Green shoots of hope for South Africa’s beleaguered youth

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June is both Youth Month and Environment Month, something that’s highly significant when we think of solutions to our massive youth unemployment crisis, says Poovi Pillay, Executive Head of Nedbank Foundation.
‘With unemployment sitting at 63,9% for the 15 to 24 age group, and our economy stalled, it’s easy to become despondent. But that’s just not good enough – Nedbank is firmly of the belief that by concerted, well-directed action, we can make a real difference,’ he says. ‘The green economy is taking off and with it plenty of opportunities for youthful entrepreneurs.’
Already, the green economy is beginning to outstrip the fossil-fuel economy. FTSE Russell, an important provider of stock market data, estimates the green economy accounts for 6% of the global stock market, and thus millions of jobs.
‘It’s clear that the green economy will create huge numbers of new jobs, and our young people have to be prepared to take advantage of this great opportunity,’ Pillay argues. ‘For that reason, Nedbank has identified the green economy as its anchor corporate social investment initiative. We are looking beyond funding to creating a web of partnerships to prepare society – and youth in particular – to take part.’
Nedbank’s green strategy rests on four pillars: agriculture, water, energy and waste. A key principle of this strategy is to develop an integrated approach by building a circular economy from the ground up, with a particular focus on rural and semi-urban communities where poverty and unemployment are catastrophically high.
Agriculture is a key focus for Nedbank because it is already one of the few sectors creating jobs in South Africa, having shown a 3% growth in employment in the third quarter of 2021. Other sectors with potential include energy and waste. McKinsey estimates that the cost of getting to net zero by 2050 will require an extra $3,5 trillion a year, while the Global Wind Energy Council estimates that just the shift to clean energy could deliver 250 000 jobs to the South African economy, while the waste sector could create an additional 45 000 jobs and 82 000 indirect jobs.
Because entrepreneurship is key to realising the opportunities inherent in the green economy, the Nedbank agricultural projects are focused specifically to encourage entrepreneurship under the youth. Through the GetOn Foundation Trust, Nedbank is funding 30 potential entrepreneurs to acquire a range of skills they’ll need to start their own businesses. Two other projects focus on opening up South Africa’s iconic wine industry to young entrepreneurs. Nedbank is assisting The Pinotage Youth Development Academy and Cape Winemakers’ Guild to build a pipeline of appropriately skilled young people to take their place in this fast-moving, export-driven industry with its significant job-creation potential.
Waste management is critical in creating a circular economy, and Nedbank is supporting Mbombela-based Real Shift. This innovative, energetic non-profit company partners with municipalities to separate waste for recycling; and they have already created 11 sustainable jobs – a practical example of the way in which waste can be an engine of growth and individual empowerment.
‘South Africa’s youth face strong headwinds, but there is significant opportunity too for those who have the drive and skills to take advantage of it,’ Pillay says. ‘Nedbank is committed to playing a transformative role by creating a platform for our young people to seize the opportunities the green economy offers, and so turn the country around,’ he concludes.