In the 80s the word democracy was not freely used in many African countries, most of whom were under autocratic rule. It was not acceptable in society and it attracted a fear of being reprimanded by a strategic and unquestionable government machine that set the principles and guidelines for how people should behave.
A few years later Malawi, just like most African countries, attained democracy. To the majority of Malawians, this was like a dream come true and brought freedom in areas of education, politics, religion and economic dynamics within the country. There was an overwhelming hope and belief in a system that would help its citizens to develop and prosper in a free nation.
There were also a good percentage of people within the country who did not want Malawi to be part of the wave of democracy that engulfed Africa. Every block had sound ideas, but the promises of entrepreneurial freedom and youth economic empowerment, government transparency and being offered a level ground for basic life opportunities were compelling in persuading people that democracy was indeed the right way for Malawi to go.
Somewhat naively I believed that life would be much better than before: businesses would have the freedom of where and who to trade with; society would work as one; people would support each other irrespective of who they were and where they were from and moreover jobs would be open to all and awarded to those qualified and experienced enough to suit the post.
Unfortunately, the reality is quite different. You have to know the right person or be connected to someone prominent, if you are to be the first to know about job openings. The young people who should be framing the nation’s development are left without any sense of direction. Information is limited and people don’t know where to search for and find government vacancies. Unemployment in our country remains a great concern, especially to the vulnerable graduates and professionals who have invested their hopes in the government based on its consistent promises of job creation and access only to face a lack of proper guidelines and focus on these key areas.
Such wide scale unemployment can have devastating effects on the developing careers of a country’s youth – a lesson we’ve learnt from previous world recessions. And the government is not currently doing enough to support those young people who leave school, college or university without a job. Prioritising effective support to give young people the best possible chance of successfully applying for an existing vacancy, or to enable them to undertake productive and useful activity until the jobs market recovers, is a priority which makes both economic and social sense.
Of course, the government alone cannot create and allocate jobs to the entire population. However, through the immense powers democratically invested within the system, it should be able to come up with forward moving economic policies that would see the majority of its population in employment or self-employment.
Simply, no country can remain prosperous and stable without investing in its youth. Malawi must realise that there can be no long-term security and development without securing opportunities for youth employment. There is an urgent need to tackle the worsening unemployment among the growing youth population as it threatens social cohesion, political stability, and economic growth. In particular, the government must do more to work together with civil societies and the private sector to provide conditions where young people have access to opportunities and are measured on a common platform.
Whatever decisions are taken over the next few years, in the medium term a wider range of problems need to be addressed if youth unemployment is to be properly tackled. There is no magic bullet to tackling youth unemployment, but a serious attempt needs to rest both on evidence of what works, and on a proper analysis of those young people who are at greatest risk.
Creating a new youth employment and skills service would develop the job-related support provided through the Ministry of Labour for those aged under 35. The role would not be to get people to take any job at all, but to encourage and support all young people to undertake and progress in either or both learning and work. And we need to support employers in playing a more proactive role and becoming better at offering opportunities to enable young people to combine employment with education.
- Gift Chikola, Managing Consultant of www.jobsinmalawi.net, A Jobsite that aims at addressing the needs of employers and providing opportunities for jobseekers to find the ideal position in Malawi