one Nigel Chanakira, there was more than one hundred formal professionals involved in the operations at Kingdom. Can we not agree then that greater emphasis must be placed on producing technical professionals than the rare entrepreneur?

The Government should focus on re-industrialising the economy. Re-establish the industrial value chains that existed before and formed our economic system. The majority of the youth are trained and skilled for that economic system. Their skills are idle because that economic system became non-existent. This is why we have structural unemployment where the economy does not offer jobs that utilise the diverse skills the youth already have.

To be fair, Government is doing the right thing pursuing mining. Mining industry can incorporate professionals from chemists, health and safety co-ordinators, technicians and engineers. This is the streamlined industrialisation we need. Inclusive and multi-skill dependent. We often talk of mining in terms of deriving revenue. That is important. However, mining is key because it is an industry that has multiple production processes that incorporate different professionals and employs large numbers.

Low skilled labour could be the economic boost we are looking for.  Labour intensive sectors like textiles and agriculture traditionally presented less skilled labour with opportunity.

Government should focus on getting these labour intensive sectors going. This labour force will benefit the overall economy because their wage demands are competitively low enough to attract major investment. This happened in China where low wages attracted investment and gradually pulled large numbers of people out of poverty. Today this wide base which was once poor is slowly entering the middle class, and their collective income is driving the consumer demand that has been reason for that country’s economic boom. We can follow a similar model.

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