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Creating jobs is South Africa’s single most important task. It is central to the government’s priority objective of eliminating poverty by 2030 and moving away from the present resource-intensive economy, which the National Planning Commission says is unsustainable.
Like any employer, countries need people with the relevant training and skills to do the jobs required so they can become valuable contributors to the economy. That there is a critical shortage of the skilled workers required for rural development and to lift people out of poverty is beyond debate.
The challenges facing government and society are substantial, but not insurmountable. They include:
Many of these skills could be considered the building blocks for success in the modern world and should be gained through primary and secondary education. Unfortunately, this has not been the case as the education system has failed many youngsters, especially in rural areas.
The National Development Plan’s objective is to attack the blight of poverty and nurture economic growth while creating a virtuous cycle of expanding opportunities and rising living standards. With a growing economy and the objective of sustaining 6% – plus economic growth, we need to invest heavily in education and skills. Unemployment is among the highest in the world in South Africa, with a high proportion of “working poor” in the rural areas. It is imperative that the government implements a comprehensive rural educational strategy, agrarian reform and measures to ensure food security.
Better food security and a decline in poverty have been achieved in countries such as China and Vietnam, where the state has been determined and passionate in implementing the necessary reforms.
It goes without saying that Africa as a whole needs substantial investment in respect of education and training, yet some statistics on the “African diaspora” sound a positive note for the future of the continent.
About 300 000 African professionals live and work outside the continent. Of these, 75% to 80% completed the majority of their schooling in Africa but had little work experience before emigrating. To fill the gap caused by this brain drain, countries in Africa employ up to 150 000 expatriate professionals at a cost of $4-billion a year. Clearly, this is not sustainable and we need to attract many of those emigrants back as contributors to Africa’s economy.
If South Africa wants to meet the National Development Plan’s aggressive targets of reducing unemployment from 27% to 6% by 2030, 11 million more jobs need to be created. Additionally, the proportion of adults working in rural areas needs to rise from the present 29% to 40%.
We need to retain our skills, invest in education, and create and implement robust agrarian reform in order to help small-scale farmers. Innovative public-private partnerships must be forged to support the green economy, build on conservation efforts and develop a robust skills and training regime – especially in terms of developing entrepreneurship and innovation.
Consultant Helen Bimbassis discusses government’s plan to reduce unemployment by 21% by 2030 in a video interview (see above, right) with Shannon de Ryhove.
Written by Helen Bimbassis, Deloitte
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @HBimbassis on Twitter.