IT WAS a case of a couch talk revealing teething posers for the newly installed and mandated South African Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane when she camped out in Soweto on the penultimate day of Youth Month, whilst on an expansive roadshow geared to hear out the particular demographic’s myriad challenges in the singular sector punted as the country’s foremost economy propeller!
SFrom Kliptown-based Soweto Chefs Academy running courses sans electricity for extended periods to the unsatisfactory standards of graduates and interns from the country’s FET institutions, the extent to which a crucial demographic – said to number around some six million – finds itself up against whilst caught up in a transition between equipping itself for the job market and having to reckon with the realities of having to find its feet once absorbed into the working world proper, became all laid out to bare in the communion of a government representative who was at pains to convince the numerous hundreds of attendees gathered at Meadowlands’ Disoufeng Pub & Restaurant that “the unemployment statistics were a source of worry!”
Descending on the Soweto venue with an impressive array of pertinent stakeholders such as the Gauteng Tourism Authority, South African Tourism and the National Empowerment Fund amongst others, Kubayi-Ngubane found herself having to field probing questions from mainly hospitality sector interests who justifiably demanded to know why, inter alia, her department couldn’t assist with rudimentary aspects such as sign posts for fledgling lodges positioned on tourist attraction routes – to expressly being proactive insofar as local procurement went.
Kubayi-Ngubane pointed out to the engaging delegates that 30% of her government were as it were, spent on SMMEs as a guiding policy and drew an attendee to the practical example that the production crew providing the public announcement system and other technical logistics for the event: were locally procured. The newly-vested principal further went on to expound on how her ministry came about to settle on the Meadowlands location as the host venue.
It was clear from the well-subscribed dialogue that the country’s youth are dearly striving to seek their bearings in life and that more than ever, they sorely need a lift up – in spite of seizing the initiative themselves already.
From the perspective of the well-groomed and young president of the Soweto Chefs Academy, Zinhle Mngadi – who led a remarkable delegation of 38 resplendently uniformed charges – she noted an unimpressive breakdown in communication between independent entities such as hers and authorities who would leave a vital aspect such as the unavailability of electricity unattended to for weeks on end; whilst basically leaving already struggling economic players having to fend for themselves against tough odds.
“We have to make use of gas stoves – not only for course practicals, but also for providing our students with meals for sustenance throughout days!” pointed out Mngadi.
Additional dissatisfaction with governmental shortcomings in ramping up struggling young entrepreneurs and already existing start-ups were brought to the fore by a Kagiso-based lodge owner who made an impassioned plea for the provision of signage meant to lead potential guests to her establishment, as well as a young man who implored the minister to procure local service providers.
Divided into three parts, the dialogue had gained momentum pending a panel discussion on youth economic empowerment services in which the Gauteng Tourism Authority’s Barba Gaoganediwe emphasized upon the imperativeness of locals being tourists in their backyards, whilst asking as to how many of the attendees were aware that they could spend a sum of R900 in a much more meaningful manner, by taking a flight over Soweto in a helicopter – versus having to nurse a hangover from an expensive bottle of champagne! “Don’t be a boring host,” Gaoganediwe punctuated in encouraging imaginativity in the welcoming of visitors.
A source of hope was provided by Dr Tashmia Ismail-Saville, a speaker on the programme agenda items segment representing an entity known as the Youth Empowerment Service, when she expounded on her track record of working with youth in job-placements in sectors such as the automotive industry – as well as overseeing a project which has young ladies manufacturing sanitary pads for youth.
Expounding upon the role of South African Tourism in the tourism value chain, Acting CEO, Sthembiso Dlamini extolled the virtues of her organisation whilst drawing attendees to familiarizing themselves to techniques such as speed marketing – whilst in the quest of selling their offerings.
A CATHSSETA representative, whose entity was one of the exhibitors at the event, encouraged the delegates to make use of training opportunities in sectors ranging from arts, culture and heritage to hospitality, tourism and travel.
Delivering his speech under the agenda titled, Financing: Youth Opportunities & Tourism Transformation Fund, the National Empowerment Fund’s Nthato Makhubo invited applications for funding of businesses. The NEF representative painted an example of how his entity was able to come to the assistance of the Cable Gorge Swing Company at scenic Graskop, in Mpumalanga Province.
Kubayi-Ngubane seek to dispel some of the unfounded criticism so often levelled against officials disaffection to public interest, asking, “I’m on social media – so how can you say I’m not accessible?” By manner of underlining the imperativeness of constant self-equipping with skills she mentioned having a master’s degree, studying with Harvard and being a PHD-hopeful, whilst delving into the proverbial by further spelling out that her government’s reason was to teach youth how to fish.
Upon the conclusion of a session dedicated to the summation and thrashing a way forward to debilitating issues and challenges raised, Kubayi-Ngubane then took leave for a tour of exhibitions laid out around the venue’s grounds.
Beginning with a stop at the Eyitha Tours stall, owner, Mbali Zwane enthusiastically concentrated her attention in interesting the politician in her ware. This was shortly after the exhibitor had plodded a visitor to, “support your comrade!” Although a tourist operator, the Sophiatown-based businesswoman also eked out a living as a clothing designer with her own label named Eyitha African Boutique and whilst showing the minister a handcrafted curio bag – it might had dawned upon Kubayi-Ngubane’s mission that Zwane represented precisely the kind of spirit of entrepreneurship her administration seeks to exhort of unemployed youth.
Another fascinating exhibitor at the event was African Purified Waters who displayed 500ml bottles of their product, Soweto Amanzi.
Operating out of a factory in Ikwezi, the company’s second-in-charge marketing director, Nkosinathi Hlongwane explained that theirs was a new player in the mineral water market with designs at a share-of-wallet expressed through present outlets such as supermarkets. Their liquid offering was in capacity increments ranging from 500ml to 5 litres bottles.
Before Kubayi-Ngubane departed from the dialogue, she had drawn attention to the importance of sticking to time, urging delegates not to regard such an aspect dismissively and explaining that since the venue also hosted other events, her entourage had no choice but to adhere to agreed times. And true to her promise, by midday, the hundreds of attendees gathered had been fed and vacating the address which exists as a nightspot.
Disoufeng’s young owner, Tebogo Phiri, thankfully ventured that merely hosting an event of such magnitude meant a big deal for his establishment and suggested that it translated to exposure to other departments to consider utilizing his conferencing facility when the need arose.
With 51 employees under his wing, Phiri pointed out that his was a 1-stop venue with a fully equipped kitchen and bar services, as well as the capacity to easily host a crowd of up to 1500 in a secure environment.
As the governing party eases into its much vaunted Sixth Administration, it would well take heed of the words of Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes, where he noted “the past has been a mint of sorrow and blood – of which mustn’t be of tomorrow!”
In the aftermath of State Capture and considering that youth constitute the majority demographic and are South Africa’s very future as it delves into the Fourth Industrial Revolution – interventions and collaborations ought to be able to demonstrate manifestly that the dialogue wasn’t just yet another talk shop caravan passing through a landscape of impoverishment!
Image Jacob MAWELA (Eyitha Tours owner, Mbali Zwane interested Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, in a bag she had made at the Youth in Tourism Dialogue, at Disoufeng Pub and Restaurant, in Meadowlands).