Gold Youth

Accepting the challenge to ‘build back better’

‘This generation must embrace the opportunity granted by the COVID-19 pandemic to renew, change and shape the nation into something robust, beautiful and equitable,’ says Nation Builder’s Executive Trustee, Keri-Leigh Paschal. 

‘COVID-19 has spotlighted many longstanding realities in our nation’s flawed social landscape,’ says Keri-Leigh. Nation Builder’s thriving community of business leaders and not-for-profits has been meeting frequently to brainstorm and learn impactful and collaborative ways to solve the country’s most pressing social issues.

‘These gatherings have intensified over the COVID-19 period with many more funders or not-for-profits joining these gatherings to hopefully fail fast, learn quickly, become more agile and identify what works and what doesn’t work, especially in the current climate,’ explains Keri-Leigh. ‘The upheaval that COVID-19 has caused in South Africa and the world over has actually afforded us an opportunity to truly shape our country in a post-COVID- world. Let us grab it with both hands and be the generation that “builds back better”,’ she says. 

But how do we even begin to ‘build back better’? Here are some excellent insights from the top speakers at the recent In Good Company Conference which was a call for South Africans to ‘Be the Regeneration that builds back better’.

Youth

A good place to start ‘building back better’ is our youth. Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2020 states that there are about 20.4 million people in South Africa who are 15 – 34 years old. That’s nearly 35% of the population! Those between 15 – 24 years are the most vulnerable in the South African labour market, as the current unemployment rate among this age group is 59%. These young people’s households have also been dramatically affected by COVID-19. 

Chief programme operations officer of gold Youth Development Agency, Desiré Peters, says that as much as we want to give young people what we think they need to thrive, we should be careful that we don’t undermine the power of what they already have to give.

‘We believe in youth being role models for youth. This is the power of positive peer pressure: allowing young people to grasp the value of who they are, and spread the change themselves,’ says Desiré.

How do we even approach the urgency and scale of the situation? Desiré believes that  instead of seeing young people in crisis, we should be seeing young people as the solution. ‘We see the role of young people to “build back better” clearly: by leading in adaptability, grit and resilience and by championing enterprise and self-employment,’ she says. 

Economic justice

Another area that we need to focus on is the economy. According to Patrick Kuwana, founder of Crossover Transformation and CEO of C3 Capital, ‘injustice ignored will crash the economy and likewise, justice incorrectly implemented will crash the economy.’ 

Justice can be a very emotive issue, depending on what bubble you live in. Says Patrick, ‘We need to come out of our ideological bubbles and get to a point where we can really talk about seeking economic justice. People have their own perceptions of what justice is – especially in South Africa. We unfortunately often look at issues of injustice with a racial lens which in turn distorts what we are trying to achieve. 

Looking at the difference between retributive justice (punishment) and restorative justice (righteousness, truth, justice, mercy/lovingkindness), Patrick believes that we can truly implement an economy that will work. 

‘If we want to build a just and righteous economy, it needs to start with a just and righteous vision. The vision should always be the well being and prosperity of all – not just a particular segment of people,’ explains Patrick.  

What economic system will work that will bring about multiplication and that will benefit all? Patrick believes it will have to be a system that is built on generosity, servanthood and humility. A system that rewards hard work and honesty and that punishes laziness and corruption. It will need to be a system that empowers and nurtures, serves and allows its people to operate in an environment of freedom. 

Creating interconnectivity between the formal and informal sectors

The underlying concept of ‘kasinomics’ is the economics of the kasi, the township. The ‘informal sector’, however, is everywhere: it’s certainly in the townships, but also in the rural areas, the inner cities, and the residential suburbs. GG Alcock says that creating more interconnectivity between the formal and informal sectors present a real and accessible opportunity to transform the battered South African economy.

‘There are massive opportunities to engage profitably with the informal sector. But it is not about creating entrepreneurs, or creating jobs. There are already hundreds of thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs in the townships, and they are already creating jobs,’ says GG. 

‘The questions we need to answer are: how do we support them, how do we supply them, how do we connect them to the formal economy? I believe all future formal economic activity will be entwined with the informal sector. Because we need one another to build a better future in this country,’ concludes GG.

Moving from subsistence to sustainability

Director of iThemba Projects, Stu Walker, recalls how his mentor, Dr Francis Njoroge from Kenya, sat him down one day and explained that NPOs are supposed to solve problems – they are not set up to be there forever and they should work towards not being needed anymore.

‘Elon Musk uses similar thinking which is referred to as hundred-year thinking. Short-term solutions are just that. Long-term solutions which are focussed to achieve saturation and having sufficient intensity to change the underlying structures are required. This way, the changes will continue long after the project has ended,’ says Stu. 

‘Another factor is that the NPO should not believe themselves to be the heroes in the story; the heroes are those who have risen to the challenge to change their lives by successfully participating in the project. They are the ones the community must look up to and emulate. Find a need and solve it in the long term; do not make the people dependent but rather restore their dignity by giving them the three key ingredients for future success: nutrition, education and a mental role model they can look to, they can learn from and they can follow so they’ll be able to lead their community into a new and brighter future,’ concludes Stu.

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