Dr Surve Calls on SA’s Youth: Lead the Way to Innovation and Change

Dr Iqbal Survé says listen to our youth, empower them, and follow their lead towards a brighter, more equitable future. Picture: Supplied

Dr Iqbal Survé says listen to our youth, empower them, and follow their lead towards a brighter, more equitable future. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 18, 2024


South Africa has several public holidays each year and whilst that might be an excuse for many to down tools and put their feet up, for me, there are two in particular that stand out and deserve due consideration – Mandela Month in July, and June, where we acknowledge our youth, for it is today’s generation who reap the rewards that went before them and who lay the ground work for those who follow – best those foundations be fit for purpose.

In South Africa, it remains an imperative to reflect not only on the historical significance of the Soweto Uprising but also on the present and future role of the youth in shaping our nation and the world. The 1976 students’ rebellion against the apartheid regime’s oppressive policies are a potent reminder of the power and resilience of young people.

Today, that spirit of resistance and innovation must be harnessed to address the pressing challenges of our times.

There is no doubt that the world needs fresh perspectives, and I believe that South Africa’s youth are uniquely positioned to provide them.

The phrase "No time for old men and old mindsets" encapsulates the urgency for change. In a rapidly evolving global landscape marked by technological advancements, environmental crises, and social upheavals, clinging to outdated ideas and practices is not only unproductive but perilous. The old guard, with their entrenched views, often resists the transformative changes necessary to propel society forward. Meanwhile, the youth, with their dynamism and innovative thinking, are the catalysts for progress.

In South Africa, over 60% of our population is under the age of 35, a statistic that underscores the potential of our young people to drive economic growth, social cohesion, and political reform. However, this potential can only be realised if we dismantle the barriers that stifle their voices and limit their opportunities. The recent elections in our country are a case in point with an apathetic voting public comprising mainly our future leaders.

It is time, therefore, to reimagine leadership and governance to include the vibrant, diverse, and forward-thinking ideas of our youth.

The global community also faces unprecedented challenges that require fresh solutions. Climate change, economic inequality, and political instability are not unique to South Africa or the African continent – disparity and dissatisfaction are symptoms of a brewing plague across the four corners of the world.

Youth demand, and deserve, innovative approaches that transcend traditional paradigms, which our South African youth have shown remarkable ingenuity in addressing these issues. From pioneering renewable energy projects in rural areas to creating tech startups that provide employment and drive economic growth, our young people are leading the charge towards a sustainable and inclusive future. Because it is their future. Now is their time.

Moreover, the social activism of South African youth is a testament to their commitment to justice and equality. Movements such as #FeesMustFall and #RhodesMustFall not only highlighted the systemic inequalities within our own borders but have also resonated globally, inspiring similar movements worldwide. These young activists challenged the status quo, demanding accountability and action from those in power. Their courage and tenacity are exactly what the world needs to break free from the shackles of outdated ideologies and practices.

Education is a critical area where the fresh perspectives of youth can make a substantial impact. Traditional education systems, with their rigid structures and curricula, often fail to prepare students for the complexities of the modern world. South Africa’s youth are advocating for educational reforms that emphasise critical thinking, creativity, and adaptability — skills essential for navigating and excelling in the 21st century. By rethinking education, we can equip the next generation with the tools they need to solve tomorrow’s problems.

In the political arena, young leaders are emerging who embody the values of transparency, inclusivity, and innovation. These leaders understand that effective governance requires engaging with the digital age and leveraging technology to enhance democratic participation and accountability.

They recognise the importance of addressing the needs and aspirations of all citizens, particularly those who have been historically marginalised. By supporting and elevating these young voices, South Africa can demonstrate to the world what forward-thinking leadership looks like.

Youth Month is not just a time for reflection. It is a reminder that the future belongs to the young and that their perspectives are indispensable in crafting solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

South Africa, with its rich history of youthful defiance and creativity, has the potential to lead this charge. By embracing the energy and ideas of our youth, we can all (the young and the not so young anymore), show the world how to navigate the complexities of the modern era with courage, innovation, and hope.

The world needs fresh perspectives now more than ever. Let us listen to our youth, empower them, and follow their lead towards a brighter, more equitable future.

It's time for South Africa's youth to be bold and brave and lead this nation forward.

* Dr Iqbal Survé is the Executive Chairman of the Sekunjalo Group.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.