As responsible corporate citizens, we have a duty to create jobs for our young people

As the pandemic takes its toll on SA, it is time to restore hope to the youth

14 June 2020 - 00:00 By IMTIAZ PATEL
President Cyril Ramaphosa greets young people at the Youth Employment Service launch in Johannesburg in 2018.
President Cyril Ramaphosa greets young people at the Youth Employment Service launch in Johannesburg in 2018.
Image: Gallo Images/Netwerk24

The coronavirus has undoubtedly had a severe impact on SA. It has disrupted our lives and our economy and the effects will be felt for a long time.

While the government has done what is required in order to "flatten the curve", the sight of impoverished South Africans queueing up for social relief is heart-wrenching.

It leaves no room for conjecture that our people, and their ability to survive, have been severely compromised.

At the end of 2019, approximately 60% of SA's employable youth were already without jobs.

The pandemic has exacerbated an already dire situation for our youth. In a recent briefing to parliament's finance, appropriations and public accounts committees, the Treasury said it projected a jobs bloodbath, ranging from 690,000 to 1.79-million jobs lost - depending on how fast the pandemic can be contained. 

While all eyes will be on the government's highly anticipated economic recovery plan, the only way for it to succeed is to get the labour force, especially young people, back to work. This becomes more poignant as we mark Youth Month this June.

MultiChoice has invested in initiatives that support young people through skills development and creating meaningful employment. Over the years we have employed and used as interns hundreds of young people across our SuperSport production value chain and in other parts of our businesses.

We have decided to build on this and invest R40m in the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative - a business-led programme, in partnership with the government, that President Cyril Ramaphosa launched in 2018. The initiative aims to create 1-million 12-month job opportunities for the youth.

Among the young people who will benefit is Dimakatso Matsonyonyo, 25, from Phomolong, Hennenman, in the Free State. She is one of 400 recruits starting a telecommunications internship this month, as part of the partnership with the YES initiative.

This internship could drastically improve the quality of the lives of these beneficiaries at a time when young people dominate unemployment statistics. Most of them are discouraged work-seekers who rely on social relief to get by, while others have grown up in child-headed homes.

This year, we also took the decision to invest more than R10m in creating sports-coaching learnerships through our Let's Play Physical Education Challenge initiative. Let's Play has, over the past five years, become one of the department of basic education's flagship school enrichment programmes.

While all eyes will be on the government's highly anticipated economic recovery plan, the only way for it to succeed is to get the labour force, especially young people, back to work

Over the past two years more than 100,000 primary school pupils have been encouraged to adopt physical activity as a lifestyle. The programme has also equipped life orientation teachers with the tools they need to become better physical education implementers.

Aziza Rafferty is one of 100 unemployed youth from across SA who was selected to be part of the Let's Play initiative. The 20-year-old hails from Eldorado Park, south of Johannesburg - an area renowned for drugs, gangsterism and abject poverty.

Sport is a topic that is close to my heart, as I took up coaching myself and went into it full-time in 1991. That coaching job opened up doors for me, so I hope Aziza and her fellow beneficiaries will reap the rewards that a passion for sport can infuse.

In the president's recent interaction with editors, he indicated there is a need for a new social compact to be concluded with all social partners to bolster growth and create more work.

As a responsible corporate citizen, we have a responsibility, together with all sectors of the economy, to collaborate and create jobs, especially for young people.

We are fully mindful of what time it is. We remain fully committed to social compacting as it is time to meaningfully improve the quality of the lives of young people by creating more opportunities for them. It is time to proactively become more involved in initiatives like YES and Let's Play, not through mere rhetoric but through investing resources.

It is time to restore hope to Aziza, Dimakatso and all young South Africans who find themselves discouraged in the face of overwhelming circumstance. We will not give up on you!

Patel is executive chair of the MultiChoice Group

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