Mmegi Online :: Collaborating to tackle youth unemployment
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Last Updated
Monday 25 March 2019, 13:36 pm.
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Collaborating to tackle youth unemployment

The unemployment phenomenon has become a driving force for the youth to engage in countless creative initiatives and business ventures to earn a living despite the mountain of challenges they are confronted with and the fierce market competition between established businesses and new market entrants. SHARON RANKWANA* writes
By Correspondent Fri 08 Mar 2019, 12:57 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Collaborating to tackle youth unemployment








The reality is that the severe shortage of employment opportunities coupled with the difficulty in setting up sustainable businesses in an environment which seems to cater only for established companies, has left unemployed youth facing a troubling predicament. However, in the face of adversity some young Batswana have risen to the challenge and developed innovative businesses and products that have brought them success and consequently cast a positive light on the nation. Unfortunately, these successful youth represent only a fraction of all young people trying to build a career. The question becomes; “how can we embrace the idea of mutual prosperity and pull together to help each other succeed?” Those with poetic inclinations would term this as “I am because you are”.

In realising that we are all connected in the battle against unemployment, it is essential to understand that the struggle of one is the struggle of all. Overcoming the challenges of unemployment means collaborating to create jobs, consequently leading all of us to shared/mutual prosperity.

This connection should be viewed as an advantage as we all bear the responsibility of formulating solutions to a problem that if left unchecked, could have a detrimental impact on the future of our country. Youth in Botswana hold tertiary qualifications and even post graduate degrees, they become equipped with knowledge acquired during their studies but often fail to meet the employment requirements which include a combination of grade point averages, competencies and years of experience that can be described as unreasonable for most youth. There is a need to rework the hiring criteria to make employment opportunities accessible to a wider youth demographic while still ensuring that companies acquire talent.

Youth should also take it upon themselves to constantly develop new skills and acquire competencies that are not only attractive to employers but are also essential when turning concepts into reality.

These skills and competencies include but are not limited to leadership, business acumen, communication skills, technological prowess and innovation. It is not enough to hold a basic tertiary qualification in the current business environment, as youth we need to hone a set of vital future focused soft skills that allow us to stand out and manoeuvre through the maze of career building. Our beautiful country has a rich creative resource in the youth that reside in it, so if the opportunities are not forthcoming it falls upon us to change the rules and create our own future that acts as a vessel through which the abundant creative spirit of our youth can flow for the benefit of our communities, nation and the world at large.

 

Collaboration among youth

Botswana youth have been able to create successful careers for themselves often through entrepreneurship, these young people have been able to relentlessly pursue their dreams and turn their creativity into innovative businesses that are quickly gaining recognition and providing a decent living for their owners and employees. The knowledge that they have gained from the challenges they have experienced whilst setting up their businesses could benefit those currently struggling to establish businesses of their own.

As youth, we need to be able to come together and share ideas, information and experiences as a way of inspiring each other and as a sure way of cultivating a collaborative spirit among ourselves. A plethora of ideas exists within our social and economic environments where technologically innovative youth can partner with their more artistic counterparts to come up with solutions that address some of the needs that we have in our communities. It is through some of the most unlikely collaborations that some of the most powerful innovations in the world have come to fruition. If we can create an open network dedicated to empowering each other, comprising of young people who have tasted success and those who are working towards it, the possibilities for amazing partnerships and the discovery of innovative individuals is multiplied exponentially. This platform can even provide the much needed mental and emotional support system that most youth currently need due to rising levels of depression attributable to the indignity of being unemployed.

There is also an immense need to inculcate a culture of trust, collaboration, innovation and brotherhood/sisterhood if we

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are to stand up to the big gorilla in the room that our leaders are unable to address definitively and sustainably. Let’s work together, share ideas, have open and honest conversations and let’s not do it through the traditional and lethargic way of putting our heads together in a conference hall. Collaboration shouldn’t even be deemed a suggestion anymore but a critical ingredient in the prosperity of our potentially great country. One thing we should not forget though is that, if only a few succeed and the majority of the youth who represent the future of this country are left behind; we would have all failed the nation.

 

Mutual prosperity through

use of technology

In our solutions for creating sustained youth owned businesses we need to leverage modern technology and create innovative online spaces, that encourage brainstorming sessions, design thinking and use of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies and advancements. The 4IR promotes the connection of literally everything through networks, cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things (IoT). When we assess what this means, it becomes clear that even technology will force us to become more interconnected in a collaborative manner.

As youth we need to develop a strong yearning for picking ourselves up in line with the national pillar of self-reliance. We therefore should develop a tenacious spirit not easily discouraged by the difficult circumstances that arise from extended periods of unemployment. To quote Stephen Covey – “Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition - such as lifting weights - we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity”. We must continue to look for opportunities near and far, volunteer if necessary, participate in sport or use our hands (some of you are so creative it’s unreal) in a creative manner.

 

Mentorship; a key

driver in mutual prosperity

I wish to also appeal to progressive business leaders in Botswana to develop and institute a culture of true mentorship in their organisations as an anchor for developing the youth and millennials. Speaking from personal experience, I can attest that when you have close intellectual interactions with seasoned business people who are willing to share knowledge, not only do you learn more than you ever imagined; but it is an inspirational experience unlike any other. The youth need positive role models in their lives who they can aspire to emulate or even surpass, because that can influence them to make positive life decisions that steer them towards their dreams instead of derailing them.

We need to embrace the idea of mutual prosperity and harness the power of collaboration in dealing with the scourge of unemployment. Like diamonds in the rough, the youth in Botswana remain the largest untapped human resource in the country; it’s only through collaboration that we can uncover the plethora of ideas and innovation hidden within these young minds that have seen beyond the horizon and know that we can do much better. As a country we need to do away with the bureaucracy that hinders the professional progress of the youth, we need the successful youngsters and their older counterparts to learn how to support and empower other youth. The realisation of one’s full potential or self-actualisation is an innate trait of almost every human being, especially the young people looking to be agents of change in the society. Collaboration will stoke the fire within all of us, knock down the walls of unemployment that are stunting the career growth of our future leaders and reveal to the world the power of Batswana youth.In Setswana we say, “Kgetsi ya tsie e kgonwa ke go tshwaraganelwa” (this simply means that if somebody tries to do something on his or her own, chances of him or her succeeding are limited).

This age-old Setswana proverb represents the essence of collaboration. The concept is deeply embedded in Setswana culture and tradition but appears to have simply eluded us as we grapple with unemployment. Finally, I strongly believe that the unemployment question can only be definitively addressed if the different tasks that need to be undertaken by government, private sector and civil society are coordinated in a collaborative manner.

*Sharon Rankwana is with EOH Consultig

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