YOUTHS must be harnessed so that they fully contribute to the social-economic development of Zambia, Labour and Social Security Minister Fackson Shamenda has said.
Mr Shamenda said Zambia, like other countries in Africa, was facing the challenge of a growing youthful population which had to be harnessed in order for them to fully contribute to the social-economic development of nation.
He said countries risked plunging in chaos if they left the youths behind their journey to economic development.
Mr Shamenda was speaking in Livingstone at AVANI Victoria Falls Hotel yesterday when he officially opened the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Africa regional workshop on youth empowerment.
The gathering, which has attracted several countries across Africa, is being held under the theme “What works to boost labour demand for youth and the role of structural transformation”.
Mr Shamenda said the Zambian youth like many others others in developing countries continued to face a lot of challenges such as high unemployment rates, poor quality education, high HIV prevalence rates, teenage pregnancies and early marriages.
“I am always reminded of the Arab Spring when I address the issue of youth unemployment. We all know what happened to our friends in North Africa, where disgruntled unemployed youths can help to bring down Governments. This is why we must, as continent, seriously address the challenge of youth unemployment,” Mr Shamenda said.
He said Zambia had a youthful population, with nearly 74 per cent of its 14.6 million people under the age of 30.
“This population of youths in Zambia is critical to the attainment of the country’s development objectives and for this to happen, there is need for sustained and strategic investment in young people.
“The majority of the Zambian youths have in the last 20 years remained unemployed, ill-educated and without any formal skills to enable them earn a living in society and contribute to national development,” Mr Shamenda said.
He said as part of the strategy to address youth unemployment, President Edgar Lungu already launched the 2015 revised National Youth Policy and the Action Plan on Youth Empowerment and Employment for Zambia.
Speaking at the same meeting, ILO assistant Director General and Regional Director for Africa Aeneas Chuma said the continent needed employment policies with clear targets for structural transformation and job creation, particularly for young people.
Mr Chuma said two in every three youths in sub-Sahara Africa remained in working poverty, living with their families below US$2 per day.
“I take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of the Republic of Zambia on the recent launch of the National Youth Employment Action Plan by the President o the Republic.
“I am confident that the young people of Zambia are looking forward to working with the Government, employers and workers organisations to deliver on this Plan,” Mr Chuma said.
Zambia Federation of Employers (ZFE) executive director Harington Chibanda thanked ILO for giving Zambia an opportunity to host the regional conference.
Mr Chibanda urged African Governments to work with their social partners to develop well balanced policies which encouraged more employers to invest and generate new job opportunities for young people.
Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Chishimba Nkole said there was need to develop programmes that were relevant to the needs and interests of young workers.
Mr Nkole said trade unions believed that young workers were very important to the future of the labour movement.