South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa deviated from the campaign trail to tell how youth unemployment keeps him awake at night and how kissing a frog can make it better.
Unemployment is one of the issues of the election on May 8 as South Africa’s population grows faster than the economy. The official unemployment rate is around 27%, but many economists think it may be even higher. More than half of the jobless are under 30 creating fear among politicians of a growing idle, restive, yet educated, mob.
“We send our young people away to college, they come back waving a certificate of a degree and then spend the next four years sitting at home,” Ramaphosa told a group of interns, among more than 3,000, sponsored by one of South Africa’s biggest financial institutions Nedbank.
“It keeps me up at night, the unemployment of so many young people.”
President Ramaphosa said South Africa had to review its education system. He said he was more in favour of the German system where study and work experience work side-by-side to help ease young people into jobs after graduation day.
More than half a century ago, the young Ramaphosa worked his first job hauling milk churns around in a dairy. In his relaxed, avuncular, style he related a story, from his humble roots in Soweto, that he hoped would inspire the young to find to transcend the lives they were born into.
“My father was a policeman and my mother was a domestic worker and we had very little money. When I wanted to go to college I walked the streets, knocking on office doors. I used to go in with a letter asking for sponsorship for my bursary,” he says.
“Eventually I came across two old Jewish ladies who ran a trust and they gave me the money. They gave me that lift that I required. In life, I had to kiss a lot of frogs before I found my princess. I advise you all in life to kiss a lot of frogs along the way.”
Young people also had to work hard when life offered them a chance of work.
“If you work hard you will be seen as a gem and nobody wants to lose a gem.”