Unemployment remains a big challenge among the youth in the country. Solutions to reverse the situation are there, but yet to be fully exposed.
Having neatly arranged her locally-produced biscuits and boiled cassava on a makeshift stall on a busy street of Mzuzu City, Eluby Phiri hopes to sell enough to fend for her family. The 21-year-old woman is unemployed.
Young street vendors such as Phiri have become the most visible sign of high unemployment levels in Malawi. Street vendors are everywhere as thousands of young job seekers are increasingly pushed into the informal sector in a desperate bid to survive the tough economic climate.
Speaking to Phiri as she waits for sales, the Form Four graduate says she has tried to get a job but to no avail.
“I have looked for work as a cleaner or shop assistant but employers shun me because I lack experience. I have no money to complete my education. Government is not helping us young people,” she says.
Youth unemployment remains a challenge in the country. In fact, most of the repatriated Malawians affected by xenophobia attacks in South Africa are youths aged between 16 and 30.
The 2013 National Statistics Office (NSO) Malawi Labour Force Survey indicates that unemployment among the economically active population in Malawi is at 21 percent. The unemployment rate among females is at 26 percent, while the rate among males is 14 percent. Among youths aged between 15 and 34, the unemployment rate is at 23 percent.
Given such figures, is there hope for Malawi youth?
Towera Mkandawire, 27, shows that the youth can do something about their situation. Through her tailoring business, she has transformed her life.
“In a good month, I make over K250 000 from fashion designing and tailoring. I have since purchased four electric sewing machines and I will soon recruit additional tailors to meet the demand which is ever growing,” says Mkandawire, who comes from Chiwato Jere Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mtwalo in Mzimba.
She says she learnt her skills from Phwezi Rural Polytechnic in Rumphi where she studied textile and designing.
“As part of our training, we were attached to the industry to gain practical skills. I saved my allowances from there to raise capital for my business,” she says.
Mkandawire is now a fashion designer of note in Mzuzu.
She says she is grateful to Technical Entrepreneurial, Vocational Education and Training Authority (Teveta) for the training.
“It gave me an opportunity to work and generate some money while studying. I am now self-reliant and successful in my business,” says Mkandawire, who owns Towera’s Creations.
She is among a group of students that have undergone Tevet’s apprenticeship programme at Phwezi Vocational Centre.
Teveta head of training programmes Clement Gondwe says Mkandawire went through an apprenticeship, which is a system of training where a trainee acquires practical and theoretical knowledge in a chosen trade through classroom contact with teachers as well as in the industry through attachments.
“We have been implementing reformed National Apprenticeship Scheme (NAS) since 2000 to make it more flexible and responsive to the demands of the labour market. The competency based education and training (CBET) is the main feature of the training methodology of this apprenticeship programme,” says Gondwe.
He says the training focuses on the learner’s individual practical achievements.
“We want a leaner not only to progress to the next level, but to fully master and demonstrate practical competencies on the previous task. We also measure the learner’s performance at each stage,” says Gondwe.
Teveta executive director Dr Ndione Chauluka said it is his organization’s commitment to provide skills to the youths in the country so that they should be self-reliant.
“We strive to enforce the spirit of entrepreneurship in our graduates. We do not want a scenario where Tevet graduates are idle when they have acquired all the skills,” he says.
According to Chauluka, if Phiri followed in Mkandawire’s footsteps her story would be different.
Perhaps, if the Teveta trainings were accessible to more youths in Malawi, they would not have to trek to South Africa and face xenophobia in their search for employment.