New perspectives: Youth key in nation building

It is against this background where youth empowerment and participation in nation building become vital.


The UN World Population Prospects estimates that in 2020, there were 1.2 billion young people worldwide, 90% of whom live in the Global South, 21% located in Africa. In Zimbabwe young people constitute an estimated 70% of the population and these numbers will only keep growing.

There are currently 63 million unemployed young people worldwide, while 40 million additional people, mostly youth, enter the workforce every year.

Worse still, employment no longer guarantees a way out of poverty: 141 million young people worldwide are part of the working poor and Covid-19 has made the situation worse.

It is against this background where youth empowerment and participation in nation building become vital.

This must start at an early age as a cumulative process to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to succeed. Section 20 of the constitution of Zimbabwe talks about youth and the National Development Strategy (NDS1) (2021-2025) promotes active youth participation.

The ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation and Zimbabwe Youth Council have several youth initiatives such as lobbying for budget allocations for youths, national youth policy and youth act (work in progress).

On December 9 and 10 2021, I was privileged enough to attend the 2021 National Ecumenical Youth Empowerment Summit (EYES), which was being hosted by Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC).

It was held under the theme, “Fostering Participation of Young People in Building a United, Peaceful, Just and Prosperous Zimbabwe” and forms the basis of this article.

This summit gave an estimated 100 youths (representatives predominantly from the ZCC member churches and from ten provinces), an opportunity to engage on various issues and with numerous stakeholders.

According to the summit, youth economic empowerment involves both the ability to succeed and advance financially and the power to make and act on economic decisions.

It is a biblical process rather than a political one and most scripture events are centred mostly on young people.

Good examples of bible personalities include Joseph, David, Esther, and Nehemiah who took up leadership at a young age in their lives and became most admired through Christian history therefore youth participation is God given.

Culturally young people are normally looked down upon for their contributions and sometimes not considered.

In trying to address that ZCC held youth summits across Zimbabwe to:

  1. a) build their interests on national issues, capacitating them to organise and effectively engage in nation building processes
  2. b) entrench Christian ethos and values in nation building processes.
  3. c) deliberate on contemporary challenges affecting youths with the view of finding innovative solutions to their challenges and activating participation in public policy processes.
  4. d) promote learning and exchange of innovations in addressing the contemporary challenges being faced by young people in Zimbabwe, and
  5. e) promote entrepreneurial, business and leadership skills among young people in Zimbabwe.

ZCC was formed in 1964 and it envisions a Zimbabwe characterised by Justice, Peace, Unity and Prosperity for all.

Ecumenical Youth Empowerment Summit (EYES) started in 2017 at national level and was largely supported by the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA). 75% of ZCC employees are young people.

Its programming is inclusive oriented, with strong focus on the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Its headquarters was renovated to accommodate PWDs and government institutions must imitate such initiatives.

During the National Summit of 2019, it was recommended to cascade the summit to subnational (Provincial/District) levels to reach out to more and many young people. Thus, in 2020, four provincial summits were conducted covering six Provinces and mobilising nearly 400 young people.

In 2021 with strict compliance and sensitivity to the national Covid-19 regulations and guidelines, all ten provinces were covered with EYES summits.

The recent national summit converges issues of interest from all the provincial summits to engage stakeholders at national level.

Before we dive into our discussion, it is important to note that  Christianity is the largest religion practiced in Zimbabwe, which accounts for more than 85% of the population.

In addition, citizens belong to one faith group or another, which means faith leaders have regular access to and influence on the majority of citizens in Zimbabwe.

In addition to that, faith actors also have a moral duty to speak out against injustices in the governance of resources and other socio-political-economic ills befalling our society today.

Every leader or policy maker has a church he or she goes under the leadership of faith leaders.

It is, therefore, important to note that faith leaders have the constituency, moral voice, respect, and legitimacy to mobilise citizens from different communities and policymakers which places them in a better position to advocate for better social, political and economic policies.

In as much as the government was appreciated for the current initiatives for the young people it must promote constitutionalism on paper and in practise, monitor and evaluate some of its youth initiatives and where possible, re-strategise to meet more young people. It clearly came out from the summit that there is

  • limited meaningful youth participation and engagement on elections and national policy issues
  • poor information dissemination especially at grass roots level and limited networking and information exchange among the youths.
  • limited resources or access to resources such as financial support to different fields youths are partaking;
  • some youth do not have a habit of reading and studying, they don’t or have limited knowledge about constitution, national policies, youth policies among others;
  • the problem of corruption, connections and nepotism made it difficult for youths to get employment and start their businesses;
  • youth are being educated to become employees hence they lacked entrepreneurship and project management skills among others;
  • marginalisation and discrimination of young people with disabilities;
  • growing intergenerational inequalities whereby youths have limited access to the modes of production that include land, mines, employment and business opportunities compared to the older generation wielding economic and political advantage;
  • systematic traditions and age limitation are hindering youths to be in positions or acts that can empower them to be vibrant;
  • discouraging bad politics and poor governance;
  • youth recreational facilities have collapsed or have been used for other purposes either in rural or urban areas that have led to increasing prostitution and drug and substance abuse
  • increase in gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and child abuse;
  • climate change challenges being seriously felt by young people as they are the majority (67%);
  • the ‘stable economy” is not being felt or improving the standard of living of the young people;
  • other issues include identity crisis, limited academic support, illicit financial flows, poor mineral resources governance and some youths are being used to do  dirty political work.

Way forward

Young people are encouraged to

  • follow safe spaces that allow them to respectfully and meaningfully participate, engage and argue objectively since it’s all about their present and the future.
  • professionally present their concerns, using existing formal and channels
  • exhaust peaceful ways first when approaching government and responsible institutions to address their issues and concerns.
  • work on time management, get educated, reduce focus on unproductive social media and wear work suits and work
  • have a reading and research habit, as leaders should have a readership mind-set.
  • nag, make follow-ups and give feedback to citizens within their sphere of influence
  • value the information, show interest in all information and institutions that affect their activities, making use of the existing traditional media in as much as they love social media
  • develop the will to think among the silos of the public law and engage in the political sphere.
  • Put efforts to look for financial resources, follow existing formal structure and visit their respective institutions.
  • Taking power (politics and business), get into strategic positions lobbying alone is not enough they need numbers in policy making.
  • Fight and report corruption as well as report and stop GBV, drug and substance abuse.
  •  *Learnmore Nyamudzanga is an independent economist, tax consultant, ZES member, and holder of a Master’s in Tax Policy and Tax Administration. Email : [email protected].
  • These weekly articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant,  past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe – [email protected] or mobile +263 772 382 852.

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