Zambia: Why Youth Development Fund has failed to create jobs and changes needed

“The evaluation found that the YDF created a total of 742 paid jobs from 2011 to 2015.The involvement of politicians in the disbursement of funds has negatively influenced the public perception of the Fund and its potential as a youth economic empowerment vehicle. The Fund is highly linked to the political structures” (ZIPAR)

The 2020 Budget presented by Minister of Finance, Dr. Bwalya Ng’andu on September, 27, 2019 did not cover the issue of Youth unemployment comprehensively as one would have expected. There were a few theoretical and cavalier sentences in budget that the minister read like: “ With regard to skills development, support to technical, vocation and entrepreneurship development as a means for job and wealth creation will remain a priority”, which did not inspire confidence about its practicality and impact. Youth unemployment is an issue I consider as the number one social, political and economic problem facing Zambia to day but one gets the impression it is no getting enough attention.

The practical aspect of Youth empowerment that the Minister should have addressed in the budget was the reform of the moribund Youth Development Fund. In the current article, I will address factors that have contributed to its failure to achieve job creation. The next one will provide comprehensive and practical solutions on how the Fund can be redesigned to create jobs for young people.

The Republic of Zambia government created the Youth Development Fund (YDF) in 2000 in order to address the issue of Youth unemployment through encouraging young people who could not find formal salaried employment to pursue entrepreneurship and self-employment. This option to employment is one of the universally and internationally recognized solution to youth unemployment.

However, 19 years down the line, there is nothing much to show for it. This article will address the reasons why the programme has miserably failed and why it needs to be revisited and refined as it still offers hope to the issue of solving youth unemployment if innovatively implemented.

According to the study and evaluation of the programme done by the Zambia Institute for Policy analysis and Research (ZIPAR) in 2018, they concluded that the programme failed to achieve its objectives

“The evaluation found that the YDF created a total of 742 paid jobs from 2011 to 2015. Compared to the amount of resources that were invested in the YDF, the jobs did not sufficiently contribute to reduction in the high youth unemployment rate. Additionally, the welfare of the beneficiaries did not improve compared to that of the non- beneficiaries”, ZPAR study concluded.

The intentions of the policy were noble but any knowledgeable person would have predicted or foreseen that the programme was destined to fail from the word go. The reasons why the programme was not going to achieve its objectives was because of flaws in its design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation.

In the first instance, the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child development was charged with the task of managing the fund – loan assessment and disbursement of funds – for Youth empowerment. It is curious how one could have expected a line ministry to all of sudden become a financial institution and expected to carry out the complicated task of loan assessment, disbursement and recovery. It is obvious that issues of capacity, skills set, and experience were certainly going to arise in the administration of the fund.

The Youth Development Fund Programme (YDF), was premised on the flawed assumption that money was the panacea to youth unemployment and is the only impediment to youth going into business. And as such, once funds were provided, Youth were going to set up businesses and create jobs. But if any comprehensive independent research had been done, the programme would have been designed in such way that other resources like business development services, practical youth entrepreneurship training, information dissemination, mentoring and coaching and the use of 21st century digital tools would have been incorporated in the programme. These were clearly absent.

There is also the big and persistent mistake that Government bureaucrats make by thinking that they can come up with private sector policies including those relating to job creation to the exclusion of the people with the expertise and who know how jobs are and be created – the private sector. It is crystal clear that one of the major reasons why the YDF failed is the fact that the Private sector was not involved by government in the design of the programme, its implementation and its monitoring. There was need for the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development to involve the private sector by tapping into private sector expertise and possibly out sourcing some of the services as well as entering into some form of Public Private Partnerships (PPP).The line Ministry would still have been able to be in charge of the overall management of the programme.

The Youth Development Fund started in 2000 but there was no strong formal Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework in place to find out how the fund was performing and whether it was achieving its objectives. The first M& E was contracted in 2017 which is 17 years after its commencement. It was, therefore, impossible to track and measure the impact the fund was making so that improvements could be made.

