Cover story

Playing the long skills game

There are plenty of digital jobs for young South Africans, so why aren’t more of our youth filling them? The Collective X thinks it has the answer.

01 September 2023

Mteto Nyati, BSG

The Harambee office in downtown Johannesburg is living up to its name – “pulling” or “working together” in Kiswahili – when I visit in late July. There are young people everywhere, sprawled in groups, clustered around laptops, some working in soundproof boxes in the open plan space. Everyone’s busy and there’s the low hum of conversation, some due to coffee being served from the mobile barista station in the lobby.

If a first-time visitor to South Africa were to materialise in the Harambee office – a not-for-profit organisation that works to address youth unemployment – they’d be right in thinking the country’s young people were set for a productive future. In reality, almost 60% of those aged 14 to 24 have no work, and the figure is 40.5% in the 25 to 34 age range. These figures are so well known that they don’t make the front pages of newspapers, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t hundreds, if not thousands, of plans and initiatives by non-profits and the public and private sectors to make some kind of dent in these numbers.

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