A Nigerian girl once wrote former president Olusegun Obasanjo: “I am worried and constrained to write you this letter because am in a situation where I have the past that I don’t understand, a present which is confusing and a future I don’t have confidence in.”
Her frustrations about the lack of opportunities for young people also applies to young Malawians.
What kind of Malawi do the youth want to live in and how can they create it?
Malawi needs a total rethink of the developmental model, especially now that 40 percent of the population consists of jobless young people.
The youth lack opportunities to reach their full potential. Let us do something about it.
It is disheartening that 600 Malawians sit idle at Lindela Repatriation Camp in South Africa because they tried to find opportunities when their country gave them none. Can local councils accommodate part of this this ‘youth bulge’?
In view of diminishing job opportunities, the councils can serve as a space for the youth to contribute to development of their districts, towns, cities and municipalities.
Local government is the hub of development. Once the youth understand how councils work, it will empower them to have political representation in decision-making bodies. Currently, there is a mismatch between the skills being produced and what the labour market wants.
I wonder if any education level, from primary to tertiary stage, focuses on how learners can effectively contribute towards changing existing challenges in their local communities.
We need youth to get excited and contribute at this level.
Local authorities are becoming increasingly important as more resources are being allocated to councils due to decentralisation.
Some councils are also working hard to mobilise their own revenue. In the last financial year, councils got about K36.6 billion. This year, they are expected to get K175 573.5 billion.
About K162.2 billion is meant for recurrent expenditures and K13 billion for development.
Councillors are responsible for providing critical strategic leadership on how part of the national budget is used.
Young people could make important contributions to their communities by participating at the local level.
Their voices is critical in ensuring youth-related priorities find space in the annual investment plans.
Is there sufficient will in our political parties to uplift the youth from painting their bodies and dancing for politicians to taking part in decision-making positions? Studies worldwide show that the youth can add value to the running of the party as they have energy, know-how, creativity and innovation.
Most importantly, the majority of the youth population and voters are young.
Malawi needs to invest in improving her young citizens’ skills and competence so that they can drive development at the local level.
Young citizens need to know the available platforms for participation, budgeting and planning.
They need to be empowered on agenda-setting, reading budgets and how to advocate for their needs.
Local government leaders must deliver services to the voters regardless of their political affiliation.
It is time political parties build structures that outlive leadership’s lifespan. Political parties need to get serious about supporting youth, especially girls, running in local government elections, not just for the duration of a selection process or campaign, but before, during and after their candidacy.
The youth who will take this course need also to convert diversity into strength.
As the youth policy ably suggests, the youth need to develop an appropriate mindset and the necessary self-discipline that goes with leadership.
We are not saying all the older generation should go and usher in the youth, but we should create an environment where the unemployed youth can creatively see opportunities and space to make a difference.
The youth deserve a chance to learn from and with the older generation.
Can local authorities be the new home of this youth bulge? Only time will tell.