SKILLS Programme Shines Ray of hope for Unemployed Youth
In Malawi, unemployment statistics are hard to come by but a critical look at some data shows the country has a huge crisis at hand - a crisis that needs urgent attention.
In July this year, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning revealed startling figures of those employed in Malawi.
A meagre nine percent of the country’s population is in the labour workforce, shouldering the burden of providing for the remaining 91 percent.
Principal Secretary for Economic Planning Patrick Zimpita said the ratio of people below working age of less than 15 in the workforce is 86 percent, which puts pressure on Malawi’s productive age group of 15 to 65 years.
These are the figures of a country whose population is estimated at 21 million and is projected to rise further to 21.2 million by 2024.
Each and every year, thousands are graduating from secondary school. A lucky few are transitioning to universities: public or private. Some go to technical colleges, but a lot more stay at homes or trek to South Africa in search of a decent life.
For the few that make it to the university, when they return to the ‘world’ upon completion of studies, they scramble for opportunities in the already saturated labour market that is absorbing new entrants at a snail’s pace.
Eventually, they end up frustrated.
This is what Clara Kamlomo went through after completing her studies at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2014.
She looked for jobs in every corner of Malawi. That was before she recollected herself and reminded herself that what she learnt in college could earn her a living.
Kamlomo then started with mushroom production behind her house in Area 25 in Lilongwe.
From sales that she made, she bought some land in a remote part of the city where she relocated and started a farm he has called Amazing B Farm.
Her story will remain inspiring to many. Much more so in an economy highly dependent on agriculture, which accounts for about 80 percent of overall employment and 60 percent of youth employment, with a high share of women.
Now the 31-year-old Kamlomo is poised to make difference
On Friday, her farm saw off graduates of a SKILLZ Program, a knowledge sharing initiative that she has taken to train the youth in agribusiness.
Through this initiative, Kamlomo is passing on agribusiness knowledge to the younger generation so that they counter unemployment that remains a huge challenge for Malawi and several countries across the globe.
She says since 2014 she has trained over 5000 people in different skills including mushroom production, beekeeping and honey processing, production of horticultural crops and value addition, fish farming and piggery.
This time around 100 youth, most of them not beyond 25 years old, are graduating with various skills
“The unemployment levels in Malawi are high. Many finish their Malawi School Certificate of Education but end up staying at home. Through the SKILLS Programme championed by the International Labour Organisation, I have trained several youths that are starting their own agribusinesses in various localities. This, I am sure, will lift several youths out of unemployment and ensure their economic independence,” says Kamlomo.
One of graduates of the initiative, 19-year-old Kate Kainja from Traditional Authority Chadza in Lilongwe hails the initiative.
She says what she has learnt in the three-month program will help her as she starts her journey in agribusiness.
“I have been training for about three months here. Skills that I have acquired will help me as I get set to start my own agribusiness using land that has been idle at home.
“I spoke to my parents and have agreed to give me a piece of land where I can start farming. In that way, I will be able to stand on my own and ensure my economic independence,” says Kainja.
Meanwhile, Technical Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TEVETA) says it is implementing informal sector training to help youth become economically independent and transform Malawi.
TEVETA Executive Director Elwin Chiwembu Sichiola told us it is startling to see supermarkets importing agricultural produce when capable Malawian youth can supply such products locally.
Sichiola said it is encouraging that the youth like Kamlomo are embracing such ideas and sharing knowledge among fellow youth, some of which have not gone beyond Malawi School Certificate of Education.
“At TEVETA we run two main training programs. We have the formal sector training program which focuses on those that have MSCEs, but realising that in Malawi not everyone has MSCE we also run programs in the informal sector targeting those that may not have any qualification to enroll and get some knowledge.
“For a long time, we were focusing on the technical side of this program but we realised that there is a need for more skills in the agriculture sector. We are on the road to Malawi 2063 which has a pillar on agricultural commercialisation. We are training the youth in these skills and Amazing B is one such partner that is implementing all this,” says Chiwembu Sichiola.
Secretary for Labour Wezi Kayira thinks the knowledge sharing initiative is the right way to reduce unemployment.
He says the youth that have been trained will replicate what they have learnt in their various localities.
“Youths that have been trained here, they will go out there and be economically independent and, in the end, reduce unemployment levels. Through such programs we hope to end unemployment together because agribusiness is a special way of ensuring that unemployment is addressed.”
The International Labour Organisation has since handed over a $10, 000 dollars solar powered water system to Amazing B Projects that will ease farming while helping in training the youth.
This was made possible with financial support from NORAD through the SKILLS Programme.
ILO Director for Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique, Wellington Chibebe says it is worrying that about 35 percent of the youth in the three countries remain unemployed.
Chibebe says the ILO is ensuring that the youth that are capable of improving their lives through skills are equipped.
“Youths are roaming around. 35 to 40 percent are unemployment. Some are under employment because they are in the job just for survival. This program helps in their independence and ensure that the youth are not only employed, but also employ others. Clara here is self-employed, she is employing people and, above all, training several others. This is what we want to implement and tackle unemployment,” says Chibebe.
About K17 million was set aside to manage the training of the youth in agribusiness through Amazing B Projects.
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