Analysis: MARGARET CHISANGA
ON JULY 28, the Zambia Daily Mail had a headline reading ‘57,000 chase police jobs’.The story indicated that the Zambia Police Service has received 57,601 applications from people who want to be recruited as constables against the 1,000 available positions in the service.
Lusaka Province received the highest number of 10,000 applications, followed by Copperbelt at 9,000, Southern 6,000, North-Western 5,278, Western 5,113, Muchinga 5,020, Eastern 4,800, Northern 4,605, Luapula 4,006 and Central Province 3,779.
While this is a staggering figure compared to the available positions, I beg the appointing authorities, non-governmental organisations, recruitment agencies and other stakeholders with interest in the improvement of youth welfare to see this as a figure of opportunity.
The 57,000 indicates the minds willing to be income-earning citizens of this nation. They could be transformed into income generators.
They applied because they believed themselves qualified and ready to work, which is a wonderful indication that their minds that can be transformed into powerful forces of innovation to kick-start income-generation activities that will bring development to the country.
Zambia has some of the best top talent which needs to be tapped to unlock their immense youthful energy, which could unleash a massive source of innovation and prosperity.
These young people have a belief in the power of formal employment to transform their economic situation, but they can be encouraged to utilise their unique talents and strengths to start up activities that will benefit them and at the same time develop the country.
Zambia needs a cadre of young leaders who are ready to tackle emerging problems of climate change, conservation agriculture, use of information and communications technology for financial inclusion of the rural population and many more. Emerging farmers like Maria Zaloumis are just a tip of the capabilities the young have once they are given the opportunities.
These opportunities should come in the form of mentorship, internship opportunities, access to funding and idea pitching sessions.
Programmes offered at Bongohive are a perfect example of an environment needed to help young people harness their special skills. Another good example is the Nyamuka business plan competition, which aids young business people with income and skills development. So what is needed are many more such services and activities to cater to the country’s youthful population.
Of course, they will need initial support and funding, which should be the role of stakeholders at this moment. We need problem solvers, solution seekers and critical thinkers who will think outside the box to create a desired lifestyle for themselves.
Zambia has one of the best education systems in the country and the increase in the number of universities means we shall be one of the most literate countries in the world.
However, academic education on its own will not be sustainable. Entrepreneurship and innovative skills need to be among the key subjects taught to graduates so that we avoid a high scramble for employment at the end of four years of study.
Every year, thousands of graduates are offloaded on the labour market, and by this time next year, the number of eligible candidates for the same position would have doubled. Imagine 100,000 young people applying for only 1,000 slots.
Many of these are totally unaware of the opportunities that the informal sector offers, and it would be good to gather them now and mobilise them to identify their unique strength and capabilities.
The focus should be to ensure viable personal projects are generated by the students so that they can be options when faced with a lack of formal employment.
This task not only falls on the shoulders of Government and NGOs, it also applies to ordinary citizens like you and me.
Those who are in formal employment and at the same time running entrepreneurial businesses must tap into this young population and equip them with employment opportunities.
This can work two-fold; first they will be expanding their businesses by employing one or two people, and secondly, they will be increasing the potential of their businesses to grow as these young people will be expected to increase revenue collection.
We need young leaders who should aspire to start their own organisations and develop this nation. We need a cadre of courageous and innovative young Zambians who will develop into ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in the near future.
By the end of this century, 40 percent of this world’s population will be African. And by 2035, Africa will have the largest workforce in the world at about one billion people. We need Zambians to be the employers in that period. Yes, it can be done, especially if we start preparing now.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail senior sub-editor.