SA leaders must act in the face of deepening youth unemployment crisis - Afrika Tikkun

Onyi Nwaneri, the CEO Afrika Tikkun, says these statistics highlight the systemic barriers preventing meaningful participation in the economy. Photo: Supplied

Onyi Nwaneri, the CEO Afrika Tikkun, says these statistics highlight the systemic barriers preventing meaningful participation in the economy. Photo: Supplied

Published May 15, 2024


Afrika Tikkun, a leading youth development and non-profit organisation, yesterday issued a call for immediate action ahead of the elections after data showed South Africa’s jobless rate spiked to 32.9% in the first quarter of 2024 and youth unemployment also rose.

Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) yesterday released the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey, which showed an increase of 0.8 percentage points in the jobless rate from the previous quarter.

Lara Hodes, an economist at Investec, said, “Vulnerable youth, comprising those aged 15-24, remain the most disadvantaged segment when it comes to finding sustainable employment in this subdued economy. Unemployment in this grouping remains at a critically elevated level. It increased, albeit modestly, to 59.7% in Q1.24 (from 59.4% previously).”

She said comparing unemployment rates by level of education evinced the “significant impact of education on mitigating a nation's unemployment rate”.

“Unemployment rates for those with matric or lower educational qualifications exceeded the national rate, whereas individuals with other tertiary qualifications and graduates had rates below the national unemployment rate,” Hodes said.

In light of the country’s ravaging level of youth unemployment, Afrika Tikkun said it urged South Africa’s leaders to take immediate measures to address this pressing issue, especially as the nation approaches the looming national elections.

It said the report highlighted that the country’s young people had disengaged from the labour market and that they were not building on their skills base through education and training.

“The Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) rate serves as an important labour market indicator for young people. More than four in every 10 young people are not in employment, education or training,” Afrika Tikkun said.

The labour force stands at 25 million and a staggering 16.2 million people are classified as “not economically active”.

Onyi Nwaneri, the CEO Afrika Tikkun, said, “These statistics highlight the systemic barriers preventing meaningful participation in the economy. The status quo is failing future generations with more than 300 000 people having been thrust into unemployment within a single quarter.

“As South Africa gears up for the national elections, the youth unemployment crisis must be tackled head-on. Youth unemployment is not merely a statistic; it is a national emergency demanding immediate and sustained attention,” Nwaneri says.

“All political parties must prioritise youth employment in their agendas, committing to concrete policies and actionable plans to create opportunities for our youth. Empty promises are no longer enough; our young people deserve tangible solutions,” Nwaneri said.

He said now more than ever, South Africa must take action to empower our youth and end the cycle of unemployment.

“Together, with the collective will and determination of all the private sector, civil society and government, we can build a South Africa where every young person has the chance to thrive and contribute meaningfully to society,” Nwaneri said.

Riaz Moola, the CEO and co-founder of HyperionDev, southern Africa’s largest tech education provider, said in response to the grim data that a critical issue South Africa faced was closing the skills gap.

A key trigger was the mismatch in the country’s job market.

“While there is an urgent demand for skilled professionals in ICT among South African businesses, unemployment numbers are surging. This gap underscores the misalignment between existing workforce skills and those required by modern industries.

“There is a pressing need for more collaborative approaches to equip the youth with the necessary capabilities, which is more apparent than ever,” Moola said.

This included a collective push to enhance vocational training and foster immersive educational experiences like those offered by coding bootcamps. Tertiary institutions’ wider adoption of such initiatives was critical to addressing immediate employment challenges and strategically positioning South Africa as a vital player in the global digital economy, he said.

“Despite their increasing popularity, coding bootcamps face acceptance and credibility challenges due to their relative ‘newness’. However, these educational models are essential for modernising South Africa's workforce. We need broader adoption across the educational spectrum. Investing in such innovative and adaptive educational models will not only help tackle immediate employment issues but also position South Africa as a formidable player in the global digital economy,” Moola added.