As we celebrate Youth Month in June, many of us have taken stock of how far we have come as a nation and considered what lies ahead. Twenty-eight years ago, in 1994, the people of South Africa had their first opportunity to exercise their democratic rights to vote. But like all events that make a difference, the seeds of this democratic demand stretch back 46 years ago, when the youth of Soweto united to protest the apartheid regime and, in so doing, showed great courage and leadership to begin to bring about change.
We honour their efforts and recognise that our youth face different challenges, especially in being able to contribute meaningfully to the nation’s economic revival and growth. But these are difficult times. Globally, the pandemic had an unprecedented impact: simultaneously, 95% of the world’s economies shrunk by 20%, and more than 1.5-billion children were prevented from going to school.
Here, on the southern tip of Africa, we were not immune. Youth unemployment remains high — more than 63% for those aged between 15 and 24 and 41% for those between 25 and 35.
But there are glimmers of light in the dark of South Africa’s current economic gloom. In May, in the first quarter of 2022, the country’s unemployment rate receded from its record high of Q4 in 2021, declining from 35.3% to 34.5%. So, we — business, civil society and government — need to ask what are we doing for the millions of young people who need regular jobs to become productive members of society?
At Coca-Cola, we believe each one of us has the power to make a difference. Every little bit helps. We believe that by putting people first, caring for those who make our success possible and investing in programmes and activities that improve lives, we can continue our journey to refresh the world and make a difference. We value how we work as much as what we achieve, emphasising inclusivity, empowerment, curiosity and agility.
As part of our contribution, the Coca-Cola Africa Operating Unit and our bottling partners launched our Africa-focused sustainability platform, JAMII. This sustainability platform, among other initiatives, aims to promote entrepreneurship opportunities through improved access to skills training, networking, and financial access. These range from the local employment of women and youth in the alien vegetation clearing projects — funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation — to our bottling partner Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa’s Bizniz-in-a-Box programme.
Launched in 2016, Bizniz-in-a-box aims to transform aspirant entrepreneurs into fully-fledged business owners who can create a livelihood for themselves and others. It has financially supported and trained over 700 entrepreneurs across the country. In addition, the CCBSA Study Buddy Fund, launched in 2021, has enabled 55 youth from 14 host communities to access tertiary education, paying full tuition, accommodation fees and a monthly stipend.
Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages is one of the partnering sponsors of Heart FM’s provincial campaign for Youth Day, spread over 16 days, engaging and empowering youth across the Western Cape through various projects and activities. In addition, they are supporting a community initiative involving more than 200 youth from the Bonteheuwel community to clean up their neighbourhood on Youth Day.
We firmly believe that this journey requires that we — the corporate sector — need to be a force for progress and for good, co-creating sustainable solutions that ensure young people acquire education and the right skills to participate in the formal sector, to start their own businesses and to create livelihoods for themselves and their communities.
Phillipine Mtikitiki, Vice President, Coca-Cola South Africa Franchise, said: “Coca-Cola’s impact on people extends well beyond our business. We know the importance of instilling hope in the hearts and minds of young people. We know the importance of putting them in the light so they may see their dreams and aspirations become a reality. One day, we will stand in their shadows as they emerge as leaders and champions of the future.”