14 August 2020

Remarks by SADC Secretariat at the 2nd SAYOF-SADC Youth Forum

Dr. Maxwell Parakokwa, Senior Programme Officer, Employment, Labour and Youth

• Director of Ceremony

• SAYoF-Regional-Co-Chairs: Ms. Phendulile Zikalal and Ms. Maggie Mwape

• Co-Chairs of SADC Youth Parliament

• Speakers of the SADC Youth Parliament

• SADC Youth Parliamentarians

• African Union Youth Envoy – Ms. Aya Chebbi

• Poet – Ms Relebohile Lefojane

• The Distinguished Facilitators and Moderators

• Distinguished participants • Members of the media fraternity

• Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure for me to have this opportunity to make these Keynote remarks on this occasion of the 2nd SADC Youth Forum, as convened by SAYOF. We felt really honoured upon receiving your invitation to participate at this important platform.

I bring to you warm greetings from Her Excellency, Mme Stergomena Lawrence Tax, the Executive Secretary of SADC, who unfortunately could not join you because of her engagement in SADC Council and Summit business, which as you know is currently ongoing. She sends her commendation and high regard for your organisation and its leadership. She congratulates you for successfully convening this year’s edition of the Forum, and the work that you have been doing throughout the programme year. We accepted to be here as a matter of obligation, recognising our important role in collaborating with young people through their representative organisations as we work towards a Common Future for the region, through regional integration and cooperation. We recognise that young people, in their diverse formations and from their different walks of life, can and should be empowered to make a positive difference in the lives of all SADC citizens.

Through this Forum, you have showed that you are competent by addressing pertinent issues affecting the region such as debt issues, corruption, low growth and poverty, unemployment and education, health, migration, climate change, Covid-19, and many others. The Youth Parliament was particularly impressive by affording yourselves, across the Member States, opportunity to deliberate on key developmental issues with a sense of maturity and responsibility. I have no doubt that the recommendations that you have come up with, deserve serious consideration by our leaders and can contribute growth and development. I also have no doubt that you, as young people, will not just leave the recommendations to the leadership in governments and other stakeholders, but that you will soon develop an action plan to champion implementation as your primary responsibility through the coming year. If you do this, we express our commitment to spare no effort in enhancing our partnership. Director of Ceremony, the situation of youth continues to be very difficult for young people across the world, and SADC youth are not spared. While we shall not lament as the power remains in our hands, especially as youth, we must always be aware that the challenges remain huge and the call to action is extremely urgent. Youth continue to be marginalised in many ways. Their voice is conspicuously missing in formal governance and decision-making processes in many countries. It is not right that youth must resort to informal and peripheral platforms for expression. Youth must push until this is corrected. Their unemployment rate is likely to be two to three times higher than that of adults. Their enterprise is usually in the informal economy where productivity and earnings are low because of constraints in accessing capital and credit, as well as weaknesses in affirmative action. Their access to appropriate and useful sexual and reproductive health services, as well as psychosocial support, is severely limited. The list goes on and on. With Covid-19, the situation of youth is even more precarious. Youth have been severely impacted by some of the needed responses to Covid-19, especially lockdowns. The economic sectors that are worst hit by the prevailing economic downturn, such as tourism, hotel and catering, wholesale and retail sectors are those in which youth account for greater numbers, often in precarious forms of employment that lack adequate social security.

Youth are also more disproportionately affected by disruptions to learning as schools are closed in many countries, with access to virtual means of learning being available only to a few. These factors disempower youth and increase their vulnerability to criminal behaviour, unintended pregnancies, loss of skills and earning potential and therefore, long-term exclusion and poverty. With the global community warning of the potential of a scarred Covid-19 or lockdown generation there will be need for youth to remain on their feet, and work closely with governments and other stakeholders to ensure that the interests of youth are prioritised in the response measures.

On its part, the Secretariat is working closely with Member States in putting in place measures to protect youth through the crisis. This is being done through stimulus packages, including wage subsidies that protect the viability of micro, small and medium enterprises, which are the main sources of employment for young people in the region. Member States have also up-scaled measures for the continuity of education and learning programmes through diversified options that include TV programs in partnership with public television stations, podcasts, radio broadcasts, and learning packets in both digital and paper forms. It is also encouraging to note that Member States are simultaneously strengthening the sustainability of these measures beyond the crisis through targeted investments in educational infrastructure, including digital technologies. These measures are critical in ensuring that youth are empowered to lead the region out of the crisis, into a future that is rightfully in their hands. In asking the youth to remain vigilant during these trying times, I also commend you for the role that you have so far played in the Covid-19 response in the different countries, including in the context of the African Youth Front. In a special way, I also want to recognise the sterling efforts undertaken by the African Union Youth Envoy, Aya, in mobilising youth for action across Africa since the crisis began. Director of Ceremony, at this juncture, I want to inform the youth that the ongoing SADC Council and Summit meetings are set to consider and approve two key blue prints for the region. These are the SADC Vision 2050 and new Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (2020-2030). Many of you have participated in consultations on the two documents. Without pre-empting the discussions or outcomes, I would like to assure the Forum that the issue of youth has been amplified in the two proposed guiding instruments. These should see Member States and the Secretariat being able to upscale programming around your key interests. I am also confident that there is great scope for SADC to immediately take up some of your key recommendations as soon as the ongoing meetings end.

I also want to confirm that the Secretariat has kick-started the development of a focused SADC Youth Programme (SYP) to operationalise the SADC Declaration on Youth Empowerment and Development of 2015, as directed by the Council of Ministers and also Youth Ministers in their recent meetings. We shall be facilitating stakeholder engagement in due course, before the end of the year, to ensure that your interests in particular find expression in the envisaged framework. Related to this is our partnership with UNFPA through the Johannesburg Office in a scoping exercise to determine and enhance the capacities of youth organisations in the region to drive implementation of the envisaged SADC Youth Programme. In all these planned interventions we count on your active participation at both regional and national levels.

As I end my remarks, I want to once again congratulate SAYOF for the excellent organisation of this Forum, which is about to end, under the difficult Covid-19 circumstances. I urge you to keep the shoulder to the wheel, so that when you meet for the 3rd Forum next year, youth in SADC will be at a whole different level. I also want to thank all the partners that have made this event a success, including the resource persons who provided excellent guidance throughout the programme.

Please stay safe!

I thank you very much.

Merci beaucoup. Mucho Obrigado. Asante Sana. Kealeboga.