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Swaziland (Eswatini) has taken the incentive by setting up ambitious and exciting projects to combat the massive (50%) unemployment among the young. The Youth Development Project sponsored by the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation – NORAD, is the main thrust of this dynamic programme. It is focussed on capacity building and enables young people to set up a business. It also covers participants’ training, providing seed capital and support for their business ventures. It involves two phases.
Community leaders identified 140 young adults (aged 18-30) living in the deep rural areas of Swaziland, to participate in this enterprise. They were trained to set up a business by learning how to prepare a business plan, draw up a budget, market their product or service, prepare financials, open a bank account and register a business. This was a one-year course offered by an external organisation, Junior Achievers.
Each participant must come up with a business idea, and with the supervision of a team co-ordinator, equipment is purchased, the business is registered, a bank account is opened. All business initiatives are the participant’s own ideas.
The selected 140 participants were split into seven business groups. Of these two were cattle feed lots – breeding cattle. Heifers are bought, with the long-term plan being to breed and will be sold when older. Other ideas include a restaurant, a catering business, a garden service, and two piggeries.
During Covid lockdowns some of these businesses had to be placed on hold. It was most encouraging to see how these young entrepreneurs took the initiative and moved forward with their business plans. One enterprising young man started a piggery at home, building his own structure and now has 40 pigs. So he is already trading.
Another group who live in Dlangeni, predominantly a farming community, approached their tribal authorities for some land and was granted five acres. The group consisting of 12 people worked really hard, digging and preparing a portion of the land in which to plant maize. They were extremely proud of their first crop, which they harvested and sold, using the money to fund their piggery business. Brick by brick they built the structure to house the pigs and then erected a fence around the property. They bought 50 three-month old piglets which they took to market three to four months later.
The catering business started by the group in Sidwashini is prospering. The business caters for all types of occasions, and not surprisingly they have found funerals currently to be most lucrative.
The garden service group is working with a number of municipalities in Mbabane. In addition to maintaining lawns they plant and imaginatively landscape.
The young people in all these groups are an asset to their communities and share their knowledge by telling their success stories to children in schools, to give them hope for a better future, and to encourage them to dream.
In these very rural areas most young people don’t have many opportunities after leaving school. Work is scarce. High youth unemployment exacerbates teenage pregnancies, crime and drug use.
Most of these youngsters come from very poor families, but despite this, in their culture, they are still expected to provide support for the rest of the family straight after leaving school. Some have been through the Orphans and Vulnerable Children programme. Now that they’re grown up the question is how can they be helped to become self-sufficient.
In Swaziland the respect for The Salvation Army is immense. We’ve even had support and advice from Department of Agriculture. Swaziland (Eswatini) is one of the five countries comprising the Southern Africa Territory, which is South Africa’s responsibility. The other three are Namibia, St. Helena and Lesotho.
This exciting programme highlights the need for getting young people empowered through starting their own businesses. This is not only needed in Swaziland, but many sub-Saharan countries too, including South Africa. It is a wonderful example to be followed and as urgently as possible.