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LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
13 March 2007
UMSOBOMVU YOUTH FUND (UYF) STRATEGIC PLAN
Documents handed out:
Presentation by Umsobomvu Youth Fund (UYF)
Audio recording of the meeting
The UYF outlined its key national priorities: the National Youth Service Programme, Micro Finance and the Graduate Placement and Development Programme. It provided its plans to increase attention paid to volunteer mentorship, partnerships with the private sector and support to people with disabilities. It spoke about its strategy to improve access and visibility and also gave a progress report on its expenditure.
Members asked questions about branding for visibility, accessibility, the demographics of UYF's service providers and sustainable work opportunities for volunteers.
Mr Malose Kekana (UYF CEO) said the UYF had provided products and services to enable young people to access sustainable livelihood opportunities. The projects looked at aiding unskilled/unemployed, skilled/unemployed, skilled/employed and self-employed young people. The interventions were developed to move people from unskilled and unemployed to a stage where they could access sustainable livelihoods. They would identify opportunities and provide training, provide business support to pursue self-employment or link to employment and provide access to finance. The products and services provided were training, a National Service Programme offering youth the opportunity to acquire skills while serving their community, a Job Opportunities Seekers Database, Business Development Support, Enterprise Finance and Information and Counselling.
The service delivery channels for these products and services were Youth Advisory Centres and Points, an Internet Portal, a Call Centre, a SA Youth Card, the UYF magazine and Independent Service Provider Organisations (SPOs). The needs of people with disabilities had also been taken into consideration in planning the rollout of this framework.
Ms Chair asked how the programme was being branded and whether this had significantly improved visibility and accessibility.
Mr Mzondeki (ANC) spoke about accessibility in the context of transport costs for youth to get to towns where these youth centres were located. He asked if the UYF had made use of the resources and experience of NGOs that were geared towards aiding people with disabilities.
Mr Anthony (ANC) referred to the recent requirement put forward for reporting in the public service and asked whether in future they could please do their reporting in the required format, showing comparative figures next to each and clearly stating what had been achieved in the previous period. He said that access and visibility were still an issue and that the demographics of service providers were still predominantly white. They were therefore unable to relate to the youth and their challenges. He asked for feedback on businesses started through the fund to get a sense of their sustainability. There had been reports that many of these assisted businesses had collapsed. He asked if Parliament could do anything to help. He asked if the provincial offices had the capacity to deal with the number of youth needing and seeking assistance.
Ms Chair asked in which areas the 30 000 volunteers referred to in the report would be harnessed. She wanted to know whether the programme included any anti-drug and alcohol abuse intervention. She asked for elaboration in the report on the R56 million which had been allocated to 105 SMMEs.
Mr Kekana replied that the UYF had initially experienced a period of uncertainty over its future and it therefore did not feel secure enough to put itself out there to any large extent, in case this could not be sustained. It had therefore marketed itself under the auspices of various service providers and this had directly affected its visibility and therefore accessibility. The situation had improved and therefore they could make a greater commitment as far as staff contingents were concerned. They were expanding from one to nine offices spread through all provinces, which equated to about forty staff that were employed for the Youth Advisory Centres (YACs). Municipalities were providing office space and were paying for water and lights. These centres would employ anything from three to seven people, depending on the need in the area. Mr Kekana agreed that greater visibility and better signage of the UYF was necessary and that this was now in the offing. The programme also involved outreach programmes where youth advisors were visiting churches, schools and their local FET colleges. This had already garnered positive results. They would be involved with partnerships to answer the needs of some communities and although transport was perhaps a problem each small town would have a centre. He said most villages used some town for provisions and youth would usually make regular visits to that town anyway.
The UYF was working in conjunction with organisations that were involved with people with disabilities and they were interacting with them to share information and experience. Regarding the question regarding allocation of funds, he said R56 million had been allocated to 105 enterprises, whereas they had envisaged allocating less money to more SMMEs. He agreed that white service providers were a problem and that even skilled retired white people were being asked to come out of retirement in an attempt to fill the skills gap. They were investing in building capacity and service quality. Customer service improvement was also receiving attention as they had received complaints that young people had been treated poorly at some of the centres.
Mr Kekana said that the volunteers would be participating in projects across some nineteen government departments. These projects were set out in Section 4 of the hand out. He said that over and above promoting the skills development of our youth these projects were also meant to foster an attitude of service and patriotism.
Ms Chair asked whether the payment of stipends to volunteers was being properly monitored.
Mr Kekana said that the fund was looking at ways of providing volunteers with sustainable work opportunities after their service was over, thereby providing career paths.
Mr Kekana felt that the abuse of drugs and alcohol was closely correlated to lack of opportunity for employment and training. Research had shown that there existed such a correlation between undesirable behaviour and unemployment. Therefore even though their projects did not deal with such behaviour directly, the results of such projects were positive in providing the youth with ways of constructive engagement and a chance to be useful and productive. It had been shown also that out of about 4,2 million unemployed young people, only around 100 000 were in prison, thus indicating that the majority of our unemployed youth were not of criminal predilection. He said the function of evaluating these programmes was a matter of contestation between the Youth Commission and the Youth Council. This was hindering the process somewhat.