The other major problem that contributed to the fund failing to achieve its objectives is the fact that it is highly politicized. The various administrations under the MMD and PF have abused the Fund for political purposes and the Zambia Institute for Policy analysis study alludes to this.

”The involvement of politicians in the disbursement of funds has negatively influenced the public perception of the Fund and its potential as a youth economic empowerment vehicle. This is because the Fund is highly linked to the political structures, which make youths think the funds are a political reward or benefit, and this perception could have significantly affected repayments”. ZIPAR study observed.

The idea of solving youth unemployment with entrepreneurship and self-employment initiatives is a noble one and can achieve its intended objectives but the big question is the vehicles and tools used to implement the policy. If innovatively designed, and in tandem with the knowledge and ICT economy of the 21st century, entrepreneurship and self-employment can solve the youth unemployment problem. The government should rethink the design of the Youth Development Fund.

It is imperative that the promotion of youth entrepreneurship should be approached comprehensively in order to achieve lasting impacts. A mix of financial and non-financial support as well as partnership with the private sector can influence the success and sustainability of such policies.

Source Lusaka Times

Zambian youth scoops world bank award

A Zambian youth has scoped the World Bank sponsored blog for development award (#Blog4DevAward).

Musopa Kalenga, a Zambian national, entered an essay writing competition organised by the World Bank Africa Region called #Blog4Dev.

For the first time ever, the World Bank Africa Region hosted the regional blog competition, in 2019, in order to offer young people the opportunities to enhance their networks and realise their dreams.

The competition was for on exploring the topic “what will it take to enhance the skills needed to prepare Africa’s youth for the digital economy and the future of work?”

Young people from 48 African countries were invited and requested to share their ideas on how they could prepare themselves and other youths for the digital economy and a technology-driven workplace. Ms. Musopa entered the competition.

She wrote about how investing in human resources and skills development could prepare young people to prepare for their future and to accelerate their productivity in the digital economy.

In her write-up, she highlighted how the government should invest in education and health to achieve the goal of preparing young people for the digital economy.

She stated in the write-up that for the education sector, the curriculum must aim at empowering young people with cognitive, social behavioral, and adaptability skills due to their relevancy to the future of work. Under the health component, she said in her paper that digital technology investments by the Government and through public-private partnerships, could also play a key role in achieving the objectives targeted at digitising the health sector. In her submission, she stressed her believe that for young people to excel in the digital economy, they will need to live as part of a healthy population.

In the adjudication process, the World Bank shortlisted one person from all the participating African countries. She was picked as the winner from Zambia and was invited for the 2019 IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings, where she has been attending various sessions on digital transformation.

On learning about the development, Zambia’s delegation leader and Minister of Finance MARGARET MWANAKATWE says Musola’s achievement will have a positive demonstration effect on other youths in Zambia.

The Minister wished Musola more success in her future endeavours and added that, “I would like to see more young females pursuing their dreams of contributing to a Smart Zambia towards Vision 2030.

Mrs. Mwanakatwe has pledged K10, 000 of her personal funds to help Musola to advance her work.

Young Musola is scheduled to leave Washington DC, for Lusaka, later in the day.

Source The Independent Observer

Zambia: PF Orders Arrest of Youths Insulting Kambwili

By Chris Phiri

Patriotic Front secretary general Davies Mwila has called on the Zambia Police to immediate investigate and arrest youths who were captured on video insulting NDC consultant Chishimba Kambwili after the ruling party’s loss in Roan constituency.

Mwila has distanced the ruling Party from the video which is circulating where “people unknown to the Party” are heard threatening the life of Kambwili, the former Roan member of parliament, and issuing unprintables against his mother.

“The Party finds the video to be highly offensive to its values and that the content thereof borders on nothing else but criminality. On that score, the Party Secretary General is calling on the Zambia Police to immediately investigate the matter and bring the culprits to book.

The Secretary General has further reminded the Party members at large that President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has constantly called for non-violence in the Party and no such criminality would be tolerated,” stated party media director Sunday Chanda, quoting Mwila.

