The International Youth Day Celebration hosted by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and Sol Plaatje University (SPU) on Monday, 12 August 2019 attracted some high profile participants and a diverse audience of youth from the greater Kimberley area.
Over 300 people attended the symposium which was held in the SPU Library Auditorium, where the Premier of the Northern Cape Province, Dr Zamani Saul, and the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Alvin Botes, addressed the audience.
Both the Premier and the Deputy Minister also participated in a panel discussion on Economic Opportunities for Young People, together with Mr Sfiso Mtshweni of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and Ms Gail Motlhaudi, a Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at SPU.
In welcoming everyone to the symposium, Professor Jean Baxen, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic at SPU, asked the youth to imagine the University as a space in which they can grow and realise their dreams in a new democratic landscape that was defined by principles of social justice and equity. She described SPU as a bridge for the youth between their today and tomorrow.
Professor Baxen also affirmed to the Premier that SPU was willing to work with him and his administration to create a better world for our youth.
In his opening remarks, the Premier, said that young people of the 21st century have to deal with significantly more challenges than those of the 20th century, because the world was so interconnected that it had crystallised into a global village and our youth had to operate in a complicated (or complex) world that was defined by four features.
These being: countries were moving away from idealism and towards pragmatism in which they sought only what is their own best interests; that we lived in a VUCA world in which the global environment was volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous; the emphasis of global politics has changed to be more about cohesive power, resource power, and cultural dominance; and that global governance has moved away from multilateralism to towards bilateralism.
He emphasised that SPU must be able to produce graduates who can successfully compete with their global neighbours.
The Deputy Minister in his keynote address challenged the youth to continually question the status quo.
He talked about the national crisis in South Africa with regard to unemployed youth and the relationship with our geopolitical position.
He stated that South African foreign policy must look to what is in our best interests and that addressing youth unemployment should be at the forefront of that policy.
He mentioned our participation in the proposed African free trade agreement and South-South solidarity as a means to help South Africa become a prosperous society.
During the panel discussion, Mr Mtshweni from the NYDA said that the youth should be part of decision-making processes and enjoy full participation in the economy.
He called for greater youth representation in government.
Ms Motlhaudi from SPU encourages the youth to change their mindset to become more positive about their abilities, to collaborate with those who had more experience than them, and to invest in the right education since this was the path that opened the most doors.
There was a robust question and answer session that touched on topics such as: a relevant curriculum, how black youth can successfully compete in the global environment if they are continually disadvantaged, the functioning of the NYDA, how to best compete in the fourth industrial revolution if the majority of the youth live in conditions reminiscent of the second industrial revolution, and how to bolster the economic development of the youth.
In closing, Professor Baxen reminded the audience that a university was a place in which they nurtured young minds to be critical thinkers, and in which they developed the youth to follow the precepts of social justice and equality.
These would give them the tools to be effective global citizens in a world in which governments created environments that facilitated their opportunities for success.