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SA: Barbara Creecy: Address by Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, at the driving force for change Youth pilot initiative – awards ceremony (26/11/2020)

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SA: Barbara Creecy: Address by Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, at the driving force for change Youth pilot initiative – awards ceremony (26/11/2020)

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Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy

26th November 2020

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Programme Director
Our Partners: Mr Adam Bye – Deputy High Commissioner of the British High Commission, and
HE. Raul de Luzenberger, Charge d’affaires – of the European Union,
Invited Guests: The 13 Finalists to the DFC Youth Pilot Initiative,

Representatives of the media and,
Ladies and gentlemen.

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Today I am pleased to announce the winners of the Drivers for Change Youth Pilot Initiative.  This initiative announced on Youth Day this year, responded to President Ramaphosa’s challenge to South Africa’s youth challenge to craft and design programmes that will make the country reach its developmental goals and address the unemployment crisis.

At that time, I announced that the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has set aside at least R1 million to fund youth-led project preparation for initiatives tackling the issues of climate change, waste management and biodiversity loss.

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Well, as they say, time flies, and now five months later, and we have come full circle. Today, we celebrate the winners of this exciting challenge.

Today’s announcement comes at an important time for our country and for young people in particular. The Covid 19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods across our nation. I take this opportunity to express my sincere condolences to everyone who has lost relatives and friends and offer my support to all who have been affected.

We also know that two million people in our country have lost their jobs and that women and youth, who are first time job entrants, have been most severely affected by retrenchments and business closures. So, while youth exclusion from economic participation is long standing, it has been severely exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.  

Last week when opening South Africa’s Third Investment Conference, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that our foremost task now is to rebuild our economy. Our strategic approach, he said  must be to restore it to what it was before, but to make it even more vibrant, more resilient,  more inclusive and more sustainable.  Our President noted that while this process is fraught with risk, and difficulty, it is also a time of great opportunity in new areas such as the green and digital economy if we invest in our human capital to lay the foundations for the future.

Through our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, we will pursue a few high-impact priorities which  include: 

a massive infrastructure programme; 

an employment stimulus to create and support jobs which includes the expansion of natural resource management programmes; 

immediate steps to achieve energy security which includes significantly improved investment in renewables and storage technology; 

measures to deepen local industrialisation and African integration. 

Our recovery programme notes that the  pursuit of green industrialisation and a green future is an important intervention to ensure  a sustainable solution to climate vulnerability and economic competitiveness.

Government together with Eskom is currently  exploring  a proof of concept project to repurpose at least one of Mpumalanga’s aging  power stations to give it a new purpose once they are decommissioned.

Other critical interventions in the green economy include expanding the programme to retrofit public and private buildings and improve energy and water efficiency, support for small grower farmers through PPPs in forestry (including in state plantations), and measures to support the diversion of waste from landfills.

And so Ladies and Gentlemen it brings me to the focus of our gathering today.  The country’s economic recovery plan lays the policy basis to open new sectors of the economy. What we need from our young entrepreneurs is creativity, innovation and the ability to think outside of the box.

In this regard I want to share with you a quote from Barack Obama who says:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

You may not know this, but South Africa has always been a country of innovators, where individuals have come up with creative solutions to everyday problems. Some notable green innovations include:

the hydrogen fuel cell technology;

the tree planting drone  known as the Podder – which has the ability to plant approximately 20 000 seeds in a day and dramatically improve afforestation efforts;

the humble Wonderbag – which slow-cooks food for up to 12 hours and has been rated by Time Magazine as one of the top 50 genius products;

the DryBath– a gel solution replacing the traditional bath/shower  in a drought-prone region;

and the SharkSafe Barrier – a magnetic field shark barrier which visually deters Sharks through biomimicry of a Kelp forest.

Ladies and gentlemen today’s Driver’s for Change Youth  Initiative intends to translate concepts into bankable business ideas, to explore unchartered territories through research and development; to incubate and nurture innovation and technology, to equip our Youth with the necessary skills sets and capacity, so that their projects have a positive impact on the environment.

In our search for innovators, we received over 250 applications, across the four themes; of Climate Change Adaptation, Climate Change Mitigation, Biodiversity and ecosystems and Waste Management Solutions. In addition to the four themes, applications were also received which covered other related areas, which are equally deserving in merit.

Our judges were equally impressed the altruism of our applicants. The majority of submissions emphasised the applicants’ wishes to improve their communities and society. Ladies and Gentlemen, I see huge potential amongst our Youth.

Our international partners have been generous in providing technical and financial support for our initiative. We have received an additional financial contribution of R300 000 from the British High Commission.  This has allowed us to increase our number of winners to thirteen. The German Technical Agency is ready to provide technical support to the project winners and training in business acumen.  Take this opportunity to thank all our partners for willingly joining us in this unique endeavour.

Ladies and gentlemen your generation will be the first whose lives and futures will be shaped by our collective willingness or our collective failure to address climate change, environmental degradation and unsustainable production processes. The tenacity and spirit displayed in many of the submissions we received for the DFC initiative, give me confidence that our youth are uniquely equipped to confront this challenge.

As I congratulate you on your success today I also ask that you to nurture this seed you have planted and persistently and stubbornly support its growth.  I leave you with a thought from Jesse Owens, world record-setting Olympic athlete:

 “We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”

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