In the light of the June being the month of youth we spoke to the Botswana Congress Party president Dithapelo Keorapetse on an array of issues affecting young people in the country.
1. As a youth leader what are your views on youth unemployment? What do you understand by youth unemployment?
Expressed as a percentage of the total available work force, unemployment denotes an economic condition in which persons actively looking for jobs remain unhired in any remunerative productive activity.
My view is that the measure should also include those that are unemployed but have given up on searching for jobs; this would give us a clear picture of this economic problem.
We should also talk about underemployment, whereby a person is employed, but not in the desired capacity in terms of compensation, hours, or level of skills and experience.
The graduate internship is one such example.
Youth unemployment is caused by the flawed education system and the undiversified economy.
2. Do you have any ideas on how to tackle youth unemployment than what is being propagated by the current political leadership across political parties?
The education system needs an overhaul; there is a need to emphasize education with and for production and there has to be an inextricable linkage between the economic needs and the education programs offered at universities or colleges.
Why do we continue training people in areas such as education, social sciences and humanities in large numbers?
Why are we not training many in science and engineering, health sciences, business sciences and ICT?
Why do you think we still have expatriates in these areas whilst we have our youth roaming the streets?
These youth have irrelevant degrees to the market needs.
3. Do you think the youth of Botswana have a global understanding of problems and challenges facing them and others across the world?
It is unclear what this question seeks to address.
I think the youth understand that they are unemployed and that they have near useless degrees and diplomas and that they are neither marketable locally nor internationally.
They also understand that their problem can be dealt with in a manner that other serious countries have dealt with similar problems elsewhere.
They youth also understand that notwithstanding what they are made to believe, unemployment can be tackled with relevant policies.
4. Looking ahead ten years do you think if this problem continues it could destabilize the country and how?
Youth may resort to immorality in their quest for survival.
Crime and other social ills may increase to unprecedented proportions.
Stress levels may go high and other consequential societal problems.
Migration to other countries may also result. We may in future witness unemployment protests or uprisings alien to our body politic.
What is for certain is that this group (unemployed and educated) will not vote the BDP.
5. Let’s say this is 2019, you are the leader of your party and have just won elections, what would you do differently to address the problem of youth unemployment? Where and how would you start?
The starting point would be to overhaul the education system to make it relevant and enable it to give youth local and international survival skills.
We will have free and compulsory education which emphasizes access, retention and completion.
Spending on education would be increased to improve learning conditions, infuse ICT into the curriculum and train teachers.
The economy would be diversified through mineral beneficiation, not just diamonds but all minerals.
Agriculture and tourism sectors would be harnessed. Most importantly, a law on citizen economic empowerment, augmented by laws and policies on, inter alia, employment equity, skills development, preferential procurement would be enacted.
6. How would you involve the youth in decision making at all levels?
Youth can be involved if we have a participatory democracy whose political leadership is transparent, accountable and responsive.
In the BCP, youth are represented in all key structures of the party and we will replicate this in government.
Youth should be represented in all important decision making structures.
Their views would be vigorously solicited before key decisions affecting them are taken under the BCP government.
7. Any other information you would like to give?
Youth in Botswana are politically and economically disempowered, notwithstanding the fact that the country’s demographic profile is young.
They are unemployed and underemployed; they are poor and lack access to high education, social services and economic opportunities.
They are affected by HIV/AIDS and other diseases and lack access to sport and recreational facilities.
This calls for more involvement of young people in politics and a more meaningful role of youth in decision making.