By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU- Following the drafting of the National Youth Policy 2017-2030 that is pending implementation, there have since been growing concerns from many quarters for the passage of the Youth Development Act.

Currently, the Youth Development Bill has been pending finalisation to graduate into an act that will address the Lesotho youth challenges as well as creating organised platforms that will advocate and see inclusive youth representation in the country.

The Advocates for the Supremacy of the Constitution, also known as SECTION 2, have also joined in and thrown their support for the passage of the Youth Development Act as well as speedy establishment of the National Youth Council elections.

“…, we must …address critical pending matters that directly impact the youth. The finalisation of the Youth Development Bill and the expeditious organisation of National Youth Council elections cannot be delayed further.

“The commitment made by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Dr. Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane,  earlier this year to accomplish these crucial tasks within the current fiscal year must be honoured,” reads the SECTION 2’s statement.

The Parliamentary Council, an office that is responsible for drafting bills into law, is currently seized with the Youth Development Bill.

These concerns come during this time when the Prime Minister (PM) Rt Hon Samuel Matekane has set in motion initiatives to garner support for the youth in the country.

These activities unfolded on Wednesday last week during the launch of SEBABATSO, a Prime Minister’s Youth Empowerment Initiative that is supported by the United Nations (UN) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

This Informative Newspaper learnt during the breakfast meeting the PM hosted with the local and international investors including the development partners in Maseru last week.

This move he said is to address and counter the high rate of youth unemployment in the country.

The PM said “SEBABATSO stands for embracing sustainable development and empowerment of innovators and entrepreneurs. It is our answer to the challenges, our commitment to nurture, and our blueprint for success”. He appealed to the investors and the development partners to support this initiative as the youth are facing an unemployment crisis in the country.

SECTION 2 had commended the SEBABATSO initiative but warned that the youth potential “cannot afford further delays”.

SEBABATSO initiative has received thumbs up from both local and international investors. 

Chinese Ambassador to Lesotho Lei Kezhong said he supported the initiative and promised to design a programme for Basotho youth. This programme he said is going to be an exchange programme where Basotho youth innovators will go to China to be equipped with skills to increase their capacity.

He said the other programme is that of inviting Chinese investors to come to the country and invest in areas such as manufacturing.

Echoing similar support, the USAID Country Director for Lesotho Dr Smita Kumar said there are opportunities in place for Basotho youth to exploit in her organisation in agriculture.

She further expressed desire to help Basotho youth even those without tertiary education.

Dr Kumar told the PM that the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) continues to invest towards the fight against gender based violence (GBV).

The National Youth Policy 2017-2030 which is also pending implementation anticipates the ‘Youth Economic Empowerment, Education and Skills Development’, the issues that the youth have demonstrated strong support for. This policy had anticipated the efforts for creation of an enabling environment for reducing unemployment, hunger and poverty among young people through Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as well as Youth Entrepreneurship and Financial Inclusion”.

Lesotho Youth Aspirations Survey undertaken by the World Bank, points out that almost 65% of Basotho youth aspire to become entrepreneurs as opposed to waiting for a salary paying job in the public sector. “The young population of Lesotho accounts for nearly 40% of the country’s total population, and this group constitutes the country’s most productive asset-human capital.”