“PF believes that while we may hold differences with our opponents, they do not become our sworn enemies to the point of shedding blood or wishing for one’s cessation of life.”

And Copperbelt PF youth chairperson Don Mungulube said the video was in bad taste.

“We the Patriotic Front youths on the Copperbelt would like to categorically distance ourselves from a video that has depicted some youths insulting the NDC Leader Mr Chishimba Kambwili. We have seen the video which is in bad test and promoting violence. But like our party leadership on the Copperbelt through our provincial Chairman Mr Nathan Bwalya Chanda, we have always preached peace,” Mungulube said. “It is for this reason that we call on the Zambia Police to investigate this matter and ensure that those identified in the video brought to book…We have conducted our investigations and we don’t have any of the people in the video as our members. The conduct of the youths in the video is unZambian, unChristian and unpatriotic. As peace loving members of the party we condemn that in strongest teams.”

Source Zambia Reports


By Lucky Mwewa Chama

Zambia Air Force sponsored side Red Arrows Football Club will this afternoon welcome seven time Zambia Super League champions, Zesco United at in a rescheduled week seven encounter at Nkoloma Stadium.

The Chisi Mbewe drilled side will play host to Zega, with the Airmen boasting two wins on the trot, a winning run that has seen them beat Zanaco 2-1 at Nkoloma Stadium as well as Mufulira Wanderers 3-nil away in Mufulira over the weekend.

Red Arrows Captain Bruce Musakanya and his lads will be looking to break into the top four with a win, having won the league title once in 2004 and will be fancying their chances of playing continental football with race for the top two places still far from being over.

Zesco on the other hand have also managed to pick six points in their last two league encounters and in the process scoring five goals, allowing two goals. A win for the Ndola based side will see them top the table in Stream A of the transitional league.

On a day that marks exactly one year since George Lwandamina who is fondly called ‘Chicken’ by the Zesco fans was appointed for the second time as Zesco United boss after returning from Tanzania where he coached Yanga Football Club, the likes of Lazarous Kambole will be expected to play a pivotal role for Zesco United alongside Jesse Were and John Ching’andu.

The match will kick-off at 15:00Hrs.

Source Zambian Football

Namibia: My personal reflection on President Lungu’s call to support youth entrepreneurs

By Eng Kumbukilani Phiri

For the past few days I have been restricting myself from commenting on the matter concerning the Presidents call to relevant institutions created to promote youth entrepreneurship to show cause or risk being reshuffled or fired.

Speaking in Kabwe during the Central Province Patriotic Front Conference, President Lungu cautioned against the laissez-faire attitude most institutions mandated to help and support youth entrepreneurs show. The President called for immediate action failure to which he was going to reshuffle or fire some of them.

As a youth entrepreneur, when I listened to the President’s speech, I was filled with joy to the extent that I even shed a tear. For a number of times, I have bemoaned our lack of drive as a country to support local entrepreneurship. Most of the time, we have heard government officials boasting about inviting foreigners to come and invest in Zambia. This has always made me wonder whether Zambians are incapable of being investors in their own country. Most policies have been crafted and designed to attract foreign investors with tax holidays that go for many years, yet, local investors no matter the size of their investment do not enjoy similar incentives. Local investors are made to start paying taxes right from their first day of operations. Similarly, due to this discrimination in policy development that somehow favour foreign investors, even financial institutions in the country tend to be more supportive to foreign investors than to the local ones. I have seen some foreigners come with nothing, pick up a business idea locally, go to financial institutions and get funded, yet many locals have brilliant ideas which are never operationalized and end up going to the grave with the owners. It is just appalling.

Coming back to the Presidents call for support to youth entrepreneurs, I was reluctant to comment on this matter due to my own personal experiences as a local entrepreneur. In 2017, I had the worst experience of my life as a local businessman. To date, I am still shocked and traumatized at what I went through. To make matters worse, its now almost two years since that fateful day when our hope and investment got shattered by our fellow Zambians, but still to date no progress has been made for us to recover anything and probably allow us to invest in any of our many ideas that we have.

