Focusing on problems of the Youth
Bereket Gebru 08-25-17
Last year’s events in Ethiopia have showcased the anger and disappointment of the youth. Although the active participation of the youth in last year’s unrest was a loud and clear signal sending out the deep frustration of the demographic group out in the open, long term problems such as illegal migration sent the message of dissatisfaction earlier.
The National Youth Policy indicates that according to the 1997 projection, the youth population was 28.4% of the total population of which 18.6% and 81.4% were living in urban and rural areas respectively. Some sources roughly consider the urban-rural youth proportion to be around 20/80.
Unemployment is considered to be one of the main problems behind the dissatisfaction of the youth. In an article entitled “youth unemployment in Ethiopia: an overview,” Hiruy Wubie, a Gondar University law lecturer indicated that the case of urban and rural unemployment should be considered separately as their causes are quite different. The problem of unemployment in urban areas, according to Hiruy, is that both the public and private sectors have a very limited labor absorbing capacity.
Hiruy goes on to argue that since the rural youth is predominantly engaged in agriculture, the issue of rural unemployment should be treated from the viewpoint of access to land. He then crafts his argument by stating that the Ethiopian constitution has made land and natural resources out of the private domain and that its main reason to do so is to create job opportunities to the landless youth by providing land by way of redistribution. The problem here, he points out, is that it has been over two decades since the most recent redistribution in some parts of the country, denying the new generation of rural youth access to land. He goes on to argue that ‘stringent requirements’ of the federal rural land proclamation hold one back from accessing land even from his or her family.
He then made a list of the major causes of youth unemployment. It includes:
1. Absence of land justice;
2. Legal and policy problems as well as perceptions thereof preventing the rural youth population from effectively engaging in activities other than agriculture;
3. Misguided educational policy: the educational policy focuses on quantity and merely relies on quantitative truth. Though tens of thousands are claimed to have got graduated, they cannot access jobs; nor can they claim to have acquired basic skills and knowledge;
4. Capital intensive technologies;
5. Nepotism and corruption;
6. Lack of a culture of work ethic and job creation in respective societies;
7. Lack of knowledge and skill to perform jobs
I would say that many of the above listed causes are relevant not only to unemployment but to general problems of the youth. My reservations include the categorization of the educational policy as misguided considering it has provided millions of youth access to education at all its levels. The last cause that picks out lack of knowledge and skill as the cause for unemployment also goes with the one that has to do with educational policy. Another one has to do with the inclusion of capital intensive technologies when we know that the country has only a few capital intensive industries that support such technology. One major missing cause, in my opinion, is access to financial resources.
With the country registering a rapid economic growth and development over the past fifteen years, the Ethiopian people have generally achieved a better living standard. On the other hand, a considerable section of the youth feels that they have not benefitted duly from this rapid economic growth. That leaves them with a feeling of marginalization.
The Ethiopian government has recognized the plight of the youth and has subsequently put some major plans to radically change the situation within a relatively short period of time. One of such plans is the 10 billion birr revolving youth fund announced by President Mulatu Teshome in his speech at the opening of the Joint Session of the House of People’s Representatives and the House of Federation.
Tipped to provide the youth with more access to financial services and participation in planning and implementation, the revolving fund is expected to play a great role in alleviating the problems of the youth. Considering the large amount of money it is set to administer, however, the fund needs to take a reasonable amount of time to avoid rushing into things and jeopardizing the viability of the large sum of money in mitigating the problems. With corruption run by organized networks nowadays, the fund should be given ample time before it starts to spend money.
Another plan that sets out to mitigate the problems of the youth is the Second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II). In the section that deals with the promotion of women and youth empowerment, participation and equity, the GTP II document states the government’s commitment to youth participation in building good governance and a democratic system along with socio-economic and cultural development. By ensuing youth participation in economic, social and political activities, GTP II sets out to tackle the sense of marginalization some sections of the youth feel.
The GTP II plan to “enhance ownership of land and other fixed assets” is a clear indicator that the government has identified access to land as a problem of the youth. With the second phase of the audacious five year plan the country ever had already rolling and the shining performance it has drawn out of the people of Ethiopia, it is fair to expect that considerable improvements will be made in this regard.
The GTP II plan to improve quality of education will also push things further in addressing at least two of the causes sited by Hiruy. The document states that the main strategic directions it will pursue in education and training are: “to improve educational participation, quality and relevance in all education levels, implementing educational development army package in coordinated and organized manner, expanding functional adult literacy and providing special support for emerging regions for equitable education.”
The identification of rent seeking and lack of good governance as basic problems fueling public dissatisfaction has also led to various efforts towards mitigating them. GTP II goes in line with that fact as it clearly states “continuing to build democratic and developmental good governance through enhancing implementation capacity of public institution and actively engaging the citizens” as one of its pillar strategies. Corruption and Nepotism would be addressed through such efforts.
In general, the plans already underway in the country have the necessary width to cover the major causes of the problems of the youth as identified by Hiruy Wubie. Therefore, society in general and the youth in particular need to enhance their participation towards realizing these plans as that would spell a better day for all of us.