Foster youth now - Agency changes tack
THE National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) says it inherited major problems when Umsobomvu Youth Fund (UYF) and the National Youth Commission (NYC) merged to form the agency in 2009.
Talking to Sunday World this week, NYDA CEO Steven Ngobeni says there are issues which were not contained in either the UYF or the NYC hand-over reports.
"For example, they were lacking in corporate partnerships. Partnering with national government, provincial government, municipalities, and internal partnerships and private partnerships are important when you are running an organisation of this nature," Ngobeni says.
In the past, he says, the agency focused more on small and medium enterprise (SME) loans by giving relatively big loans to individuals to establish a business employing about 10 people.
"In real economic terms, that SME loan system only benefited about two people in the mainstream of the country's economy," Ngobeni says.
But now, he says, the NYDA focuses more on micro loans and on developing entrepreneurs.
"We focus on developing programmes that seek to uplift entrepreneurs, not to discover entrepreneurs. This is done through training programmes and the mentorship we provide. We also identify market linkages for them.
"We further provide them with loans starting from R1000 up to R100000. Some of these loans are converted into grants depending on the nature of the business.
"This is the difference - in the past we could only fund a few people, but now we are able to cover more ground in terms of funding."
In the past, he says, young people used to seek help in a particular area but now the approach is to look for young people and provide them with interventions in the areas that matter the most.
"We no longer just give people vouchers to start a business, but we develop entrepreneurs who can later, due to their success, attract bigger funders like commercial banks and other institutions that consider bigger loans."
But, he says, the agency is now facing a new challenge as their resources have been squeezed by the national government.
Ngobeni says instead of the Treasury giving them more resources in terms of their funding allocation, the agency's funds for the 2012-13 financial year have been reduced by R29m.
Ngobeni therefore questions the commitment of the country's political leadership to youth development.
South Africa's leaders seem to be taking a direction that "says the youth is just part and parcel of our population and doesn't need special treatment", he says.
Ngobeni maintains that the leadership has forgotten that the youth is tomorrow's leadership and "they also forget that the youth is the majority in terms of the voters roll and in terms of population figures, which puts them at about 42% to 43% [of the total]".
Today's youth will soon become economically active, and his main worry, Ngobeni says, is whether they will be employed or not when that time comes.
"To be economically active does not necessarily mean being occupied, but could also mean being unemployed yet active. This means you have the potential to make the economy work, but the question is whether you are occupied and utilised effectively in the growth and development of the economy.
"By then we will have more useless people in the economically active category simply because they are not being prepared now. They are not given the appropriate skills for them to take up those responsibilities when the time comes.
"Some of them have studied but are not given opportunities and exposure in their field of qualification," he says.