Mr Mogale referred to Section 1 of the Budget Hearing Report that stated that 500 unemployed out-of-school youth would be provided with Entrepreneurship Education (EE) in five provinces. He asked which provinces they were referring to in this instance. He suggested that members visit cooperatives to assess progress. He asked why the branding of UYF was not much more obvious and visible and commented that youth seemed to need collateral if they were to secure any funding.
Ms Chair asked whether women were being targeted to participate in the cooperative programmes.
Mr Mkhize commented that South Africa seemed to be building a nation of shopkeepers and asked whether this really provided employment opportunities. He asked where there was a youth centre in Durban. He commented that cooperatives often seemed to involve the enrichment of one individual who then employed others, rather than an equitable distribution of funds among members of a cooperative.
Ms Chair referred to the number of foreigners that seemed to be involved. Mr Mkongi expressed frustration at what seemed like very little progress in training blacks - so that one did not have to rely on only white service providers. He asked what the situation was regarding defaulters of micro loans. Ms Rajbally (Minority Front) asked if any work was being done to provide the youth with access to markets and distribution channels for their products.
Mr Kekana said that there was a default rate of about twenty percent among micro lenders and thirty percent of SMMEs. This was an acceptable rate. In fact often defaulters had not stopped paying completely, but were in arrears due to unforeseen circumstances. He said the achievement of their targets and goals had been substantially delayed by the impact of change in majors and municipal managers after the local government elections. He said some municipalities were dysfunctional. He said they envisaged the private sector matching government funding.
Mr Kekana suggested that in their next annual report they would include success stories and a breakdown of the various projects they were involved with in the provinces. He mentioned that UYF had won the Annual Report Award for transparency last year. They would be tracking the impact of the various programmes through independent assessors. It was their function to implement policy and not to monitor and get involved in all the other aspects of process. The Youth Council was responsible for lobbying and advocacy, while the Youth Commission dealt with policy and strategy. They maintained good relationships with both these bodies and in fact were the largest funder of the Youth Council. They would be willing to set up visits to cooperatives in the future. They would also be placing greater emphasis on getting their brand out there and visible. He said that there were misconceptions abounding among the youth and one of them was the idea that one needed collateral in order to receive funding. This was not true and he suggested that the UYF organise workshops where ever they were invited to do so, so that youth could get the right information from them directly. He said that cooperatives did actively encourage the involvement of women and that as far as micro funding was concerned, 43% of micro lenders were women and sixty percent of SMMEs were women. Mr Kekana said according to a recent Global Entrepreneurship Report compiled by University of Cape Town, South Africa had one of the lowest rates of entrepreneurship in the world with very low awareness in this respect. They were working on various initiatives in this area and one of them was the Future 100 which would encourage young business entrepreneurs. Mr Kekana referred to statistics which showed a population at working age of nearly 30 million, 13 million not economically active and 12 451 000 employed. More African graduates were unemployed then any other race group, while only 4,7% of white youth being unemployed.
Mr Kekana showed various statistics regarding the demographic distribution of figures relating to youth, which showed black youth to have some of the lowest matriculation levels.
Referring to cooperatives, he said these were still weak in this country and said that the National Co-operative Alliance was facing serious problems and needed more support. Most of the youth co-ops were involved in production or savings, which were quite successful. There was a new initiative in the pipeline, with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) getting involved with a big youth co-operative programme. Regarding the demographics of service providers, he said that 75% of voucher providers were black and that white service providers were still mostly needed in training, although the FET colleges were starting to fill this gap. Change in this instance had taken place over the last few years.
Regarding interest rates on loans, he said the fund was an accredited micro-lender and had to abide by legislation such as the Usury Act. They were, however, probably one of the only institutions offering up to six months moratoria on capital and interest payments or interest alone in order to give the individual the chance to get onto their feet. Mr Kekana agreed that youth needed access to markets. Various initiatives such as the Business Opportunities and Service Support (BOSS) were attempting to change this and various private sector businesses had offered their space to allow youth to sell goods and become either distributors or vendors. Builders Warehouse, MTN, TATA Motors were some of these businesses. Insurance companies were also being approached regarding access to business. The DTI was also involved in incentive schemes to encourage youth entrepreneurship and providing greater access to export markets. Mr Mogale said he had checked the UYF website and found it to be out of date.
Mr Kekana said that if one logged on to www.youthportal.gov.za, one would find the updated website. The out of date site might have been a linkage, which would be looked into as well.
Mr Mkongi commented that the National Skills Development Strategy did not talk to the National Youth Service Programme.
Mr Kekana said implementation had to evolve. Although R125 million had been allocated to improved co-ordination, the decisions made were often informed by contemporary experience. The presence of a Youth Desk in the Office of the Deputy President would also improve matters and this would filter down to provincial level. In areas such as Limpopo the National Skills Strategy was working well and the UYF was working to together with the Extended Public Works Programme. Elsewhere they were working together with the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority to improve skills.
The meeting was adjourned.