Prior to 2017, I had managed to build a very thriving business founding and managing three companies. One was involved in construction and real estate development, the other was involved in import and wholesaling of foreign products, and the last one was formed as a diversification into timber processing and export. The diversification into timber processing and export is what brought all the misery in my business life. Some of you may still remember the lamentations and pleas I made to see to it that at least, those of us who had invested genuinely and were operating within the law were given a fair treatment and if anything supported to build our businesses according to what the government wanted at the time. To cut the long story short, my company Green Lake Zambia Limited applied and was given a concession licence to harvest and process timber in Isoka. This was after meeting all the requirements that also included an Environmental Project Brief and consent from both the Chief and the local council. When the Minister addressed us and told us that no timber was going to leave Zambia unless it was at least processed into four corners, my company obliged and went further to acquire equipment to process the timber. However, after harvesting and processing the timber and just before getting an export permit for our first consignment, government banned the harvest and trade in Mukula and all export of timber unless in finished product form. This all happened when we had already made a huge investment in millions of Kwacha that left our bank account dry. The decision to ban harvesting and trade in Mukula could perhaps be justified given the rampant illegal dealings at the time. However, special consideration should have been put in place to secure investments for legal and genuine licence holding companies. This was never done and companies like ours suffered major losses and continue to suffer to date.

When the ban was effected, there was no prior communication to the concession licence holders as required by law. To our surprise we just saw security wings coming to our processing site and saying there was a ban on harvesting and processing of timber. They even arrested four of my innocent workers despite showing them that we were not operating illegally.

At the time all this was happening, I was abroad on a business trip which I had to abort and flew to Isoka via Mbeya in Tanzania. After four days in cells and after being denied bond, we finally managed to secure bail from the court for our four workers. Thanks to the three brave Isoka residents who came to our help despite being threatened by some local officials there. The case went on for 17 months, but the people who arrested my workers failed to prosecute the case until the magistrate decided to discontinue it. During this whole time, my workers were driving from Lusaka to Isoka every month spending thousands of Kwacha to go and appear in court just for a mention. I tried everything I could to seek answers and help from all the officials I knew. However, nobody seemed to have any answers or means to help.

What makes me cry to date is that, despite eventually understanding that we were victims of circumstances, nobody seemed bothered about our predicament. Worse still, nobody seemed bothered that a fellow Zambian had lost a huge investment that could be used to invest in other areas and create employment for the many unemployed Zambians especially the youths.

During the time when all this was happening, we were treated like common criminals. The security wings refused to look at our documentation and took our timber and dumped it at the DCs office together with timber from illegal operators. Surprisingly, it was not long before ZAFFICO came with Chinese buyers to load some of the timber that was dumped at the DCs office. Very shocking indeed. The remaining timber still rots at the DCs office having gone through many seasons of rains and hot weather eventually losing all the market value and can only be good for firewood at the moment.

When It became very clear to me that there was no one who was going to help me, I started panicking and ended up writing an open letter to President Edgar Chagwa Lungu that appeared as a feature story in the Daily Nation of the 4th of October, 2017 and was widely circulated among many online news platforms. I received calls from both Zambians and foreigners from all over the world. Many Zambians in the diaspora were very concerned about how I was treated, many feared that the same thing would happen to them if they decided to bring their hard-earned money to invest in the county. The truth is that, I came back to Zambia as an investor only that I was not a foreigner as Zambia is my own country.

I called for the Presidents help because I had tried to seek answers and solutions from the government officers, Directors, Permanent Secretaries, Ministers, etc., but none seemed to have any. To me it was clear that only the President being the most powerful man in the country would help me. Unfortunately, maybe due to his busy schedule, the President may not have seen my open letter to him as I never got any feedback from him or those around him. Maybe the people who were supposed to show him the open letter never bothered because it was a Zambian investor crying for help and not a foreigner. For all I know, President Lungu is a very caring leader who would have called me or instructed those mandated to deal with such issues to quickly find a solution for us. He just recently called a young artist who had made a portrait of him and offered to buy her paintings, which clearly shows that he very much cares about the talent and plight of the youths and I can never claim to be an exception. Sadly, to date our issue has remained unresolved and nothing from our investment has been recovered.

