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The South African Youth Council (SAYC) though welcoming the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) as delivered by recently elected President Cyril Ramaphosa, it however wishes to highlight some areas of concern as it relates to the ongoing work of government in advancing youth development.

For the longest time, government has offered to make youth development a priority focus area in undertaking its work, however we are not satisfied with the progress the country is making in this regard. In fact to an extent that young people continue to constitute the largest number of those who are unemployed.

During his speech, President Ramaphosa acknowledged that youth unemployment is the country’s most grave and pressing challenge, and made a commitment that young South Africans will be moved to the centre the country’s economic agenda. He further committed to a number of interventions towards addressing the persistent youth unemployment challenge.

Among these is interventions through the Employment Tax Incentive, partnerships with business, organized labour and community representatives to create opportunities to expose youth to the world of work, a launch of a Youth Employment Service initiative, the establishment of a Youth Working Group among others.

Firstly the SAYC welcomes the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative as long as young people are hired and trained where they live to alleviate cost of travel to access the opportunities. This view is informed by the understanding that research suggests that for young people, the average transport and other work seeking activities cost around R560 a month and that the average per capita household income is R527 a month.

On the Employment Tax Incentive, we call on government to publish the number of companies that have benefited from the scheme and the amount they have received against the number of young people they have provided employment opportunities to.

This will help us understand the impact and effectiveness of this initiative, and inform government on whether to continue investing money in this regard. Last year the SAYC wrote the National Treasury requesting this information, and there has since been no response.

On the Youth Working Group, having participated in the Presidential Youth Working Group for several years, the SAYC is of the opinion that the Group lacked the necessary authority to enforce its deliberations and was more of a compliance mechanism rather than a structure with impact. We anticipate that the proposed Youth Working Group will be different and more effective.

The SAYC also welcomes government’s commitment to gradual phasing in of a fully subsidized free higher education and training for the poor and working class South Africans. We believe that this will go a long way in ensuring that young South Africans acquire the necessary levels of education and training to enable them to be competent in the labour and word markets.

On the Black Industrialists programme, though we believe that the program is based on noble principles, we however wish to caution against replacing a Black elite with another as we saw with the introduction of the BEE a couple of years ago, where we saw not more than fifty rich individuals whose wealth did not even scratch the surface in addressing the imbalances of the past.

The Black Industrialist programme must have a greater element of social responsibility as envisaged. We further call for the publication of the list of beneficiaries as we do not understand the secrecy around profiling people who have been funded with tax payers money. President Ramaphosa must therefore instruct the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to release the list publicly.

Lastly, the SAYC welcomes the development around the review and reduction of Cabinet as the bloated Cabinet has relatively strained the national fiscus, notwithstanding the application of cost containment measures. We further call on President Ramaphosa to consider Youth Development as part of performance contracts of all Ministers and Deputy Ministers as youth development cuts across all line functions of government.

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