Eradicating Poverty Through Youth Inclusion in the Development Efforts: A Focus on SDG 1

David Zezai

The Zimbabwe Youth SDG has opened a series of virtual discussions where it convenes experts from various sectors to deliberate on a particular SDG at a time. On the 12th of March, it kickstarted the discussion focusing on Sustainable Development Goals 1 (No Poverty). The discussion which was reflecting on exploring alternatives for mechanisms to end poverty and all its forms was attended by Miss Christina Muchekeza– Head of Marketing and Sales, Empower bank, Mr. Shyaka Michael – Youth Commissioner – Rwanda, Mr. Sungano Chisina – Head of Research, Data and Business Development, Zimbabwe Youth Council, Miss Alice Sithole – Accountant and Gender Activist and Dr. M Magiga – Head of Ethics and Public Education Manager, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.  The objectives of the discussion were anchored on various key thematic areas including; youth inclusion in economic development policies and practices, proposing sustainable solutions to ending poverty, exploring the role of science, technology, and innovation in ending poverty, and suggesting mechanisms to reduce inequalities and ensure young people get opportunities in social and economic spheres. The goal was to ensure that the entire population and especially the poorest and most vulnerable have equal rights to economic resources, access to basic services, property and land control, natural resources, and new technologies.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Jasper Mangwana expressed a great concern that a lot of young people live in extreme poverty, but they are the most energetic ones.

As he opened the discussion, Dr. Magiga expressed that corruption deepens poverty by crippling the smooth running of all developmental processes, and this has a severe detriment to a society.

Corruption-induced poverty, if it proceeds unchecked can exacerbate the socio-economic problems like; illegal mining, illegal hunting, illegal migrants, diseases, prostitution, and robbery among other things. He added that diversion of resources from the needy groups to those who are not in need perpetuates inequalities in societies and slows down the attainment of SDGs.

Dr. Magiga added that poverty cannot be ended if corruption continues to exist in key institutions both in the private and public sectors. “How can youths be developed, people are evading paying taxes through unscrupulous ways, this impedes the delivery of social services and other aspects of development, like; economic and social empowerment programs” he said.

Dr. Magiga also expressed a great concern on the way tendering processes are conducted in Zimbabwe, highlighting that they do not favor the needs of young people.

He further exclaimed that the country should have and observe a seamless administration policy that avoids leakages so that every resource will get to the intended recipients, even if they reside in the remotest rural settings.

He concluded his speech by encouraging young people to be champions of development in their respective communities in line with the devolution concept, and also encouraged institutions to keep capacitating young people since they are the custodians of both the present and the future.

Miss Alice made a strong remark that women traditionally hold inferior positions due to the predominantly patriarchal community in which we live. This social and cultural norm suppresses women to explore their full potential and this impedes progress towards achieving the SDG.

“If we want to grow an economy and achieve sustainable development, we need to empower the women, as much as we empower their male counterparts, we need to establish good sustainable governance models”, she said

In support of her point Miss. Alice gave some recent World Bank, statistics (of 2016), which recorded that in 155 countries, there is at least one law that limits women’s potential, 41 the countries prohibit women from working in factories, 29 of them do not allow women to work at night,

Commenting on gender equality Ms. Alice emphasized that opportunities available to girls should also be available to girls.

She said, “Investing in women empowerment and promoting gender equality issues must not be all talk, but be a realistic pragmatic action that really focuses on addressing challenges that affect women and girls”.  Women who are not empowered academically and economically, cannot effectively raise their children to full potential,

Miss. Alice made a comment on sexual abuse by citing that women are prone to various forms of abuse because they have limited opportunities and social injustice which make them less independent.

“Girls are of course an easy target for abuse, when prostitution is discussed in societies it is always associated with girls”, she said.

In her concluding remarks, Miss Alice encouraged other women and girls to tap on the vast opportunities that do exist in this digital world, where interaction and sharing of opportunities is very easy

Mr. Chisina expressed the commitment of the Zimbabwe Youth Council, towards ending poverty and all its forms, through the creation of a just and formidable society. Their thrust is to address the challenges that do exist among young people through promoting evidence-based policy and programme development processes. “We always conduct situational analysis to inform our policy and programming efforts, and researchers have discovered that depriving youth to access basic services and commodities, due to corruption is hindering progress towards economic development.

Zimbabwe Youth Council is taking an action-oriented approach to end poverty through running entrepreneurship skills training together with the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation. A youth-centric approach is encouraged for Zimbabwe to accelerate towards SDGs attainment by 2030

Mr. Chisina added that around 70% of the businesses being done by young people are not formally registered, hence not accounted for in the national economic discourse. “We have come up with a model called Youth Business Formalization to massively register and formalize youth businesses and so that we will be able to track their level of participation and contribution to the economic spaces,” he said.

