Zimbabwe’s vision to become a middle-income economy by 2030 is achievable if the government invests in productive sectors and implement policies that encourage investment as well as entrepreneurial development. With adequate and proper support, access to education, jobs and opportunities to have their voices heard, young people can easily become a resource for the realisation of 2030 vision. In this report, Leeroy Dzenga (LD), our features reporter, speaks to the new Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC) director Cephas Nyoni (CN) on the dynamic and positive role the youth can play in the realisation of the 2030 vision.

LD: As the new director, what are some of the key projects you will be working on to promote youth engagement?
CN: As the incoming leader, you are given a mandate by the Minister as stated in the ZYC Act. The Minister`s focus this time around is to restart from the basics, not to say things were in disarray. We are looking forward to having an electronic register of associations and clubs. In other words, we are going back to the ZYC Act to ensure that all the provisions are complied with, equally. We intend to foster our various associations by linking them to various modes of assistance, be it with NGOs or business. For example, we have Youth In Tourism who are supposed to go to Botswana for a regional meeting with their peers and we are trying to see ways we can help.

LD: There have been concerns on the lack of visibility of the ZYC, yet it represent a demographic which is supposed to be vibrant in the national development process. What strategies are there to increase your visibility?
CN: One limiting factor has been the issue of decentralisation of the ZYC. At one point we worked with the African Development Bank and managed to decentralise to five provinces for three years. After that support ended, everything came back to the head office in Harare because there was no treasury support. There is no staff or officers at provincial level directly doing the business of the council. So, this is why we need the board to be functional, because the idea was that the members are drawn from the 10 provinces of the country so that there is a focal person from the council in every province. We were supposed to get support from treasury but that has not been the case up to now.

The youth associations which we register are also representatives of the council at their level, their vibrancy is also the vibrancy of the council. Currently, the myriad of challenges that may have been affecting the youth themselves are also going to the youth associations because their operations are funded by members. In the situation where we don’t have a grant as the ZYC to assist young people, it also becomes a challenge for them. Once the funding is there for the youth council to also assist associations, there will be more visibility. We are still pursuing the funding route. Also bearing in mind that our parent ministry goes down to the grassroots, so the youth should approach their offices if they need any engagement with the ZYC.

LD: There is the #Zim2063 drive which was recently launched by the ZYC. Can you unpack the idea?
CN: Recently we had a forum on youth policy tracking as we would like to have a situation where young people are participating in every sphere of society. That builds to the African Union`s Agenda 2063. But as we were holding the dialogue, we noted that in the new dispensation there is a vision that President Mnangagwa articulated on Vision 2030, which says that by 2030 Zimbabwe will be a middle income economy. So, we confined our focus to that timeline as it is more immediate. We want to ensure that there are more young people who contribute to that vision. You will see that our focus will no longer be on Agenda 2063 but on Vision 2030 as articulated by His Excellency. So we are now directing our activities towards ensuring the vision turns into reality, one major way this can be done is through youth mainstreaming.

LD: Youth mainstreaming has become a catchphrase, what is it in simple terms?
CN: We want the youth to claim space in each and every sector of the economy. The youth have to understand the intricate operations of the various sectors found in our economy. We already have regular engagements between experts and our youth associations where there is dialogue on the state of different sectors, focusing mainly on what the youth can do to improve them. The questions raised and observations are then conveyed to the various ministries. We also package those responses and suggestions for the ministry to take them to cabinet for deliberations at a higher level.

LD: Still on policy, Zimbabwe has been running on the mantra “Zimbabwe Is Open For Business.” What has the ZYC done to ensure that youths are part of this transformative process?
CN: I think there is a gap there, this is a result of the absence of a board which is supposed to be in place for the smooth functioning of the ZYC. There has not been a board since 2015. The board is supposed to be made up of representatives from the various sectors. From that 15 member board there are supposed to be committees which focus on specific sections of the economy. Those are the people who are supposed to sit in investor meetings representing youths. In their absence, I have to take part in those conversations and as there has been an influx of investor traffic into Zimbabwe, you may agree that it may be impossible for me to be part of every engagement. We are currently seized with the matter and would like to see a board as soon as possible. This can serve as a plea that we need the board for the full functionality of the ZYC.

LD: Zimbabwe will hold its harmonised election on July 30. Are you satisfied with the level of participation of youths in the forthcoming polls?
CN: We appreciate that there are processes at a political level that candidates have to go through but we are looking forward to a scenario where we have a third of the numbers in Parliament and council being young people as this will be a true reflection of our population structure. More still needs to be done. This may not necessarily be in the political arena only but even in politics. There will come a time where the older generation will pass on the baton to the younger generation. We need must have youths in those spaces to ensure continuity.

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