"We are going to craft many programmes and as many as we can. We did so because we wanted to give young people an opportunity to start off with their lives.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has held a pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) engagement with young people at the Belhar Sports Complex in Cape Town.

The engagement was aimed at taking stock – together with the youth – of the past three years since the commencement of the Presidential Employment Stimulus (PES) and Youth Employment Intervention (PYEI).

The two programmes have created more than 1.7 million job opportunities and provided livelihood support, predominantly benefiting young people.

At the engagement on Tuesday, President Ramaphosa told the youth that the sixth administration has, since it took office, made a decision to “focus on young people” because of the youth unemployment challenge that South Africa faces.

“We are going to craft many programmes and as many as we can. We did so because we wanted to give young people an opportunity to start off with their lives.

“Sitting here, I am rather pleased that we’ve set up this Youth Employment Service,where we’ve said to the private sector: take young people and give them a life chance opportunity by getting them to learn on the job. But we went further and we set up the PYEI, which has opened up enormous opportunities,” he said.

Reflecting on the past 30 years of democracy and how the lives of young people are impacted by this, the President said that since the end of apartheid, government has opened the doors of learning for all school going children, and assisted more than a million older youth in attaining higher education.

“When apartheid ended, we decided that we are going to open the doors of learning for young people to go into learning institutions by their millions and having done so, we opened up no-fee schools… We decided that we are going to feed young people at school. We have the biggest feeding programme on the whole continent, feeding nine million children everyday for five days of the week.

“We focused on higher education, [where]… today NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] supports 1.2 million young people. I know of no country on the African continent that does so,” he said.

President Ramaphosa noted that by putting more youth through higher education, more effort needs to be put into creating jobs for those who graduate.

“This is what led to the conceptualisation of all these [employment] programmes. We rely on the private sector to create jobs but they are not creating jobs fast enough so government had to step in to create those job opportunities.

“The vision is to make sure that we prepare the future of South Africa through educating, through skilling and then creating job opportunities for these young people,” he said.

The President assured the youth that government will not stop in its efforts to ensure that the youth are skilled and employed.

“We never had those opportunities but the democratic government has made sure that we open all these opportunities and they are there for you to take…and to make a good start in your own lives.

“But we are going to massify. I want to see millions of young people becoming involved in various opportunities and getting into jobs. Our commitment to you, as young people, is irrevocable, it is permanent, it is there committed like no other,” President Ramaphosa said.

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