Remarks by Hon. Deputy Minister Kenny Morolong (Mp); On the Occasion of the BRICS Youth Summit; Ethekwini
The Deputy Minister of DIRCO, Hon. Alvin Botes
NYDA Executive Board Chairperson, Ms Asanda
The Board and Management of NYDA
The Head of Chinese Delegation, Ms Liu Kai
The Head of the Brazilian Delegation, Mr Rodrigo Reis
The Head of the Russian Delegation, Ms Anastasia ilyushina All Delegates!
Allow me to extend a word of gratitude to the National Youth Development Agency and other youth agencies of the BRICS member states.
Thank you very much for inviting us to share our thoughts on the youth development discourse. We hope that our address will provide some valuable take aways as you go back and give life to the resolutions that you have taken in this summit.
In his address to the Chinese youth in Moscow, in 1957; chairman Mao took occasion to say “The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you. The world belongs to you.
China's future belongs to you”.
We would like to repeat what Chairman Mao said all those years ago and emphasize that “the world belongs to you. BRICS’ future belongs to you.
In 2005, addressing the ‘Make Poverty History Campaign’; the world renowned icon for peace and democracy, President Nelson Mandela; remarked that “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
We have deliberately evoked the spirit of Chairman Mao and that of Madiba to help us properly communicate a message that “BRICS’ future belongs to you” because “it falls on ‘your’ generation to be great” as the youth section of the peoples of the BRICS nations.
In his acclaimed novel, Things Fall Apart; Chinua Achebe observes that “When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.”
As the youth of the BRICS countries you are gathered here not because individually you don’t have ideas. You are gathered as you are because ideas in themselves are not useful unless shared, tested and reproduced in a higher form of quality that helps to elaborate effective policy.
In the rapidly shifting geopolitical landscape, BRICS is emerging as an influential bloc poised to reshape our international political economy. Among the many factors contributing to this rise should be the significant role played by the youth.
I am certain that this summit had occasion to explore what are the challenges and opportunities that could potentially frustrate and increase the voice of the youth on the discourse about how to shape youth development policy in light of the continuously shifting global geopolitics. Equally, I hope that the summit has had time properly to construct practical pathways by which BRICS member states can and could exploit the youth demographic dividend. So as to meaningfully ensure that “BRICS’ future belongs to you” as the youth.
As you would be aware, BRICS nations host a considerable percentage of the world's youth population. The structure of the populations of India and South Africa respectively, is constituted by more than half of the population being below the age of 25. The youth in Brazil, Russia and China still account for a substantial proportion of the population albeit with a slightly higher median age. This demographic trend, should and must be a potential catalyst for socio-economic growth.
Access to information and communication technologies, provides platforms for us to be more informed and connected than ever before. This paves a way for youth across the BRICS to engage more frequently, robustly and collaboratively.
As the youth, you should not just be passive recipients of public policy decisions; instead, you should and are actively influencing them, either directly through political participation or indirectly through civil society activism.
Your active involvement thus defined, is exerting enormous pressure on our respective governments. I am certain, programme director, that youth activism is a necessary pressure point that leads governments to elaborate policies that prioritize education, job creation, climate change, and social justice - issues that resonate with the broad section of our youth populace.
The BRICS youth summit therefore becomes that “moonlit village ground” at whose expanse you gather to share ideas and elaborate policies which should and must guide “actions of human beings” through which you as a generation “let your greatness blossom”.
Challenges of unemployment, inadequate educational opportunities, and social inequalities are some of the pressing issues that define youth experience especially here in South Africa and Africa as a whole.
Undoubtedly, while the youth are digitally connected, there is an increasing danger of information overload and a sprawling spread of misinformation. I hope that this summit, has had time to address these issues to provide governments with a policy platform fully to harness the potential dividends for the youth and frustrate its negative impact.
On a global scale, you have the possibility to significantly impact the geopolitical landscape through the kind of actions you take; issuing out of the policy platforms on which you may have agreed
As the BRICS youth, you have to insist on contributing to the digital economic policy that drives more inclusion and cooperation, to enable you fully to participate in global competition. Your innovation and entrepreneurial spirit presents an opportunity for the creation of a south-south supply chain that could strengthen the BRICS nations' position in the global digital landscape.
We stand at a time wherein BRICS is gaining more and more global significance as a beacon of hope in the global south. Our combined economic influence can play an important role in leading the global South towards a new era of finance and debt relief, focusing on sustainable growth, innovative financial mechanisms, and debt relief.
Sustainable growth is underpinned by not only economic expansion but also by environmental preservation and social progress. By focusing on inclusive growth, BRICS can help reduce inequality within and between nations, thus creating a more balanced global financial structure.
Significantly, what are the innovative financial instruments that can significantly reshape the financial landscape and secure youth participation on a grand scale. How can the youth of the BRICS countries and the global south more broadly benefit from the financing that emanates from New Development Bank (BRICS Bank)?
The New Development Bank is a significant step towards providing an alternative source of funding for development projects for BRICS and other emerging economies.