Now that the President has spoken and warned those that are not helping youth entrepreneurs like myself, my hope has been ignited that perhaps our issue will now be looked at with the seriousness it deserves.

Many of you may be wondering why we have not gone to court as a company. Firstly, when this thing happened, we had invested all our money in the business and remained with nothing to pay any lawyer. Secondly, four of our workers were still appearing in court. We wanted the case to be resolved first before we could think of anything else. Thirdly, I have so much trust and hope in our President as a father of the nation. I was so sure that after writing that open letter to him, once he got wind of it, a solution was going to be found. This is the more reason I am writing this article with confidence that at least now that he has made a stance, perhaps he will get to read this and help us find a solution. To be honest, we have brilliant ideas that we would like to implement and employee many more Zambians than the over a hundred our company has now.

My principle is that, instead of just being critical of government to provide all of us with employment, I decided to be creative and innovative enough to create employment for myself and other youths to supplement government effort.

Finally, I am still pleading with President Lungu to consider meeting some of us from the youths who have made a choice to venture into entrepreneurship. Your Excellency, any help you will render to the youths now will stand out as your legacy when you finally decide to retire one day.

God bless

Source Lusaka Times

Zambian gov’t issues mining license to youths to curb illegal mining

The Zambian government on Sunday issued a small-scale mining license to youths in Chingola town on the Copperbelt Province to curb rising illegal mining activities.

By Xinhu

Chali Chilombo, a lawmaker for Nchanga constituency in the town, presented the license to the youths. The move is one of the government’s plans to empower young people in the district, he said.

The decision will reduce cases of illegal mining in the district, which has seen many illegal miners dying, Chilombo added. He said all young people that will be working on slag dumps will be trained in safety measures to avoid accidents. “Please let’s not fight over this site. Let’s work in harmony and ensure all working safety precautions are put in place before operations start,” Chilombo said.

Kabaso Mulenga, chairperson of the small-scale miners in the district, commended the government for the commitment to empowering young people. “To the youths let us ensure that the operations and distribution of resources are done in a transparent and equitable manner because no levels of selfishness will be entertained,” he said.

Zambia has been grappling with illegal mining activities especially on the Copperbelt province, as youths mine copper on slag dumps and disused pits.

Source The News Times

Zambian President calls for intensified empowerment of youths

Zambian President Edgar Lungu recently called for drastic measures to trigger more young entrepreneurs to emerge and existing ones to be boosted, Lusaka Times reported.

Lungu mentioned this in Kabwe while opening the Central Province Patriotic Front Conference, while cautioning against the prevailing Laissez-faire attitude.

“The rhetoric surrounding youth entrepreneurship needs to be replaced with immediate action by the relevant agencies,” said Lungu adding that the next time he speaks about the matter, he will either be reshuffling or firing people.

Lungu also emphasised that Zambia’s future lies in the involvement of young people in Entrepreneurship.

“The Youth Entrepreneurship is at the core of his heart and his vision for industrialization. Our country has a huge and energetic youth entrepreneurship potential that required to be harnessed for national development reiterating that conditions need to be created to enable the youth, who constitute the majority of Zambia’s population to thrive as existing or upcoming entrepreneurs,” he said.

Source African Daily Voice

How Zambia Can Create a Million Jobs For Youths in 3 Years

Featured photo credit: World Bank Blog

By Kalima Nkonde

This article is a follow up on the Youth unemployment article that I wrote early this year entitled “ Zambia’s untold Story: High Youth unemployment, a ticking time bomb as Youth commits suicide”. The previous article did not suggest solutions as it was going to be too long given the poor reading culture in the country. The current one is suggesting practical solutions which merely needs political will to implement and results will show within a very short space of time if the right experts are consulted.

