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Youth Forum To Advise On Development Welcomed—Lindiwe Zulu

By University of Cape Town, South Africa
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A proposal by students that government form a student advisory panel on issues of development was welcomed by Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu in Cape Town on Thursday.

A youth advisory panel could be a “game changer” in driving development on the continent, Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu has said.

Addressing delegates at a Development Finance Forum held at the UCT Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) yesterday, the Minister said government is open to a challenge by students at the UCT GSB to form a youth advisory panel on the role of the BRICS bank.

“That proposal must be taken forward…Please don’t take that very lightly. I think it’s a very serious element. We can’t be talking about the youth and them being the future without involving them now,” she said.

Zulu said politicians just tend to “sit in their corner”.

“We are sure we are doing right thing – we are sure we are working very hard – but then young people turn around and say – what are you actually doing?”

“Let us break this thing of them and us and find ways to bring us closer together,” she said.

The importance of involving young voices arose from her own experience under Apartheid, Zulu said. “In 1976, when things got very bad and the youth stood up and said, ‘We don’t want Afrikaans as a medium of instruction’, they got rid of it because they took action and extended it. [The youth] contributed to the liberation struggle... things had been happening, but 1976 became a push and an impetus that said, ‘this and no more’. That generation of 1976 made South Africa what it is today. You are the generation of today.”

The Development Finance Forum was organised by students on the MCom in Development Finance programme. The programme is one of just a handful in Africa that seek to train a new generation of professionals to enhance the design and implementation of development initiatives on the continent.

President Zuma had been invited to address the forum after an informal engagement with the MCom class earlier in the year, but had to withdraw owing to a last-minute scheduling conflict. Zulu addressed the students in his stead, but told them the president was still keen to engage with them in future.

It was vital to move the discussion on development beyond academic and political circles, Zulu added. “I believe the discussion we are having today on the BRICS bank, as well as the discussion on FDIs in general, needs to be taken out of here,” she said. “We remain here for research and growth, but I’d like to propose that we do some outreach and round table discussions, where it’s not just students.”

A critical issue was for Africa to become self-sufficient, Zulu added. “Why is it that other people are saying Africa is the next best thing?” she asked delegates. “Why are we not saying that? You can begin to change the narrative and say Africa is the next best thing, and make that happen.

CEO of the National Empowerment Fund, Philisiwe Mthethwa who attended the event, echoed this. “You should ask yourself: why have we not been able to attract the levels of foreign direct investment that we expected?” she said. “Before we can talk about hundreds and trillions [of Rands], we should look at the impact that South Africans can be making with the money that has been given to us. Something there is lacking. We should pay attention to our ability to conceptualise bankable projects that are able to move all the way to financial closure. I want to talk about the type of skill and expertise required to drive development in South Africa. It’s not just about having CA’s. If you are trying to drive the developmental agenda, you must try to fix your work and a whole range of things.”

Refilwe Moloto, one of the three current MCom students who presented on behalf of the MCom class, said examples from successful development initiatives in other parts of the world show that the four key infrastructure elements that need to be in place for successful development include: a decent communications system, sufficient power generation, mobility, and food and water security.

“Get these wrong and you might as well throw everything else out of window,” she said.

“Africa’s population is going to be exploding. If that is true, how are we going to feed these people and do all those things that people like ourselves want to see in terms of services?” Zulu asked.

The ultimate goal for politicians, investors and scholars alike, Zulu said, was to eradicate poverty and inequality – not just in South Africa, but continent-wide.

“If we talk about a developmental institution that does not take this into consideration, Africa will continue to be exploited,” she said.