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Youth Economic Empowerment (YEE) – A Policy for the Future of South Africa

3 June 2020

by Sibusiso Reuben Bakana

As the temperatures were further reducing towards freezing point in 1976, in this same month, young people opted for a different mechanism in normalizing the freezing temperatures. What burned inside them was the fire of oppression experienced as the marginalized Africans. Young people, therefore, ignored the consequences of getting ill as they were already sick and tired of an oppressive system.

Indeed a generational mission, when united, is achievable!

Our generation is then faced with a different context as the commemoration this year will surely be celebrated virtually, and the older generation will be telling us what we need to do and will be promising us on summits, conferences to discuss the already known facts about our marginalization in almost every developmental strata of our society.

It is also unfortunate that I have to express this view in a European language. This should indicate, surely, that we need a self-identity that is defined by us for the future South Africa we want and for the rebirth of Africa. Could we therefore say that this expression is also semicolonized and we have betrayed the 1976 generation by not continuing in achieving the total emancipation from the struggle of oppression?

Even as language is still a challenge, where expressing that foreign language is viewed by society as articulative, we should appreciate that the African youth is smelling the coffee and what is currently pre-occupying the daily discussions in youth economic empowerment (YEE).

With all that is observed, this empowerment, as a zeal amongst the youth, is characterized by the domination we seek across all economic development from formal to un-formalized economies.

As the fourth industrial revolution commission was launched in 2019, amongst other things, it has recommended the “review, create and amend all laws” in order for the country to implement this disruption fully. It is the youth who should dominate in these reviews and amendments so that we may see a policy direction that articulates YEE, as was previously the case in triple BEE.

Yet this time the YEE should be clear that future development is based on artificial intelligence applications.

As young people, we should be the ones who will be imagining our future in terms of artificial intelligence which African companies, run by young people, must create. We should play the mammoth role of re-industrializing using artificial intelligence. The education we want for our and future generations must be defined by us and mathematics must be a compulsory subject in all fields as we imagine the artificial intelligence application world.

As we define the economy in terms of land, we should imagine an artificial intelligence application on agriculture. With this Covid19 pandemic, as demonstrated throughout the world, the importance of a sound healthcare system is critical. Yet we must imagine these healthcare systems through artificial intelligence applications as well.

We are the future and our imagined South Africa, as this generation should be, for example, having one health practitioner in every ward of the community by say 2045.

The freedom charter centenary will be in 2055, surely by then we should be living in a South Africa we have developed today. Surely in all that must be crafted in the light of this new term of YEE, as the famous saying “there is no us without us”.

Youth economic empowerment (YEE) is a policy to redress the inequalities of the past and future by giving all young South Africans preference in access to economic privileges. In essence, this is about more than wealth redistribution, it’s about the inclusion of all South Africans in the future of our economy. Let us define the target of young millionaires we should have through such policies by 2045!
Unlike the BEE policy, which must be lauded for the mileage it has covered in redressing apartheid by advancing black entrepreneurship and empowerment of previously disadvantaged individuals, the YEE policy is more about the proportional representation of the country’s demographics in its politics, business, means of production and other key economic levers of change.

“Nothing for us, without us” is a tagline used to definitively give recognition to a group that has been marginalized such as the youth in South Africa. Although there are set-asides being implemented at a government level and in the private sector in procurement, employment and enterprise development opportunities, the challenge of proportional representation of the country’s young demographics must prevail.

Sibusiso Reuben Bakana, a young South African who represents the Diplomatic Society in China and Ph.D. student in Artificial Intelligence at Beihang University, writes in his personal capacity.




February/March 2020

















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