Youth Unemployment: A Ticking Time Bomb – Takudzwanashe Mundenga

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Under The Analytic Microscope – By Takudzwanashe Mundenga

Gone are the days when the skyrocket inflation used to be an economic headache to every potential consumer within the geographical confines of the teapot-shaped tract called Zimbabwe. Even the touts and vendors became evident multi-billionaires who could not arrange a decent meal for their families. Today the fresh foe bedevilling our economy is unemployment of the youngsters. There is need for a political will and consistency with national policy on the part of government in order to make the homeland a better place to stay.

Youth unemployment is a ticking time bomb to any economy, anywhere around the globe. The government as the prefect of the nation has to ensure that the number of jobless young people is always kept very low, not on the basis that they are always the first to revolt, but basing on the premise that they are the economically productive age, so they have the keys to the economy. The future has to be invested in the youths to guarantee sustainability. The government as a policy maker is obliged to come up with a job creation policy and implement it. A lower unemployment rate is one of the key macroeconomic fundamentals.

Unemployment according to a definition by Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTATS), [2006] refers to the population aged 15 years and above, who during the 7 day reference period did not work and had no job or business to go back to, but who were available for work. The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare in 2009, estimated that structural unemployment was standing at 85 percent.

Under current economic conditions, true unemployment is anonymous. There are some mixed reactions over the actual figures. The government proposed 10,5 percent is contrary to figures paraded by some economists that is ranging between 70 and 85 percent. The government’s classification of employment consists of the informal sector as some form of disguised employment. Apparently it is a hoax because that same government promised to create 2 million jobs rarely two years ago.

When the UK-based Harland Peel Africa Equity Research released the list of 30 biggest companies by market capitalization in Sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa from the period ending November 2014 with the Zimbabwean brewery, Delta Corporation ranked 16 and the mobile service provider Econet Wireless ranked 22, it simply underscored that Zimbabweans waste most of their time drinking alcohol and socializing. Very little time is spared and allocated to productive activities that benefit the economy. It is high time for the theme that decorated the ZANU PF 2013 election manifesto to materialize. Please indigenise, empower, develop and create employment!

The economist, Dudley Seers, the first Director of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) defined development as “the reduction and elimination of poverty, inequality and unemployment within a growing economy.” In the light of this definition, development is essentially availing or improving the income base of those living in poverty. Three variables can be therefore drawn as indicators of underdevelopment that are: a high inflation rate, unemployment rate and extreme poverty.

With the highest figures of unwaged young people, the economy bleeds from brain drain that is the exodus of professionals and skilled personnel into the diaspora in search for jobs. The implication it has to the economy is a brain gap they create when they migrate. It is often associated with skills shortage, low GDPs and poor service delivery. To top it, the government loses the time and money it invested in upbringing those professionals.

Nowadays politics looks attractive to many young people around, not because they want to serve or they want to change anything, but because it is apparently some form of employment at this juncture. The rise of a Facebook parliament that engages in political debates 24/7 is an attention-grabbing concern. We can agree it was not like that before. Many people used to dislike politics because someone said “it’s a dirty game.” They would try their best to rid themselves from political labelling to avoid trouble.

However when things went wrong everybody became a politician or a pastor overnight because there are some incremental benefits associated with such careers. Less of an academic or professional qualification is needed, but just some charisma. The mushrooming and ballooning of churches by cunning youths masquerading as contemporary prophets and religious organisations yet profit-making business entities is some piece of evidence to that. I am not saying all prophets are liars, but some of them are just gamblers, stealing with the bible clasped in the armpit. These are the ripple effects of unemployment.

If the government ignores employment creation it might as well be breeding many Mutambaras.  Arthur Mutambara studied at Merton College, in the UK Oxford and obtained a PhD in Robotics and Mechatronics and in the US at California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Florida State University College of Engineering. What most of these youths are skipping in their political reading of African economics is that politics is not the end, but the means to the end.

We don’t wish the government to frantically employ a laissez-faire that is simply a principle of no regulation of industry in order to create the 2 million jobs it promised, but it certainly has to selectively liberalize some sectors of the economy to attract Foreign Direct Investments that will therefore create employment. The government can privatize some dysfunctional parastatals like Air Zimbabwe, National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), Grain Marketing Board (GMB), Zimpost, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), etc.

In a bid to redress the youth unemployment in countries like Cameroon and Tunisia, the governments has created National Employment Funds that helps young unemployed people to find jobs or set up their own businesses or projects. The government in Harare has done much compared to other African countries. We have the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment and parastatals such as the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB) and Community Share Ownership Trusts (CSOTs) funding youth projects.

However there is a need to emphasize on projects with the potential of creating employment rather than small household projects. Instead of just assessing the multiplier effects of the project such as viability and profitability there is a need to go an extra mile to look into the project’s contribution to the GDP of the country. Such proposals must be given first preference.

In a nutshell, the above article is simply implying that we should not create a storm in the teacup arguing and debating the exact unemployment rate in Zimbabwe. All that is needed is ACTION and not FICTION. As long as we still have unemployed people in our communities, the government has to do something.

Takudzwanashe Mundenga is a resident political, social, and business analyst. He is an undergraduate at Midlands State University, studying a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies Honours Degree. He runs this column weekly. For feedback and comments please feel free to write to him on [email protected]