This is one of 38 winning blogs from the 2021 Blog4Dev competition, the World Bank Africa annual writing contest, inviting young people to weigh in on a topic critical to their country’s economic development. Blog4Dev winners responded to the question: How can young people work with their governments and civil society organizations to respond to the impact of COVID-19 and build a stronger post-pandemic economic and social system?
Zimbabwe, just like many African countries, has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Reduced economic activity due to business closures, restricted travel, and lower investments has left less developed countries hanging by a thread. Inflation rates have skyrocketed. Unemployment rates have worsened. In this entire turmoil, Zimbabwe has not been spared and continues toiling to improve livelihoods. With a 14+ million population and an estimated 68 percent living in rural areas, governments must employ a stakeholder analysis to identify the different challenges that citizens have faced due to their socio-economic status or geographic location. Post-COVID-19, governments and civil society organizations should work together with citizens, especially young people constituting 62 percent of the entire Zimbabwean population, to develop contextual solutions that can help build a stronger nation. .
As the crafting of post-pandemic economic and social interventions begins, governments should consider channeling funds towards digital literacy and community innovation hubs. There should be conducive infrastructure to allow young people to tap into their skills and design innovative solutions to societal problems. Youth inventiveness and participation in community development must be promoted. The pandemic brought to light a deficit in investments towards digital infrastructure. With most operations shifting to online interfaces, it was vital for everyone to have an efficient internet connection to keep track of COVID-19 updates and continue with daily life operations virtually. Unfortunately, many Zimbabweans were not well versed with most digital technology operations, and the cost of internet services, too, was extremely high. This affected e-learning. Marginalized communities had low internet bandwidth that required instant network expansion; however, such infrastructure was not instantly installed. Young people, being the majority, were immensely affected by this network limitation.
Community innovation hubs are an option. The government should invest in constructing district youth centers that non-discriminatorily provide all youths with access to the internet and power supply. These can be platforms where young people gather and utilize resources to invent or tackle projects that can reimagine the future. With the ‘leave no one behind’ mantra in mind,. If a young person designs a sustainable invention, the government should step in and support the fruition of any innovation.
Unemployment has been a setback, too, during the pandemic. There is a high probability that more people will suffer from extreme poverty and food insecurity due to the low production of commodities. With the majority of citizens constituting the informal sector, leading authorities need to find ways to support this sector. The government could open up tenders to small-scale construction, mining, and agricultural firms run by young people. This will not only help increase the production of commodities but create employment for youths within the various fields. More platforms should be availed for young people to participate in production processes.
Juliana Kudzai Makonise is the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Zimbabwe. See the full list of 2021 Blog4Dev winners here, and read their blog posts.