Each year during June the focus turns to youth and the role that youth played in the struggle to end apartheid. This appreciation must advance beyond nostalgia, and should inform a hard-nosed focus on youth to have a more decisive influence on socio-economic development in South Africa.
Youth in South Africa today face many similarities with the youth in the rest of the continent. While youth increase as a proportion of the population, their socio-economic position worsens. Although youth have better options compared to counterparts in many African countries, our challenge is more urgent due to higher levels of inequality.
In SA youth form a majority – youth under 30 years of age make up 30 million out of a population of about 50 million. Youth share in the problems of unemployment and are equally affected by poverty with its race, spatial and gender dimensions. They are in the direct firing line of problems of exclusion and marginalisation. They bear the brunt in a context where there is widespread wastage of human resources in an economy beset by low growth, capital intensity and limited employment creation.
Although a small number of youth have the means to be part of the consumption society, all youth are affected by changes in the culture of this global era.