Zambia faces a critical youth unemployment problem which requires innovative thinking to tackle the multiple drivers, at both macro and micro levels that fuel youth unemployment. Although there are various positive macro-economic policies in the 7th National development plan aimed at increasing economic growth and foreign Direct investment, Zambia and other African Countries’ past experience have shown that these policies do not create sufficient jobs to cater for the number of the Youth population entering the labour market. It is in this regard that other direct interventions are required to supplement these policies.

The solutions to youth unemployment are multifaceted and require short term, medium term and long term and well-coordinated strategies which should be concurrently implemented ,and if done, within a period of three years, over a million of good paying jobs could be created. There are six practical interventions suggested in the article.

Government and Multinationals procurement

The first practical intervention which has not been tried, entails the formal cooperation between government and the private sector especially the big multinational companies like Banks, Mines and Chinese Construction companies. The initiative entails involving the private sector by Government negotiating with them for the establishment of formal business linkages programmes whereby they procure supplies from Youth owned small business thereby creating a market for their goods and services.

Zambia and other African countries’ recent experience has shown that foreign direct investment is not generating sufficient jobs for the labour market, partly due to mechanisation of most tasks but also due to the huge overdependence of multinationals on imports thereby exporting jobs . It is, therefore, up to smart governments to ensure that Multinationals Enterprises (MNCS) are made to generate indirect jobs through preferential procurement from youth owned companies.

Mining companies’ suppliers relocation to Zambia

The second initiatives is involves Mining houses. They could can be a source of indirect jobs if they are utilized in an innovative manner. Mining companies, for example, import 95% of their supplies. Government could negotiate with them and persuade them to force their captive suppliers abroad to relocate to Zambia where they are operating and create thousands of jobs and transfer skills. This is no rocket science.

Internship and job placement programmes

The third initiative could be entail asking the private sector to participate in internship or job placement programmes or if they have no openings, contribute funds in form of grants to be used by small companies for wages to employ interns to gain work experience.

In Zambia, there is little evidence of formal cooperation between Government and the Private Sector in order to fight youth unemployment. Zambia should copy from South Africa who has programmes where big business is involved in indirect job creation. The recent programme that was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March, 2018 was the Youth Employment Service (Yes). The initiative which takes the form of a partnership between government ‚ business‚ labour and civil society is set to create 330‚000 jobs for young people in its first year. The initiative aims to see more than one-million young people being offered paid work experience over the next three years.

“We know that the depth of youth unemployment is huge and therefore we have to respond. We need effective and sustainable programmes to prepare young people for first-time employment. This demonstrates that we are a country on the move. We will be coming up with further initiatives to address youth unemployment‚” Ramaphosa said when launching the YES initiative, adding that South African government, in partnership with business would create more programmes aimed at alleviating youth unemployment.

Promotion of self employment initiatives

The fourth initiative for promotion of youth employment is self employment. The success of this intervention depends on the design of the various initiatives and the implementing agencies chosen for the purpose. The self-employment initiative entails the promotion of practical entrepreneurship programmes which are tried and tested. These programmes should entail the provision of a balanced range of support modalities such as training/skills development, mentoring and advisory services, easier access to finance through microcredit schemes, provision of grants and business start-up loans.

Graduation of Vendors to formal sector

The fifth initiative should include efforts to graduate some of the informal sector players like street vendors into formal businesses, providing them with short term entrepreneurship training courses, assisting them with a market for their products or services and providing them with capital for equipment and working capital ,and ensuring they employ additional workers in the process. This initiative can be implemented in a form of a medium to long term project funded by the World Bank or the Africa development bank .

Education system reform
The sixth and final initiative is a medium to long term solution. There is a need to focus on the reform of Zambia’s education system and the promotion of maths, Science and technical skills training so as to solve the problem of the mismatch of the skills being produced and what the labour market needs. The current basic and tertiary education system is failing as it is producing young people who are unsuitable for the labour market. This mismatch between the skills required for jobs and the levels of skills with which young people leave schools, colleges and universities with is one of the main reasons for the high youth unemployment rates. The former Minister of Youth, Sport and Child Development, Mar. Vincent Mwale did correctly make this same observation at the United Nations in 2016.

