Thursday, October 6, 2016

Higher Rates of Un-Hired Youth in Botswana

The youth question government focus as unemployment continues to climb in Botswana.
By: David Michael
Produced & edited by: Alex Lumley

Botswana's Coat of Arms. Photo via Wikipedia.

A group garbed in graduation gowns gathered outside parliament in Gaborone, Botswana in early August. The young people were brought together by an organization known as the “#UnemploymentMovement.” 

They were there to protest against continued unemployment of the youth by the ruling BDP government. The police later beat the protestors, forcing them to disperse.

Movements such as these are becoming more frequent as the country’s unemployment rate continues to grow and the youth become more disgruntled. The issue has gained recognition in even the most rural areas.

The most recent, officially recorded unemployment rate in Botswana is 20 percent, as per the Botswana Aids Impact Survey in 2013. According to, the unemployment rate for youth, those aged 15-24, is 33 percent.

“At our University, if 7,000 graduate, only about 2,000 get jobs,” Gonne Majwabe, a student at the University at Botswana (UB), said.
Is College Worth It?
A growing number of students are concerned about whether seeking an education is worthwhile. To many, a degree has become worth less and less. Boitumelo Mokoka, an intern at SADC Secretariat, is concerned over the recognition of her chosen field.
“Just from the tiresome process of seeking an organization to work in, I realized that most organizations and companies are not aware of the existence of my program of study,” she said. “It made me wonder about the relevance of my course in the current job market.”
Thuso Mphela, a professor at the University of Botswana, is disheartened that the youth can’t get jobs in their “prime productive years.” He believes the inability to get jobs hurts the quality of academic programs at the University. The professor claimed it’s becoming less about academic excellence and more about the connections you make.

"Most organizations and companies are not aware of the existence of my program of study."
“The two most critical advices I give are 'be the best at what you do' and 'network, network and network',” he said. “I for one get many consulting jobs because of my networks.”

Frustrations Over Government Spending 
Youths and organizations like #UnemploymentMovement have also targeted the spending on the country’s upcoming 50th year of independence festival occurring at the end of September, the “Golden Jubilee.” While the majority still believes 50 years of independence is something to celebrate, many youths are protesting the government’s management of the program.
The government organizes celebrations like the
Golden Jubilee and Police Day, pictured here.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

“I still see the need to celebrate this day no matter the situation, its just the way the planning has been done is what is really upsetting,” Mokoka said. “Most local artists are unhappy that the government is using a lot of money to pay a certain South African artist to perform on the day, instead of calling them for the event.”
There has also been frustration due to the cost of the festivities. The government is spending close to $100 million on the celebrations. Events include fireworks, theatrical re-enactments of historical events, performances of classical and modern Botswana plays, film presentations, traditional and cultural festivals, debates, panel discussions and a Miss Botswana beauty contest.
 “We have ministries pleading with the government for money,” Segomotso Gomolemo Kgwatalala, a student at UB, said. “We have so many things that I feel like if 100 million could be divided among those different ministries then things would be better, Botswana would be satisfied with the service provision in these government sectors.”
Government Efforts To Provide Jobs
For unemployed graduates, the government has developed a program called the Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES). YES gives money for salaries to businesses to hire graduates on in intern-like positions. However, these are usually lower end jobs such as restaurants and filling stations. The jobs only offer bare minimum wage, usually only up to 1,200 pula. 

After having spent time seeking an education many are frustrated with this idea. Gofaone Bornwell Moditswe is a student at the University of Botswana who does not see the program as doing enough.
“Rent is like 250 dollars, food 150 dollars, electricity 20 dollars,” Moditswe said. ”If I include transport then it is as good as nothing.”
“It’s a good movement to say we need to make more jobs, but the government system isn’t working,” he said. “There’s a level of exploitation in it.”
Other groups believe the societal values of personal independence have turned to an over-dependence on government.
“It is enough that we already depend so much on government. I mean everything in Botswana is free: school, medical services, we are even paid to go to school,” Gorata Keitseope, an employee at the UB Career and Counseling Centre said. “People should think of things that they can do to create the jobs themselves rather than point fingers at government.”
Do-It-Yourself Employment Opportunities 
Some students are trying to create their own entrepreneurial opportunities. At 29, Dimpho Madema recently created her own steel fabrication business, Miracle Steel Products. Her example inspires others.

“The country needs young people to rise and meet today's challenges and provide solutions even for unemployment.”
Moditswe looks to start a business not only for himself, but for his daughter and other future generations as well.
“I will take it upon myself to create a job for her now that I have seen how high unemployment rates are in Botswana,” he said.
The government supports some start up businesses. The Ministry of Sports, Youth and Culture has funded growth-oriented citizen owned youth enterprises and other start-up projects through the Youth Development Fund. To apply for funding, the young person must attend an orientation, meet with relevant experts and Youth Officers, conduct market research, and submit an application for acceptance.
Those seeking to build their own businesses believe the protestors are putting too much on the government.  Others with this ideology believe that there needs to be more focus on the homogenous economy and slow industrialization. They encourage the young people to instead create their own industries.

“The country needs young people to rise and meet today's challenges and provide solutions even for unemployment.” Mphela said. “So having said that, the question might be whether 50 years of independence is true independence to the ordinary person. Now that's a big question, only the people can answer.”

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