Embracing the Sadc dream: Young Zimbabweans speak

09 Jun, 2024 - 14:06 0 Views
Embracing the Sadc dream:  Young Zimbabweans speak

The Sunday Mail

Zinpapers Politics Hub

Ranga mataire

MANY a time, politicians conceive lofty visions of the future but fail to capture and incorporate the youth’s own aspirations.

Since its formation, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), has gone through transformational episodes that have seen it devising several interventions meant to bring the youth into mainstream economic activities.

In 2018, SADC undertook a study on young people, which showed that member states were actively implementing several programmes to promote youth innovation, youth entrepreneurship, and youth leadership and participation.

Despite these interventions, the study noted some deficits in high rates of unemployment, as well as the predominance of low productivity and entrepreneurship in the informal economy. The study recommended that member states institute measures to harness the demographic dividend arising from the huge youth bulge of approximately 35 percent of the regional population of 363 million.

Conscious of the glaring gaps that still exist in harnessing the youth dividend, the regional body came up with three major interventions that include the strengthening of the SADC Youth Forum, the implementation of the SADC Youth Programme and the opening up of entrepreneurship opportunities.

The SADC Youth Forum is a non-profit organisation that brings together young people across the region in advocating and developing sustainable youth development strategies.

It is made up of youth organisations and individuals from the member states.

The forum’s vision dovetails with the regional bloc’s key frameworks for youth development and empowerment, which include the SADC Declaration on Youth Development and Empowerment (2015), the SADC Youth Empowerment Policy Framework (2021-2030) and the African Youth Charter (2006).

But are Zimbabwe’s youths aware of these frameworks?

How can these frameworks be accessible to youths so as to improve their understanding and ensure they participate in all socio-economic and political processes? What is their SADC dream?

The Zimpapers Politics Hub sought the views of young professional Zimbabweans on whether youths were aware of SADC’s protocols and whether the regional body is meeting their expectations?

Mr Lonias Rozvi Majoni is an executive director of the Zimbabwe Pan-African Researchers and leverages on his expertise as a Pan-African activist, aspiring sports agent and academic to drive positive change.

He is of the view that most of his peers are unaware of the specific interventions that SADC has put in place to engage young people in regional economic integration processes.

“SADC has launched various programmes meant to help young entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses.

“There are also SADC youth exchanges and skills development initiatives aimed at equipping us with the capabilities needed to participate in the regional economy,” Mr Majoni says.

He thinks that more effort is needed to effectively communicate SADC’s youth agenda and mobilise young people to take advantage of the available support.

The chairperson of Vision 2030 Movement, who is ranked among the top 30 of Africa’s under 35 youth leaders, Mr Paul Mavima, believes the SADC Secretariat needs to undertake massive regional educational outreach programmes to highlight the bloc’s interventions on youth empowerment.

“As a young leader, I am aware that one of the major achievements of SADC has been the adoption of the SADC Protocol on Youth Development and Empowerment.”

Mr Mavima’s Vision 2030 Movement is a pro-Government organisation that seeks the inclusion and participation of youths in decision-making and economic growth.

“As Vision 2030 Movement, we believe SADC plays a critical role in bringing regional youths together. We believe in a more integrated and unified economic community,” says Mr Mavima.

“Youths want to see greater regional integration that enables the free movement of people, goods, services and capital across SADC borders.

“We envision SADC as a robust common market with harmonised policies, reduced trade barriers and increased intra-regional trade.”

Another young Zimbabwean, Ms Audrey Chidawanyika, a global educator in design thinking and an enterprise development expert, lauds SADC for fostering conversations, dialogue and cooperation for sustainable socio-economic development, political stability, environmental protection and regional integration.

“SADC Heads of States are intentionally shaping the region for the better, prioritising youth participation, as echoed by President Mnangagwa. While progress is being made, more needs to be done to harness the full potential of the region’s youth.”

She says her SADC dream is that of a region that prioritises, empowers and values the youths for them to make a difference in society. As the only country in Africa to embark on a revolutionary land reform programme, Zimbabwe boasts a sizeable number of youths venturing into farming.

One such young farmer is Ms Anne Mugwagwa, a highly accomplished individual with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business Administration from the prestigious Zhejiang Goshang University in Hangzhou, China.

She is also the African Union of Youth Assembly’s country president-designate for Zimbabwe. She is into poultry farming.

Ms Mugwagwa says the majority of youths in Zimbabwe are aware of SADC’s regional interventions meant to empower them but the level of awareness is differentiated according to where someone is located.

“It is important to note that, while regional interventions and programmes exist to empower youths in Zimbabwe and in Southern Africa, the level of awareness and participation among young people varies.”

She highlights access to information, education and socio-economic status as factors influencing the level of awareness and engagement among youths.

Her SADC dream is that of a united region with no borders, no visas, free trade and one currency.

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