A 2018 study on youth in SADC revealed that Member States were actively implementing several programmes to promote youth innovation, youth entrepreneurship, youth leadership and participation. However, significant challenges for youth continue to persist largely because the scale of interventions remains limited and cannot accommodate the large numbers of youth in need.
Deficits in youth development and empowerment, are most notably on account of poor sexual and reproductive health of young people, limited access to secondary education and beyond, high rates of unemployment and underemployment, as well as the predominance of low-productivity entrepreneurship in the informal economy. The average youth unemployment rate is approximately 12 percent, with young women worse off in the majority of countries. Addressing these constraints is central to harnessing the demographic dividend, arising from the huge youth bulge of approximately 35% of the population.
Priority interventions for the region include the following:
- Strengthening the SADC Youth Forum to amplify youth voices in regional integration
- Implementation of SADC Youth Programme through focused projects in targeted social, economic, and technological development initiative
- Policy interventions on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises initiation, growth, and sustainability developed to stimulate employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth.
Key frameworks for youth development and empowerment include the following:
- SADC Declaration on Youth Development and Empowerment (2015)
- SADC Youth Empowerment Policy Framework (2021-2030)
- African Youth Charter (2006)