Amidst the media frenzy – both social and mainstream – around the ruckus preceding the State Of The Nation Address, one positive aspect to emerge was the abundance of youth voices commenting on both the commotion and ensuing address by President Jacob Zuma.

In contrast, the youth were glaringly absent from the speech with a mere eight mentions in total, three of them buried in general fluffy PR statements and the latter referring to the ‘Employment Tax Incentive paying off’ and listing the amount of funds disbursed to micro enterprises by the NYDA last year.

According to Parliament’s website, the purpose of the State Of The Nation Address is to ‘assess our country’s domestic and foreign situation and outline what we should do so that we enhance our efforts to achieve a better life for all our people’.

That said, post SONA, there’s no definite information as to the state of the youth in South Africa who make up around 66% of the population.

The President himself repeatedly states that ‘…the youth are our future…’ and yet continuously fails to address the pertinent issues holding youth back from substantial growth and economic freedom.  

As a network of young people around the country, ACTIVATE! feels that while areas of concern affecting youth were raised by the President during SONA, there was no plan of action to address issues unique to the youth of South Africa.

For example, while the President highlighted that jobs grew by 203 000, he failed to address the fact that unemployment among youth is significantly higher than that of adults and that this growth coincided with an increase in discouraged work-seekers, ie: youth who are no longer looking for work.

Activator Hlayisani Ingreet from Durban expressed her frustration in a Facebook post: “Yesterday, I heard Mr Jacob Zuma talking about six million job opportunities for youth. He can say it but there’s no actions for what he [sic] saying.”

At face value, the State Of The Nation did not reflect the state of the youth in South Africa and lacked mechanisms to address specific youth issues. If the President truly believes that youth are the future, then perhaps it’s time he start engaging with us. 

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