Mr. Chisina indicated that one big challenge in addressing poverty is the lack of information, hence the establishment of an evidence-based programming model. Through these nation-wide surveys and the national youth policy, young people have indicated that youth programs have to be youth-oriented.

Commenting on the essence of devolution, Mr. Chisina said; “as guided by the devolution concept, resources, institutions, and essential services should be easily accessible to young people within their communities”.

Mr. Chisina commented on the National COVID 19 Taskforces for their youth inclusion approach, by making youth part of the technical communities and also being beneficiaries of their service delivery.

In his conclusion, Mr. Chisina made reference to the National Development Strategy 1 clause which emphasizes its focus on ensuring that young people understand the importance of hard honest work. Discipline was highlighted as a key element towards national development.

The national volunteer framework and the NDS 1 emphasize discipline as a key attribute that young people should embrace and also remain guided by good moral values.

Mr. Michael gave an in-depth insight into how Rwanda involves young people in its poverty eradication strategy.  He outlined several activities which are key drivers of the economy of Rwanda and these include; agriculture, forestry, mining, infrastructure development, technology and innovation, education, peace and security, and anti-corruption campaign.

“Rwanda support young people to actively participate in agricultural through environmentally-friendly models, and in the infrastructure and technology development programs as well as innovation, these programs are central to economic transformation”, he said.

Mr. Michael said that the effective adoption and implementation of the education for all policy can lead to the building of Africa we want. The Rwanda government, therefore, supports young people to go to school and also incorporates technical skills in its curriculum.

Mr. Michael shocked his fellow panelists when he presented that in Rwanda there is zero corruption. “Every person works with utmost honest and transparent in his or her dealings”, he said. 

Mr. Michael encourages young people to have the right frame of mind, and be willing to put their country first. He also emphasized cooperation, emphasizing the aspect of regional integration through promoting good diplomatic relations.

Michael said that “As Africans, we are one people, we should have no boundaries when it comes to pursuing opportunities, but we should help each other to become competitive in the world market, and maintaining peace and security as this will create an ideal environment for growth, expansion and indeed poverty eradication”.

Promoting law and order through respecting the rules and regulations of the nation is a clear reflection of a disciplined youth and this ensures good political and social stability.

Mr. Michael indicated that in Rwanda there are various institutions that support young people and these include; BDF – (an institution that supports young people in business) The Ministry of Youth, the National Youth Council, and the Private Sector federation. All these institutions help and support in establishing youth-based cooperation and companies to enhance their capacity for production and participation in the sustainable development drive.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Michael reminded young people that Africa has vast resources and opportunities, which need to be invested in and reduce brain drain, as there is nothing peculiar out there,

Tilda Magoba who was one of the moderators said, “creating spaces for youth inclusion in the economic and political spaces through engaging youths in conversations and development strategies can help to end poverty”.

Ms. Christina explained that Empower bank is owned by the Government of Zimbabwe, and was formed with the purpose of providing social and financial solutions to the financially excluded population with a greater focus on the youth. The bank offers loans to youth-led business and agriculture projects, asset finance, guarantees, and savings accounts cutting across urban, peri-urban, and rural Zimbabwe. The Bank strives to empower marginalized communities to come out and live-in dignity and for small businesses to upscale through wealth creation to generate employment opportunities.

“Most financial institutions do not want to deal with young people because they are mobile and don’t have experience and financial discipline, and do not have the required collateral security to acquire loans, but the Empower bank, gives great access to financial services to the youth and enable them to contribute towards achieving SDG”, she said

Ms. Christina emphasized the importance of supporting and upscaling food production in the agriculture sector since the country has enough arable land, good soils as well as conducive weather.  She further encouraged young people to go back to their rural homes and make use of the pieces of available land to generate revenue and improve their livelihoods.

Furthermore, Ms. Christina also highlighted the professional skills training that the bank is offering to young people which includes; financial literacy, business, financial management, and marketing of their products and services. She, however, emphasized the need for discipline as a key element for financial management. 

“Young people need to change their mindset and be disciplined towards finances, that is very important in getting them out of poverty, money usually follows a person who is disciplined and organized”, she said

She further encouraged young people to embrace the existing opportunities and create employment for themselves instead of looking for jobs.

Mr. Jasper Mangwana, closed the discussion by urging young people to be part of the drivers of sustainable development, as they are a key component in the attainment of our national vision- Upper- Middle-Income Economy by 2030. 

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