Youths in Zimbabwe remain dependent on their parents until the age of 30. This is according to the findings of “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend in Zimbabwe”, a study jointly carried out by government through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the United Nations Population Fund. The report cites lack of employment opportunities and low salaries for those employed as the main reasons for this dependence. The report found out that youths in many other countries are dependent up to the age of 25. We suggest ways to remedy this situation.

Create more employment

The political administration came with expectations of a better nation for all. At his second inauguration, after the July 30th election victory, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised improved fortunes in his first 100 days in office. Those 100 days have lapsed and things appear to be deteriorating further. Although government claims to have created 800 000 jobs so far, not many believe this assertion. The bottom line is that more jobs need to be created. The much publicised $16 billion worth of new investment now needs to come to life. The planned Karo Resources platinum project and Prospect Resources’ lithium mine need to be fast tracked. So too should the resuscitation of Ziscosteel, Cold Storage Commission and many others. More employment will take the youths out of dependence.

Salaries review

There have been growing calls by many employees to be paid their salaries in US dollars because the pseudo-currency (bond) is losing value daily. Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) embarked on a march from Mutare to Harare to demand salaries in US dollars. Doctors are also on strike for the same reason, among other grievances. Unfortunately, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has already thrown spanners in the works. He has said that government has no capacity to pay any salaries in foreign currency. The only hope for now lies in the meeting between President Mnangagwa and the leadership of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).  With reasonable salaries, youths can wean themselves from their parents.

Increase meaningful support for the informal sector

It is a fact that more than 50% of youths rely on the informal sector for their survival. The country is highly informalised. However, that sector is currently dogged by shortages of raw materials and declining productivity owing to the scarcity of foreign currency, access to meaningful markets and old and dilapidated machinery among other challenges. Empowerbank, the government backed youth focussed bank is not doing enough to assist fill these gaps. In October, the bank only managed 15 clients on their books, and with monthly costs amounting to more than $255 000 for one branch, something is not right. On the other hand, the Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank is yet to find its feet. These are some of the institutions which government can position to assist youths in the informal sector to scale up their businesses.

Agriculture and mining interventions should target youths

Zimbabwe relies heavily on Agriculture and Mining for its well being. As such, it is disheartening to note that youths have been side-lined when it comes to government interventions in these areas. Most youths around 30 years of age could not benefit from the land reform programme because they were too young. This time around, youths should be considered for land which is being freed up after the recent land audit. In the mining sector, artisanal miners who are mostly youths, should be supported to get modern equipment to boost production. Access to markets should also be improved. Fidelity is not fully capitalised or structured to deal fairly and equitably with gold sellers.

Fix the economy

A thriving economy is the ultimate panacea for unemployment and underemployment. At the moment, the economy is not performing. Youths are receiving bad news after bad news. Zimstat has just reported that Zimbabwe’s year on year inflation rate for the month of November 2018 stood at 31.01%, an increase of 10.16% on the October 2018 rate of 20.85%. This is coming on the back of crippling forex and fuel shortages. As a result, many companies are either downsizing or closing shop altogether. Employment remains hard to come by.

The 2012 Zimbabwe Census showed that young people below the age of 30 constitute 70% of the total population. This means that youths should be a priority when government is looking at capacity building programmes. Without effective interventions targeted at them, youths will remain dependent on their parents for many years to come.