Enhanced financial cooperation between BRICS and countries of the global south can foster a more equitable financial order. Through bilateral or multilateral trade agreements, currency swap arrangements, and collaborative investment projects, BRICS can help create a financial environment that supports the growth and stability of the global south.
In this regard, BRICS can help strengthen the economic resilience of the global south by sharing best practices in areas like financial regulation and fiscal management.
As the world grapples with the economic effects of global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, the role of BRICS could be more critical than ever in building a more equitable and resilient global financial system.
The world faces an existential threat of climate change, with this in mind, I am told that as a summit; you have discussed the role of the youth in shaping climate change policies both within the bloc and in your respective countries.
The climate change threat to which we earlierreferred, can only be confronted through activism led especially by the youth.
The BRICS nations are key actors in the global energy landscape both as consumers and producers of energy needs. The dual challenge of ensuring energy security and combating climate change, require the world to transition to a more secure and sustainable energy system. This transition, holds substantial prospective benefits for the youth.
For the youth fully to take advantage of these new job opportunities, we will need to invest in education and skills training. This investment will have to focus on technical training in renewable energy technologies as well as broader skills such as project management, policy analysis, and entrepreneurship. In this regard, a corps of skilled youth will be more capable of realising the economic opportunities that will flow out of the renewable energy interventions.
The just energy transition also presents opportunities for entrepreneurship. Young people in BRICS nations can create start-ups that provide innovative solutions for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate resilience.
To practically encourage entrepreneurship, financiers and Governments will have to develop new financial instruments and provide financial support and mentoring. The creation of a favourable regulatory environment, and promotion of collaboration between start-ups, academia, and industry led decisively by our governments.
The just energy transition beckons a unique opportunity to create enormous economic value for our domestic economies and for the youth. Through the creation of green jobs, investment in education and skills training, promotion of youth entrepreneurship, and the involvement of the youth in policy making, BRICS can ensure that energy transition is just and equitable.
One of the most topical issues emanating from the changes the world is currently going through; is our imagination of how work and working environments will be organised in the future.
The future of work is rapidly evolving, driven by technological advancements, globalization, demographic shifts, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
These changes are drastically reshaping the way we work and are set to continue in the foreseeable future. Consequently, it is important for us to pause and think about what are the key pillars of the labour policies for ‘future of work’ to navigate these transformations effectively and ensure a sustainable and inclusive work environment for all.
In an era where new skills are continually required to keep pace with technological advancements and changing job demands, the concept of lifelong learning becomes exceedingly important. Skills development policies should encourage and facilitate continuous learning and skilling throughout the working life of employees. Priority must be given to initiatives such as accessible and affordable education and training programs, support for upskilling and reskilling, and the recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning experiences.
As technology becomes integral to almost all aspects of work, digital inclusion must be a key pillar of any future of work policy. This would mean ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status, have access to digital tools and the internet. As the youth, you have to agitate for the formulation of policies that focus on expanding broadband infrastructure, promoting digital literacy and skills training, and reducing the digital divide to enable everyone to participate in the digital economy.
The traditional 9 to 5 work schedule is increasingly being replaced by flexible work arrangements, including remote work, flexible hours, and project-based work that has come to define the gig economy. As governments we have to formulate policies that support this shift towards flexibility while ensuring that workers' rights are protected. Including to elaborate regulations around working hours, overtime, and workplace safety for remote workers. Importantly, policies of the future should promote work-life integration, allowing individuals to balance their personal and professional responsibilities effectively.
As the nature of work evolves, social protection systems must be revamped to include workers in non-traditional employment arrangements, such as gig workers and freelancers. We have to imagine and develop policy that responds to the employee benefits, the establishment of a universal basic income, or implementing comprehensive social safety nets. In this regard, we have to think about what how the future of work policies deals with fair wages, access to healthcare, retirement benefits, and protection against discrimination and unfair treatment.
The future of work should be inclusive, providing opportunities for all individuals regardless of their gender, age, race, or disability. Promotion of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, elimination of systemic barriers to equal opportunities, and ensuring fair recruitment and promotion practices should form the central tenets of labour policies of the future.
Social dialogue and collective bargaining remain crucial in shaping the future of work. Workers, employers, and governments should engage in constructive engagements to fashion the future we imagine.
Let us remember that “The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life”. I have no doubt that using your “vigour and vitality” you have proposed a policy platform necessary to manufacture informed debates in BRICS and elsewhere; from which practical interventions could and can be derived.
Programme Director, “Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great” as Nelson Mandela stated nearly two decades ago. Hopefully, you have accepted the challenge that befalls your generation owing to the set of difficulties currently facing the world.
I am certain that you will accept this challenge and actualise it. Necessarily because you have, wittingly or unwittingly, selected to host your summit incidental to the occasion of President Nelson Mandela’s birthday.
I am also certain that, the Heads of State of our respective countries are awaiting with keen interest the proposals that will issue out of this summit on a host of different topics as you may have discussed.
Please join me in wishing Madiba, a joyous posthumous birthday and commit in his honour that “we can be that great generation” and that we will “let our greatness blossom.”
Xiēxiē (sie sie)!