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South Africa Looks to Modern Mining for Youth Empowerment

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youth in mining summit

South Africa’s mining industry to make use of non-traditional programs to empower youth

Even in 2016, the term “mining” brings to mind images of dust-covered coal miners with pickaxes. South Africa is rolling out a youth empowerment program in urban mining through its state-run mining and metallurgical entity, Mintek, that couldn’t be more different. Contrary to what its name suggests, urban mining does not involve any actual resource extraction. Urban mining is the slightly more glamorous and modern-day version of dumpster diving: this field re-appropriates pre-existing materials, such as recycled glass, into commercially viable semi-luxury goods.

At a recent South African conference, the Youth Mining Summit, government officials spoke about their desire to empower South Africa’s youth to look into the mining sector for jobs. The Youth Mining Summit occurred in mid-June, over the 40th anniversary of the infamous SOWETO Uprisings. To commemorate the historic youth uprising, South Africa dedicates each June to focus on youth development issues. This year, Deputy Director General of Mineral Regulation Joel Raphaela discussed the government’s efforts to encourage more young South Africans to go into the mining industry: “We continue to reach the youth through the department Learner Week Programs, where we create mining awareness by organizing mine visits around the country.” This sort of exposure, Raphaela hopes, will show young people from diverse backgrounds and educational qualifications that there are numerous job opportunities within the mining sector.

One Man’s Waste

Mintek Small Scale Mining & Beneficiation Program

Mintek Small Scale Mining & Beneficiation Program

An important component of this effort is the training and mentorship opportunities available to interested youth. Since 1934, Mintek has been South Africa’s leading mining and metallurgical research and development center. As South Africa begins to put a more visible emphasis upon black empowerment, Mintek is an integral part of a youth development program that looks to train young people in marketable metallurgy. Mintek emphasizes its newly branded urban mining program as the future for sustainable employment. A simple example of urban mining is the creation of glass beads from recycled bottles: Mintek provides training in all of the skills needed to turn glass bottles into beautiful jewelry with everything from different crushing techniques to the variety of ways to melt and re-purpose crushed glass. According to Mintek, “Urban mining presents numerous opportunities for young people to use urban waste to manufacture saleable products, without necessarily having a higher education qualification. The glass bead manufacturing process is a great example of this.”

Last year, Mintek provided 148 youth with practical training in partnership with the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), and the Department of Science and Technology. Thirty-six of these graduates have been placed in foundries across the country, where they continue to grow their theoretical and practical skill sets in the metallurgical field. Unemployed graduates from previously disadvantaged groups have the opportunity to receive further training in the field of occupational hygiene, surveying, mining, electrical and mechanical engineering. Not only is Mintek providing hands-on training, but it is working with local governments to set up training centers in the Northern Cape. Two such centers were established in Upington and Prieska, where students can get practical training for making jewelry from locally-mined semi-precious stones.

A Diamond in the Rough

South Africa’s mining stretches beyond metallurgy and re-appropriation of urban waste to the most glittering of all gems: diamonds. After the 2015 launch of the South African Young Diamond Beneficiators Guild, a collective of predominantly black-owned small and emerging diamond manufacturers, young adults were accepted into training programs to learn the cutting and polishing techniques employed to refine rough diamonds. 25 of the young trainees were accepted into a two-year training program based in Italy, but will also travel to Switzerland to learn about the technical art of watchmaking.

A watchmaking teaching curriculum is currently being developed in South Africa. Once it is completed and through the approval process, South Africa would be able to teach the special skill set for the first time in its history.

Digging Deep to Lift Up Youth

All of these initiatives have the same goal: to empower youth with marketable skills that will not only provide them with sustainable income, but will allow them to participate in the global economy. Training programs are blossoming in everything from urban mining to watchmaking, and it seems that this is only the beginning. As Raphaela said, the “economic empowerment of young people is not an option, but a national imperative.”

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A snapshot of African youth, a growing consumer segment

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

group of african american college students

A new survey finds young Africans aged 15-24 spend more than two hours a day on the internet and voice concern about jobs, rising costs and corruption.

Young Africans spend more than two hours a day on the internet and nearly one-fourth say social media plays a key role in their purchasing decisions.

Those are two takeaways from a new “African Youth,” a study (pdf) of consumer practices and values of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 by the French research institute Ipsos.

Ipsos surveyed more than 1,800 young people who are part of an increasingly important demographic in the social and economic affairs of the continent. Africa has the highest concentration of young people in the world with a population of about 220 million in this age group.

Those surveyed reside in seven countries – Ivory Coast, Senegal, Morocco, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa.

Youth are optimistic despite concerns

Florence de Bigault, Director of Ipsos Africap, said brands must pay attention to young Africans as they have become an important consumer market.

Mall of AfricaAs a group, they “already play a leading role in the development of the African continent. They contribute to consumer spending, shopping mall visits, They aspire to education, employment, entertainment and full access to electricity and the internet,” de Bigault said.

According to the study, young Africans have high expectations for and optimism about the future, but also express concern about jobs, the rising cost of living and corruption.

Food, clothing are top expenses

Among the findings of the survey:

  • 81 percent of young Africans are optimistic about their personal future.
  • 63 percent are optimistic about the future of their country
  • 69 percent are concerned about unemployment, the top concern
  • 63 percent are concerned about the rising cost of living
  • 59 percent are concerned about corruption
  • 34 percent regularly go to shopping centers and markets
  • Their top spending items are food and beverages (43 percent), clothing (38 percent), and telecommunications and internet (33 percent).
  • They spend an average of 2:20 hours a day on the internet and social networks. Young Moroccans spend 3:15 hours per day.
  • 12 percent of those aged 20-24 work for themselves.
  • 22 percent of 15-24 year-olds are influenced by social networks in making purchase decisions
  • 49 percent in Ivory Coast and 30 percent in Senegal prefer French brands while fewer than 2 percent of young people prefer them in Nigeria and South Africa (the continent’s two largest economies).

Firm launches African research project

Ipsos is one of the largest research firms in the world. Operating in 87 countries with 16,000 employees, Ipsos has the capacity to conduct research in more than 100 countries.

The “African Youth” study is ongoing research, including quarterly updates of the youth survey as part of Ipsos’ Africap initiative.

In 2016, Ipsos launched Africap, a consultancy designed to help clients develop business in African markets. It is composed of more than 800 partners in 14 African nations – Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, and Ivory Coast.

Other ongoing Ipsos studies of the continent include:

  • A survey of food consumption trends in urban African homes;
  • A study of media usage in French-speaking Africa;
  • A survey to study emerging lifestyles and consumption trends.

De Bigault said African youth would continue to be an important part of Ipsos research, focusing on their consumer spending potential.

Another recent study found that youth in East African want a greater voice in their future. The youth-led study by The MasterCard Foundation Youth Think Tank looked at employment and entrepreneurship trends in East Africa. The initiative trained 15 youth from Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya to conduct research on young people seeking to enter the job market in their communities. The study includes information from more than 400 interviews with young people, officials and other East Africans. It found young people are eager to have a voice in policy decisions that affect them and are committed to improving their skills. Barriers to earning a living include limited access to information, technology and land as well as gender inequality.

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