President Biya’s traditional address to the youths on the 56th Youth Day was big and bold, with the promise to create at least 5.4 million jobs over the next nine years.
“… substantial efforts are made each year to create jobs and thus enable the youth to join the workforce,” the President said as he sought to reassure the teeming numbers of unemployed youths in a country where 5.73% of youths between the ages of 15-24 who have the skills and are willing to work can’t find a job.
“Hence, thanks to the youth employment promotion policy included in the Priority Action Plan 2030, 600,000 jobs are expected to be created annually, with the involvement of Regional and Local Authorities,” he said.
If that annual projection holds, the country would be able to create 5.4 million jobs by 2030.
He announced the setting up of a National Employment Council, “which is expected to provide new solutions to reverse the unemployment trend and improve the productivity of our enterprises.”
The President said he understood the financial constraints that could stymie that ambition, but quickly announced the government’s intent to mobilize specific national, bilateral, and multilateral funding to support the establishment of a guarantee fund for young entrepreneurs.
“The said Fund would provide project initiators and start-ups with the requisite guarantee to raise capital from financial markets or obtain financing from traditional banks.”
In the interim, the President announced that the government along with its development partners will be mobilizing additional resources for Small and Medium Size Enterprises, particularly youth entrepreneurship that “should serve as key drivers of our country’s economic and social transformation.”
Recalling the progress made in the preceding year, Mr. Biya noted that 8,430 projects, 119 economic clusters, and 132 second-generation pioneer villages were financed within the framework of the Three-Year Special Youth Plan, with 22,000 direct jobs created as well.
But Cameroon’s progress towards emergence, the President admitted, will be predicated on the effective involvement of the diaspora in national development. He failed, however, to talk about the issue of a double nationality-a key push by the same diaspora that would enable them to be effectively involved in the quest for national development.
Biya further talked about the need for the development of “high-quality skills ‘that should enable Cameroonian youths to fit into the ever-challenging, skills-oriented global space.
For a country faced with Boko Haram incursions to the north and a pro-independence crisis in the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons, Biya could only make the appeal for a return to peace, urging the youths to “strive to preserve our invaluable achievements of peace, national unity, and institutional stability.”
“Likewise, turn a deaf ear to the clarion calls for destabilization and antagonism from incorrigible detractors who claim to know everything and take delight in systematic criticism,” he cried out.
Curiously, Biya said nothing about the pro-independence war that has claimed the lives of at least 4000 people, mostly the young people he was addressing, raising concerns about the sincerity of his words.
Rather, he focused much of his speech on the just-ended Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), extolling the excitement it generated among Cameroonian youths, even as he regretted the fact that Cameroon crashed out at the semi-finals, settling for a 3rd place finish.
“Indeed, there is reason to be satisfied and legitimately proud about TotalEnergies AFCON, Cameroon 2021 as it was unquestionably not only a great moment of communion for all, but also an excellent opportunity and a splendid showcase for Africa and the entire world to appreciate Cameroon’s plentiful endowments and, in particular, the legendary hospitality, the vitality, and dynamism of its people. The country thus demonstrated its capacity to address major challenges,” Biya said.
He noted though that the event was tainted by the deaths of eight people during a stampede at the Olembe Stadium on January 24th and wished the wounded a speedy recovery.
“I can say that this unfortunate incident apart, TotalEnergies AFCON, Cameroon 2021 was a resounding success that brings honour not only to Cameroon but also to Africa as a whole,” he quipped in self-praise.