30 September 2019
Address by Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana at the 2nd annual World Youth Summit 2019 Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa
The Deputy Minister of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize;
The Wits University’s Dean of Student Affairs, Jerome September;
The President of the World Youth Summit, Mr Hassan Rengou Mfouakie;
The Director General of the World Youth Summit, Mr Raymond Matlala;
The Secretary General of the World Youth Summit, Mr Fawad Ali Langah;
The UNFPA Representative: Ms. Beatrice Mutali;
The African Union Representative: Dr Shakira Choonara;
The UNICEF Representative;
Honoured guests and Delegates joining us from across the world;
Ladies and gentlemen
As an advocate of youth empowerment, I have to start out this speech by telling you how happy I am that you chose our vibrant and diversified city of Johannesburg, known locally as the ‘City of Gold’. It could not be more appropriate that you chose your 2nd event to be in our beautiful and dynamic country and in particular, Jozi, as the locals like to call it.
There are just under 750 000 youth, between the age of 15 and 24, living in Johannesburg alone, with black African youth at 83% and female youth at 51%.
The stats though that bother me the most about the Youth Explorer report of 2019, is that only 26.5% of youth in Johannesburg are employed, and that only 65.5% of youth aged 20-24 have completed a matric equivalent or higher.
For those of you that don’t know, my career did not start out in politics, it started out in teaching, and essentially I will always be a teacher, so I’m therefore extremely heartened that your summit this year will be focussing on the 4th Sustainable Development Goal – the education goal, aiming to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is “a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity”. As a country, as a continent, and as the world of adults, our commitment and dedication to the youth, needs to be about that plan of action. It is great to have conferences and summits, but action is what is needed, and the more we look to the 2030 Agenda, and Agenda 2063 of the African Union, the more we need to understand that talking and strategies are great, but action is what will turn some of those dismal stats around, and in my personal capacity, I have chosen to see it as my responsibility to the next generation, to act!
I have given you some stats about where we are today, and I wish I could say that these were the worse numbers on the continent or in the world. It is sadly NOT the worse numbers.
According to the UN World Youth Report on SDG’s, in education, it is estimated that 142 million youth, globally, of upper secondary age are out of school, and upper secondary enrolment rates average only 14 per cent in low-income countries. 14%! That is a shocking statistic, but a worse situation is that almost 30% of the poorest 12- to 14-year olds have never attended school, and many of the youth of the future are still unable to obtain an acceptable primary education.
There’s something else you may not know about me, and that is that I am the Secretary General of the Pan African Women’s Organisation, an AU specialised agency, so my passion for women empowerment and the economic emancipation of women and girls is critical to my role at PAWO.
In many parts of the world young women face very specific challenges in terms of securing and completing an education, and for various reasons. In some countries education is not something they are entitled to, or is actually the least of their concerns, as their struggles are much bigger.
There are such extreme disparities within and between some countries in education, amongst the youth, with female gender, poverty, rurality, disability, and migrant or refugee status all being major elements of disadvantage.
Some financial analysts have stated that the global economy has started to recover somewhat, yet youth employment has decreased in recent years, with currently 71 million young people around the world, being unemployed, and many millions more are either in precarious work or informal work. In addition to this that International Labour Organisation, estimates that 156 million youth in low- and middle-income countries are living in poverty even though they are employed.
While the role of the international community plays a critical role in setting the tone, guiding the processes, and providing overall leadership, through stakeholder management, channelling international financial support, providing technical assistance, and the like, however, tangible actions and real solutions to the economic and social challenges facing the youth MUST begin and end at home. Each country represented here today must leave here on the 2nd October, with specific and measurable actions to improve the current status quo.
My final message is directly to the youth represented here today. What is absolutely critical to the success of the 2030 Agenda and the SDG’s, is the role of the youth in proactively engaging with your local and national government in delivering on policies and programmes on the ground. Your role as the youth in public-private partnerships in driving the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and participation in informing equitable and diverse policy design and implementation, is crucial.
I wish you great discussions and deliberations and I want to leave you with this.
With the 4th industrial revolution upon us, the opportunities for the youth are endless, including education, entrepreneurship, and they are even more so for young women and girls, but only if you see the opportunities and the world of skills development that will allow you to join … no, LEAD, the digital economy.
With that said, I thank you! Malibongwe!