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Lesotho: National Youth Policy Launch

Last year I spoke as a panelist at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Foresight and Scenarios Planning event, on envisioning the future we want for Lesotho.


clothes and shoes

I was invited there to speak as a youth representative amongst a group of very experienced professionals and government leaders, and while I was honoured to have been invited there, I felt disappointed that I was the only young panelist there and I felt that the time for inviting young people to seat at the table was long overdue and so this was my opening line, "In a country where young people are so disregarded that they are told: 'Tsa mo bapallang kantle ka koana batho ba baholo ba sa bua litaba tsa bohlokoa (Get out and go play outside and leave the grownups in peace to discuss important issues)' I am glad that finally, the grown-ups have seen the importance of including the youth in important discussions".


I am of the strong view that any leader (political, business and otherwise) who means serious business in Africa needs to have a youth strategy of some sort, considering how big of a youth population Africa has, and how much the African youth population is projected to grow in the next decade. According to AFIDEP, the current African youth statistics are as follows: 41% of the people are below 15 years old while another 19% are between 15 and 24 years old. This population is expected to double by 2050 which will create a youth bulge that should be on the worry (or opportunity) list of any leader in Africa.


Lesotho is no exception, with its current population that is below the age of 15 is 33%, which means the youth bulge is also on our radar if the above predictions are anything to go by. This means it's a good thing then, that the government of Lesotho has finally launched the much anticipated Lesotho National Youth Policy 2017-2030, after what I think has been years of the country running without a youth policy.


Analysis of the Policy


It was truly encouraging to read this policy, because it touched on a lot of issues that the youth face in the country today, and it is full of real actions that could yield quick results if the government backs up its ambitions with the necessary resources. As with any policy, it really provides a lot of opportunities for those who, like me, are always on the look out to solve the challenges that we collectively face as a nation and one can't read it and not think, "what can my business or organisation do to contribute to ensuring that this policy yields the intended results".


The following areas are highlighted in the policy as key areas of focus :

- Providing young people with access to finance and financial education to enable youth entrepreneurship.

- To increase youth employability through education, internships and training. In particular, a compulsory youth-service programme to be rolled out by 2022;

- At least one government-run business incubator per district;

- Nursing and counselling services in at least 50% of schools;

- Establishment of two new substance abuse and addiction rehabilitation centres by 2030;

- At least one leisure park in each community by 2020;


- To provide funding for youth development initiatives through the following funds:

1. Youth Entrepreneurship Development Fund*

2. Youth Wage Subsidy*

3. A National Agricultural Financial Institution*


- To implement the following programs as a result of the policy

1. The National Youth Service (NYS) programme - 2020*

2. An apolitical Youth Council (YC) comprising of District Youth Councils and one National Youth Council (NYC) - 2020*

3. A broad-based preferential procurement programme - 2020

4. Female Menstrual Hygiene programme providing free "dignity packs" to the vulnerable - 2020

5. National Youth-in-Environmental Protection programme - 2020*


Additionally, the policy makes a few demands of other stakeholders, with specific timelines on when these demands must be met. Knowing how slow things can be in government though, I find myself wondering how these actions will be enforced and how stakeholders will be held accountable for bringing them into action.

- Firstly, all youth centres are required to be "disability-friendly" and inclusive by 2020;

- Incorporation of mandatory work placements by tertiary institutions by 2020;

- All learning institutions equipped with adequate IT infrastructure and learning labs by 2020;


I believe that the focus areas of the policy are clear and will offer quick wins for the country's youth, and if government is seen to act on them, the short-term actions will really restore people's confidence in the government.


I've recently learned that the power of any strategy is in the owner's commitment to allocate resources to ensure that the strategy can take place. Therefore, I believe that government will have to not only allocate monetary resources, but it will require a lot of skills and expertise in the areas such as investment fund management, project management, enterprise development, banking and environmental issues. I believe that if government is innovative enough, they can attract the right kind of skills from professionals (especially young professionals) that are already in Lesotho in order to make the policy happen. The government can also tap into the skills and knowledge of Basotho who are in the diaspora (as the internet provides opportunities for remote working) in the implementation of the policy. Government will indeed need to find people who have a track record in delivering results.

The suggested programs are quite commendable and countries such as South Africa have such structures in place, therefore there are many examples we can use and learn from in carrying out our own plans.


