There has been a lot of discussion about the youth. Various programmes on empowering the youth have been developed and implemented in Malawi. The nation has seen an increase in the number of non-governmental organisations as well as international partners specifically dedicated to addressing the challenges that the youth face in the country.
However, due to lack of sustainable and comprehensive programmes, these initiatives have not made significant difference in the lives of the youth, especially those that are out of school.
What is noteworthy is that the youth represent an important segment of the population. Our society can only ignore the youth at its own peril. While the youth still have the energy and drive, it is the best time to utilise them for national development.
What is at stake by ignoring the youth is the bright future the country will have in no distant time. A country with many of its youths roaming the streets aimlessly without jobs and business opportunities is bound to have dangerous criminals, prostitutes and drug addicts, all because the youth feel desperate and socially excluded.
Empowering the youth, therefore, could be an important milestone towards attaining a society that is in control of some anti-social behaviour.
As the youth become economically empowered, their parents are also relieved of the burden of having to continue taking care of the financial needs of their aged children. Instead, these youths are turned into independent and reliable providers of the needs of their families.
It must be stated that almost every parent would want to benefit from the effort of bearing and raising a child. It is therefore painful for parents to see the future of their grown children being doomed right before their eyes.
The challenges that the youths of Malawi encounter are well documented. Unemployment and lack of business opportunities top the list of the many challenges and struggles they have to go through. Most youths are recruited into drug abuse, prostitution, crime and other anti-social activities owing to unemployment and lack of business opportunities.
There is an urgent need for the country to develop and implement a comprehensive programme that will have a lasting impact on the lives of the youth in Malawi in order to positively change the course of their destinies in life. The country needs a complete package that addresses all aspects of youth development.
Right from childhood, at family and community levels, there should be relentless efforts to instill some basic virtues of success in life that include education, goal setting and industry. Young people must grow up knowing that a combination of these virtues will help to guarantee success in life. In this regard, parents, guardians, teachers, religious and traditional leaders have an important role to play to young people.
The nation needs to create opportunities and avenues for income generation for the youth. This should not only focus on providing loans but it should be another comprehensive package.
The nation must create gainful employment opportunities for all categories of youths. Issues of work experience should also be re-considered to facilitate quick entry of fresh graduates into the job market.
Knowing that there are so many poor young people that, by their own choice or other uncontrollable circumstances, fail to continue with their studies, the country should devise collateral-free loan schemes. These loan schemes should seriously aim at turning the youth into serious entrepreneurs.
Much as having access to affordable loan facilities is important, for many young people, lack of basic skills in managing their businesses can hinder their business success. It is, therefore, imperative to build their capacity in the areas of marketing, accounting, business management, sales and personnel management if the youth are to grow in their new business ventures.
The country needs to open opportunities for young people especially in the rural areas by, among other things, facilitating exchange visits to successful youngentrepreneurs, organising special interactive sessions with successful entrepreneurs with like backgrounds and exploring markets for various goods and services. If no comprehensive programme to uplift the youth is put in place, the country should brace itself for hard times in a foreseeable future.