Are We The Youth Or The Used?

It is 2019 and like every 5 years in my beloved Botswana, its general elections year. As with every general election year, a new cohort of ambitious characters gunning for public offices are making a lot of promises of the heavens to common citizens. Promises of impeccable service delivery ,promises of zero corruption in public offices, promises of a booming economic standing and the promise which seems to be common among almost all the political parties (you know it’s a unique selling point when even political parties agree on it) ,a promise of a better environment for the youth to succeed and prosper.  

Like with most African countries, Botswana’s youth bracket makes up the majority of the total population. The youth are the most physically active and innovative section of a population so when a country comprises mostly of them, one would not be wrong to assume that this group of the population would be given all the necessary means to succeed and do well because they are the country’s source of hope for a better future ,right ? Unfortunately, as much as this makes sense in a theoretical setup, it does not translate to the same thing in the practical setup. Life as a young person in my beloved Botswana is bleak. Unemployment is rife and though the government turns out to say the youth must move from an “earning money mentality” to a “making money mentality” in the form of entrepreneurship, the enabling environment for the success of youth owned ventures is nonexistent.

Most of Botswana’s youth populace is educated, the majority of it brandishing higher education qualifications including diplomas and degrees as well as vocational training. The country has an abundance of tertiary institutions, all graduating new cohorts every year. What is sad is that, unlike in developed countries where graduates are always looking forward to life after graduation because it means finally getting that new job and that new house and officially being an adult, in Botswana, most of the time, the only thing to look forward to about graduation is the actual graduation day, seeing the pride in your parents’ eyes for all you have done in those 4 years, taking a couple of nice pictures to flood your social media with then after that ,back to reality.

The reality comprises of staying at home months on end after graduation without a job, still asking parents for breakfast money as well as money for printing your CVs and transport money for dropping off those CVs. The reality comprises of, if you are very lucky, getting a 2 year internship where the per diem offered is not even enough to cover your transport costs for the month then after those 2 years, when you are expecting to be absorbed into the organization on a permanent work contract, you get shipped out for a new group of interns to take your place and continue the cycle. The reality comprises of getting a job you are absurdly overqualified for just to make ends meet. The reality comprises of eventually succumbing to a concoction of mental health issues because you feel like your life is going nowhere, stuck in a rut whilst your age is not slowing down.

“There are no jobs you say? Run to entrepreneurship then, create jobs for yourselves and your fellow citizens”, the government says. The youth have life changing ideas but they cannot implement them because again, the enabling environment does not exist. To start a business, one needs funding and surprise surprise , a lower middle class youth who has never had a job has no money to kick start their venture. Government comes in and offers different sorts of funding, all under the notion of “uplifting the youth”. The lucky ones who manage to get funding start their companies which eventually crumble because most established enterprises are not willing to do business with youth owned enterprises because government has not put in place laws inclining them to do so. The government then comes out and says, “oh well, like you are seeing, we are doing everything to help them but they are just failures.”

Political parties love problems because problems give them the opportunity to go to their rallies and chatter on about how they are the best candidates to offer “solutions” to these problems. Without problems, they would have a lot of trouble coming up with content for their mostly exorbitant get togethers. Because of their truckload of problems and that they make up majority of the population, the youth are always the target of rally rants as well as attempts at solicitation of votes by these parties. Parties are constantly yapping on about how much of a top priority youth development is on their manifestos. Promises of jobs and an overall better environment for the youth are constantly being spewed out at rallies but post elections, the same people who were making those promises forget who the youth are ,resorting to labeling them as lazy and inefficient rascals who want to be spoon fed.

The constant pattern in the Botswana political landscape is promises being tattled by party loud mouths in the form of “when you give us power, we will do this and that for the youth” instead of “we will do that WITH the youth”. It is basically always a bunch of senior citizens blabbing on at rallies about how much they know about youth problems and possible solutions than the youth themselves. Even in governance, it is always them, spending millions of taxpayers’ money to attend conferences in order to “benchmark” solutions to youth problems ,problems they have never experienced first hand. What they seem oblivious to is that we as the youth do not want anything for us without us. The youth want to be actively involved in coming up with solutions to problems that directly affect them instead of being fed inefficient solutions architected by people in suits who don’t know how it feels to be in your mid 20s and not be able to afford P8.00 for a combi to go to a job interview. The youth simply want a seat at the table in legislation and have the power to offer custom solutions to problems they experience first hand.

Solving problems in governance always starts at legislation and as long as the youth are not part of the decision making process at the top, their problems will persist. If the problem is, for example, too many unemployed graduates, a youth, being afforded a chance to be part of a decision making body would say that “tertiary institutions in Botswana offer subpar education and hence most graduates are not well equipped to be part of a workforce after tertiary so we should regulate minutely the kind of education imparted by these institutions so that it is in line with industry standards”. Only a youth who has been in a class and had access to that kind of education would know that it is subpar and hence be able to offer the aforementioned solution but because they are not part of these decision making bodies, no solution gets put on the table and unemployed graduates continue to flood the streets.

 As long as they are constantly being promised how a bunch of old people are going to solve their problems instead of them being ask to come in and contribute to the creation of those solutions ,Botswana youth their lives will continue to be ravaged by despair and an overall poor quality of life. The current Botswana cabinet comprises of only one minister under the age of 35 and with that kind of setup, we cannot expect feasible solutions for the youth’s problems to be architected. It is therefore in our hands, in the form of casting ballot papers, to vote for an administration which is going to be youth friendly, which is going to offer to work WITH the youth to come up with a way forward instead of one which is under the notion that they know better about youth problems and solutions than the youth themselves.

So when these parties are having  their loud and rambunctious manifesto launches and rallies in the coming months, listen carefully and intently to their words and make out who of those loudmouths considers you the youth, the future of the country who deserve to be part of the higher offices of decision making in order to offer custom solutions to problems you are very familiar with and who considers you the used, a bunch of “kids” who are only relevant as source of content for rallies and votes  but not good enough to be part of the country’s legislative bodies. Then after listening and making out who is who and who is offering what, vote wisely in October.


  1. Its so sad that we the youth in all African countries are still the most marginalized group in the population. I wish our governments could give us all a chance to prove ourselves. They are seriously no jobs. After bring unemployed for almost 2 years , seeing only postings that asks for too much experience or ones that you are overqualified for is so disheartening.

    1. it really is and unfortunately it is going to keep happening until legislative changes which foster the participation of youth are put in place


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