NYC executive chairperson Mandela Kapere this week spoke extensively on matters affecting the youth in the country and in the process implored young Namibians to mind the manner in which they communicate their concerns to the elders of the country to “avoid an US vs Them situation”.
Kapere said during the interview with this publication that the biggest challenge facing young Namibians is the structure of the development interventions adopted by the government.
“And by architecture I mean how the system is shaped to respond to youth development issues. Firstly, we have a silo approach because when we think of youth development, we only think about the Ministry of Youth or the National Youth Council,” said Kapere
What will NYCs focus be this year in terms of addressing youth issues in Namibia?
The biggest issue that we will tackle this year is the finalisation of the National Youth Policy and the development National Youth Development Strategy. That is our key priorities because we believe we can only have good programmes if we have responsive policies that are clearly articulated as well as a national youth development plan.
We had youth policies in the past but for the first time, we produced what we call a youth status report which reflects the real situation on the ground as well as the various challenges that are affecting young Namibians.
So that is our biggest priority for the year but there will be others like the restructuring of the Constituency Youth Forums. Because of the current difficulties in getting state funding, we have to collaborate and we have to build stakeholder relations.
We completed our five year strategic plan in which we identified seven new priorities that the council will focus on. Those the key issues from an organisational and governance perspective.
From a program perspective, we are very keen to push for more youth participation in various leadership programmes that we have. We also want to push for more participation and more funding in the youth development grant programmes that we have and capacitate youth organisations and regional structures.
What is the current status of Namibian youth from a political, economic and social perspective?
The biggest finding that came out the youth status report or the key concern is the fact that it seems that our youth development programmes are not targeted.
They are very broad and the problem with that is that the most problematic segment of the youth population that we have are young people who are not in school, employment or in training.
So those are largely young people from the age of say 16 to 30. That will be a real cause of concern because a large segment of young people are not in any educational institution while others are unemployed.
This is the biggest challenge in terms of youth development facing us. One of the key recommendations is the need to have targeted approaches targeting needs.
These programmes need to specifically get the youth into training or job setups. This has not been happening because we have been having this broad approaches that target everybody, an arrangement which had little impact.
Although Namibia has one of the lowest number of youth entrepreneurship in Sub-Saharan Africa, there seem to be quite a number of opportunities and young people certainly seem to be at the forefront of new entrepreneurial activities in the country. Our rate of entrepreneurship is very low but the amount of young people who see enterprises as an opportunity is expanding exponentially. That is recognition that young entrepreneurs are enthusiastic but the socio-economic architecture is not properly shaped to give the necessary support. However, we see the emphasis of Harambee[prosperity plan] on supporting young entrepreneurs as well as coming up with new financing models for youth entrepreneurs.
Where we are apparently doing very well according to the Youth Status Report and the Common Wealth Youth Index is in terms political participation. Namibia is regarded as having youth development institutions as well as structures that provide an opportunity for engagement.
Indications from political participation perspectives shows that Namibia has one of the best indices in the world. But we are not doing well on other fronts like education and health.
What, in your view, is holding the Namibian youth back from prospering?
A number of things. I think the biggest one is how we have structured our development interventions. How the youth development architecture is shaped in Namibia. And by architecture I mean how the system is shaped to respond to youth development issues. Firstly we have a silo approach because when we think of youth development, we only think about the Ministry of Youth or maybe the National Youth Council.
But for youth development to be effective we need to have a broader approach.
There is no public institution that should not have youth development targets. So for example, even the Defense, Health, Agriculture and all other Government ministries must recognise and accept that youth development must be a function in their setups because young people are the majority and the most productive segment of our population.
Now this has not happened and this consciousness does not exist either. So a lot of ministries and public institutions do not plan from a youth perspective or with the youth in mind.
This is the criticism that I have of leadership, how do we take youth development seriously if the people we appoint to lead youth development are not necessarily the best suited for that task?
That for me is big challenge for youth development in Namibia, when we look at which ministers to put at youth or which permanent secretary to appoint, do we put them there because they are best suited or do we have other considerations.
As long as we do not take youth development as seriously[the way we take other sectors], we will continue to be in this state of lack of clarity as to where we want to go.
The other challenge in my view is the competition for funding. It seems like Government institutions that deals with youth development are always the soft targets when it comes to budget cuts.
I think there is no appreciation of where we need to take youth development. There is not appreciation for culture and there is no appreciation for the real value of sports.
If I may intervene….you spoke of sport and culture and I get this feeling that to a certain extent you feel government does not see sport and culture as potential employment creation sectors. Is this the case?
I think we have not applied ourselves fully to the potential that these industries can have in creating opportunities.
We have not applied ourselves to that at all. And I think if we begin to apply ourselves we will see results. Those sectors face the same challenges as that of youth, but do we look at them in terms of their importance to our society or do we just look at them as soft issues that does not deserve much attention.
When you look at powerful countries like China, Germany and USA, their key export is first and foremost their culture. Look at Germany, you think about their food culture, you think about their sports culture, you think about their social culture, you think about think about how they dress and their phone industries and so on. Culture exportation is the factor that makes them so revered in the minds of other people.
A country like Namibia is unique because we have this diverse heritage but I do not think we have applied ourselves enough on how we can exploit the value of our culture and our history and turn it into an economic tool. We need to elevate the status of these aspects of development to a higher level.
Do you think youth appointments into jobs within the public sector is sufficient?
We have two dilemmas, the first is that we had campaigns and calls to have more youth as directors of a number of public enterprises. We want more young people in the leadership of the administration and within parliament.
We definitely want to see more of that but the challenge is that when we review the impact that some of our colleagues have made in the past, sometimes you wonder if they were the best choices.
Sometimes we raise these issues with the decision makers, they often say the young people that got opportunities to lead parastatals and those that became directors in government always seem to create problems in those respective institutions.
That leads me to the second thought which is to ask as to what extent we as young people have inspired confidence to deserve the chance to be given huge tasks.
There are examples of young people who have done exceptionally well, but there are also equally as many examples of young people who have been given opportunities to run institutions of the state and have not done much to inspire confidence in people.
So it is a double edged question that we as a young people need to answer. We must say to ourselves that some of the things we could have done better. I am encouraged by the Ministry of Public Enterprises, because a number of directors have been employed over last five months at parastatals and these are mostly young people who seem to have the correct temperament and commitment to develop the country.
Do you think Namibian youth are interested in the affairs of the country?
I think we are but I am only concerned about the complexity of our engagements. It is one thing to be interested and another whether we are able to address and influence issues at the required level.
We tend to engage very much in the negative and sometimes dwell too much on that. For example, when the issue of the N$3.5billion that was found in the container surfaced, you could see there was public interest to engage with the issue at that level, at a very superficial level for that matter. But when the correct information was released, we were completely disengaged. So sometimes one is worried about our[youth] ability to understand and engage with developmental issues at the appropriate level.
And also whether we are prepared to engage on a knowledge and fact based levels when it comes to development issues.
I think the interest is there but sometimes I think we need to up our game when we are given an opportunity to engage with decision makers in terms of what the priorities are for young Namibians.
Catch part two of Mandela Kapere’s interview in next week’s edition.