Youth Voice at BRICS Urban Forum

Durban - For local governments to deal with urbanisation challenges, they must come up with policies that support youth development.

Speaking on behalf of young people at the BRICS Urban Forum in Durban on Thursday, Siviwe Mkoka, an executive manager for research and policy at the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), said alarming youth unemployment and poverty was a common challenge amongst member states, and city councils from all BRICS countries should consider prioritising them in their policies.

Mkoka said this after presenting a grim picture about youth unemployment, which, according to statistics, showed that 52% of young people in South Africa were without a job.

He said out of the entire population, young people were the majority, and that every country needed young people in order to have a future.

"There exists a need to watch closely the demographic and social characteristics of a populace that swells urban areas. It shouldn't just be development in vain.

"Urbanisation will be meaningful only and sustainable to the best levels that we desire if it supports populations that occupy those urban spaces.

"In this particular case, it is the youth that occupy urban spaces in China, Russia, India, Brazil and also in South Africa... It is known that across the globe, the world is dependent on the youth," he said.

Mkoka told delegates that the NYDA was, ever since its inception in 2009, tasked with advancing the youth agenda through interventions aimed at producing youth entrepreneurs and promoting training opportunities for young people.

A delegate from Russia later told the forum that the city of St Petersburg has, to respond to joblessness amongst young people, set up a committee that deals specifically with youth matters.

The delegate also said St Petersburg had allocated a notable share of its budget to the youth committee to support investments in education, skills training and education.

The youth committee is then tasked with running several other programmes aimed at assisting the youth, including, among others, a voluntary work programme and a youth stock exchange.

The forum also heard that India had since implemented a national policy on street vendors in its bid to support small-scale entrepreneurs, while China has for a while focused its efforts on integrating young people into various industries to make them "industry competitive".

Brazil called for policies developed for young people to be linked with social policies like social grants for single mothers and those that advocate keeping disadvantaged learners in schools.