We need to solve the job­less pan­demic

CityPress - - Business - Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@city­press.co.za Kuzwayo is the founder of Ig­ni­tive, an ad­ver­tis­ing agency

Moeletsi Mbeki sounds a warn­ing in his book Ar­chi­tects of Poverty, but few peo­ple lis­tened to his mes­sage. In­stead, many of those in lead­er­ship chose to cas­ti­gate him.

To­day, our un­em­ploy­ment rate is more than 27%. This has be­come a na­tional cri­sis, sim­i­lar to a rag­ing pan­demic that causes many phys­i­cal and so­cial ills. Like any cri­sis, it should be the na­tional fo­cus and the yard­stick by which all eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity is judged.

Un­em­ploy­ment is tak­ing its toll on young peo­ple. Some even wish they had not been born at all.

An ex­ec­u­tive who works at one of the big­gest and old­est life as­sur­ance com­pa­nies in the coun­try told me that the sui­cide rate among young­sters is in­creas­ing.

Ein­steinian wis­dom says we can­not solve prob­lems by us­ing the same kind of think­ing we had when we cre­ated them. Of­ten, you have to re­frame the prob­lem with­out chang­ing its char­ac­ter.

The chal­lenge fac­ing South Africa is not only re­dress­ing past im­bal­ances, but get­ting our young peo­ple em­ployed.

It is about giv­ing them a taste of the bet­ter life that was promised.

Most of the young­sters in this coun­try were not even born when we at­tained our free­dom. They do not un­der­stand the ha­tred and the hurt that was caused by apartheid.

So, when they sit alone, hun­gry, des­per­ate and un­em­ployed, we can­not ex­pect them to sym­pa­thise with us.

In the past 24 years, we have been able to dou­ble the mid­dle class, which was pos­si­ble be­cause the econ­omy was grow­ing. This mid­dle class has higher ex­pec­ta­tions, and rightly so.

South Africa must be the bea­con of hope in Africa, and must be the ex­am­ple of a true and tan­gi­ble ex­am­ple of the re­ver­sal of cen­turies of colo­nial­ism and apartheid.

We must think ahead, and any dis­cus­sions on eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and pol­icy changes such as land ex­pro­pri­a­tion must put em­ploy­ment front and cen­tre.

The pro­po­nents of any poli­cies must say how many peo­ple will be em­ployed, and then be held ac­count­able if they break their prom­ises.

It has been said many times that at the heart of our prob­lems is that, as a na­tion, we have lost a uni­fy­ing pur­pose.

Many com­men­ta­tors have said that those in power are no longer set­ting the agenda or, even if they do, it is not au­da­cious.

Of­ten, they are pan­der­ing to the whims of a di­rec­tion­less op­po­si­tion, which has made its mark by per­fect­ing the art of shout­ing the loud­est in a bar.

A few years ago, I was look­ing to em­ploy a young man with cer­tain skills, but, most im­por­tantly, I was look­ing for some­one am­bi­tious who would take the com­pany for­ward.

One of the peo­ple I in­ter­viewed was a very re­spectable and re­spect­ful young man. When I asked him where he wanted to go, he said he didn’t know; that he would go wher­ever the fu­ture took him.

That was not the kind of at­ti­tude we needed.

I didn’t hire the young man be­cause I in­ter­viewed some­one af­ter him whose con­fi­dence bor­dered on ar­ro­gance, but he could back it all up.

He had deep knowl­edge of the busi­ness, his­tory and ex­pe­ri­ence, but, in my book, that counted for lit­tle. What was more im­por­tant was that he was hun­gry for suc­cess and knowl­edge.

So I hired him. We parted ways af­ter a few years and I have watched him fly into the strato­sphere.

This is the at­ti­tude we must cul­ti­vate in our young­sters. We must lib­er­ate our coun­try from the no­tion that gov­ern­ment has an­swers to all of our prob­lems.

The cit­i­zens are not just pas­sive by­standers whose de­liv­ery will come from Par­lia­ment.

Our young­sters must be part of the so­lu­tion to un­em­ploy­ment – they should be given the con­fi­dence and the tools to start busi­nesses and even be al­lowed to fail.

If we want our youth to feed us, we must not try to spoon-feed them.

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