What I find exceptionally commendable is the government's desire to implement a National Affirmative Action Programme with the aim of ensuring inclusion for vulnerable youth and young people with disabilities. This is such a necessary policy due to the discriminatory nature of our society. I believe that this policy will be the reason why we will see more diversity in the workplace, especially in the private sector which hasn't really been a good model of inclusion in this regard.

With all the above-mentioned, it's safe to say that our government will be quite busy in the next 24 months.

What is missing?


It should make sense that a policy that deals with the youth needs to take cognisance of the fact that it truly takes a village to raise a child. What I mean by that is that there are a lot of stakeholders involved in contributing to youth development in any society like parents & guardians, educators and youth service providers. After reading the policy I feel as if the government is putting too much on its plate such as wanting the ministry to run an incubator in every district? Why can't the government leave the implementation of such things to organisations with the right expertise to carry out the work. I believe that instead of government over-committing to implementing the policy, it should instead focus on creating an enabling environment and support for all relevant stakeholders to get their hands dirty in carrying out the necessary work. To the contrary, the policy only makes mention of the creation of databases of the likes of youth organisations or education-providers, but it doesn't specify what actions will be taken to provide resources to these organisations to support their initiatives in order to ensure that the objectives of the policy are met. The reality is, if the government wants to achieve things like job creation and encourage internships and training opportunities, there has to be incentives provided to the private sector to provide these opportunities, however I am not really clear after reading the policy on how the government plans to create these incentives.


Secondly, it would have been interesting to read how successful or not the existing government and not-government youth development initiatives in the country have been in the past and the challenges that they are face to achieve success as this would have also formed the basis of government's analysis of what is needed in the next few years to make them more successful.


Thirdly, the policy is not really clear on how other international framework such as Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union's Agenda 2063 have been incorporated into the it, even though it briefly makes mention of them. It also does not draw clear parallels between itself and the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) II, which is obviously important because it is the foundation on which the government budget will be based. One of the areas of focus emphasised in the NSPD II is that of technology and innovation, which though briefly mentioned in the policy, hasn't received enough attention in the policy and one doesn't get a sense of how much investment will go into it in order for Basotho youth to benefit from the benefits it can offer. For example, holding an innovation fair in every district as suggested in the policy is one thing, but adequately investing in incorporating technology and innovation in schools to ensure that kids are equipped to be able to make the most of an innovation fair requires much more intention and commitment, and equipping of schools and educators.


Fourthly, one does not need to reside in Lesotho to know how polarising the politics of the country are to the largely culturally homogenous population. Therefore, I am very curious of how the government plans on achieving its plan of an apolitical youth council that will receive mentorship from the National Parliament of the country. I believe that the fact that the issue of politics being divisive to the youth not being mentioned at all as one of the challenges that the youth faces is telling of how much the government didn't really apply its mind on this particular goal, empa hee, re se re tla bona pele! The idea of an apolitical youth is a worthy exploit, however it also requires an awareness of how much work it would take to achieve that objective.


Lastly, while I'm a generally optimistic person, in reading the policy I felt it had too many short-term objectives that are not likely to be met - given how tight the government purse and the economy is at the moment and it would have been great to get a sense that while the government acknowledges the urgency of issues like graduate unemployment, lack of appropriate skills and the need for more youth entrepreneurs, it wasn't clear what longer-term thinking the government is applying for the policy to achieve sustainable results.


In conclusion: I decided to write this blog firstly as a reminder that even when we don't think the train is moving, it truly is and so that a lot of us who are truly interested in re-building the country can be aware of the developments that are being made in the country even in the midst of the uncertainties that we might have about the current coalition government. Furthermore, we can only hold the government accountable for promises we know they have made. Therefore, let's read and note where we can make a difference and also make it a point to hold the government accountable.

It is my hope that my blog will inspire more people to engage more with what they read on social media, and to put thought in how they engage with what they read.


Update:

If you would like to read the policy for yourself, find it here

*If you would like to provide your views on what functions these programs and structures should serve (also giving reference of other countries as examples where possible) please email johanefmnvc@gmail.com before 22 August 2018 for your views to be considered in the strategic planning.


Yours in service,

Likeleli M.

Monyamane_Likeleli_Lesotho.JPG

Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I am a passionate leader, accomplished professional and a mentor. I believe that nation-building depends on how well we build people. Therefore, my mission is to contribute to the personal, professional and leadership development of people to empower them to reach their highest potential.

I do this through a mentorship program that I founded and through this blog where I share principles I've applied and insights I've gained in the past twelve years of my career and leadership journey.

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