“We have young people that graduate from universities and colleges but do not have the right skills that are required on the market. The education system is kind of misplaced,” Mr. Mwale said when addressing African youths at United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum 2016 in New York.

At basic education level, there is need to emphasize the teaching of STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. The introduction of courses on entrepreneurship in the school curriculum so as to change the mind set of young people at an early stage that on completion of education there are two choices: self-employment and wage employment.

At tertiary level, there is need to reduce investment in mundane University education of the 20th Century and more focus is made on research and technical training. The Technical Education and Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TAVETA) needs to be properly realigned, well-resourced and linked to industry and entrepreneurs who have run real businesses so that it is not too theoretical in approach to training. The 21st Century is based on the knowledge economy

The initiatives suggested above can only work effectively if a special purpose vehicle to implement the multifaceted nature of the solutions is created. The research by International Labour Organisation(ILO) and the World bank have shown that programmes that integrate multiple interventions are more likely to have a positive impact on reduction of youth unemployment. What is needed is a structured system of support to the Youth to solve Youth unemployment.

Source Lusaka Times

Interact with us @aayp_media/Whatsapp: +2348154907978

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Instagram

Ghana: AirtelTigo CEO writes op-ed calling for collaboration to protect young people online

Yesterday, 5th February 2019 is Safer Internet Day. This global event takes place in February every year. Safer Internet Day promotes a safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones especially by children and young people across the globe.

This year’s theme is “Together for a better internet”. I am particularly excited about the theme because it calls upon policymakers, parents, teachers, law enforcement, telecom operators, among others, to join hands in walking the journey of creating a better and safer internet together.

According to a 2018 GSMA report, smartphone adoption continues to see rapid growth in sub-Saharan Africa. The report said that the total number of smartphone connections stood at 250 million at the end of 2017 and would double by 2025 to reach two-thirds of all total connections.

In Ghana, three out of 10 people now own a smartphone and the country’s data subscriptions stood at over 23 million ending September 2018. The internet is a great tool that has changed the way we work and interact with our families, friends, buy and sell, learn new things and meet new people.

I’ve been in Ghana, for just over 6 months now and I am amazed at how the youth and young entrepreneurs are leveraging the use of the internet to not only socialize but pursue their ambition.

Children and young people adapt to new technologies quickly and easily. My 6-year-old son, when asked to write about some of the things he enjoys, easily writes about how he likes to watch his favorite cartoon on YouTube – so you can imagine how happy a parent I was when I saw the launch of the YouTube Kids app (which I’ve already downloaded!).

The reality is that more young people are becoming technology savvy than we adults. My social media evolution stalled at Instagram – which makes me ancient in many young people’s eyes.

I do believe though, that the internet remains a great tool that brings us fantastic opportunities but also poses some challenges, for our children and young people. Cyber bullying, cyber-crime and access to age inappropriate content are some of the dangers that our young people are exposed to.

To create a better internet, the ‘Safer Internet Day’ offers us stakeholders in the ICT industry an opportunity to join forces to address any negative experience young people may face online. No telecom operator, non-governmental organization or ministry can create a better internet on their own and thus this year’s Safer Internet Day calls for collaboration among us all.

During this February, we at AirtelTigo will use our social media platforms to raise awareness on safe internet practices, because as a responsible telecom operator, we have an enormous responsibility to ensure young people’s safety on the internet. We will lend our voice to the cause.

I would like to see us protect the next generation of creators who will develop new solutions for our critical problems. We all have a role to play. Let’s collaborate to protect our young people online.

About AirtelTigo CEO:

Mrs Mitwa Kaemba Ng’ambi is the Chief Executive Officer of AirtelTigo, the second largest mobile operator in Ghana. Originally from Zambia, she has spent the last decade of her career in the telecommunications industry where she has developed a track record of building high-performing teams and driving business profitability across operations in Africa. A software engineer by training, she has held various roles in Information Technology and Commercial. Prior to joining AirtelTigo, Mrs Ng’ambi was the CEO of Tigo in Senegal.

Source Ghana Web