The economic devastation and in some instances the unravelling of fundamental freedoms and democratic processes dash young people’s confidence in the possibility of a secure future in the southern African region, an expert said. This comes at a time when regional economies are shrinking and thereby limiting the resources available to tackle the crisis, heightening concerns with endemic and unaddressed resource leakages stemming from corruption, illicit financial flows and crippling debt burdens.
In his address to the SADC People’s Summit 2020, Southern Africa People’s solidarity Network Secretary General Janet Zhou said the region’s poor and vulnerable, particularly, women and youths are struggling to cope. “It is time to allow the voices and agency of the Region’s young people to inform the way forward. It is time for an unprecedented resource transfer to secure the future for young people including through universal basic income grants and accessible health and education,” she said
“There are many instances of the disruptive impacts of Covid-19. However, what is unmistakable is the fact that women and young girls are disproportionately impacted. It is women who shoulder the burden. It is mostly women and young girls who daily mitigate the impacts and care for the affected in an unremunerated, unprotected and vastly under supported care economy as public services shrink and get retracted.”
In this time of crisis, she said, there is a need to see the suspension of odious debt conditionalities imposed on our governments and a moratorium on debt repayments to pave way for robust responses to this crisis. “The urgency of the situation is coming in stark relief as the Region approaches the peak of the lean season in which more citizens will face heightened food insecurity at the mercy of both climate and Covid-19 induced disruptions to food supplies,” Zhou said.
Cross border traders have gone for months without stable incomes. Artisanal miners, smallholder farmers, vendors and informal traders face severe loss of incomes as producer prices stagnate and markets shrink. The summit was a significant opportunity to provide a people-centred perspective to help the region to rethink and remould public health systems, to redefine socio-economic systems, to further democratise political governance architecture and above all to ensure the enjoyment of all human rights by all the people of the region.