Youth in remote areas denied access to information



MASERU – Access to information seems to be a huge challenge facing the youth as many, especially in remote areas are left behind when policies which have a direct impact on them are being implemented in the country. According to Motlatsi Tsatsi from Agroprocessor Association of Lesotho and former participant of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Youth Symposium, Africa has the largest population of youth and these are the ones who can be innovative and can come up with the ideas for now.

He, however, said youth especially those in remote rural communities are left behind when policies are being implemented in the country. Tsatsi said from the symposium youth had shown that they are ready to work but in all these there are still some areas that need to be cleared for them to continue with their work. He said some of the areas needed include skills development strategies, education and training especially in innovation labs, international cooperation skills as well as engaging in career building programmes.

“We have to stand up and advocate for inclusion. Youth need to take part in the AfCFTA and be in the frontline as well as being capacitated enough. Not only are the youth faced with challenges such as mobilisation but funding as well seems to be among their major challenges. Youth have a short fall of funding so there is need for financial programmes that respond to their needs.

“In youth entrepreneurship, youth are the ones who can be innovative and can come up with fresh ideas. We need to engage youth of the developed countries for learning and to sustain our entrepreneurship abilities. In September this year, Zambia launched the AfCFTA youth strategic policy and I believe Lesotho needs to push for AfCFTA youth policy as well,” he said.

As part of the youth, Tumelo Moteuli said access to information in Lesotho is a challenge as information is classified. He said youth have tried many times to fight for access to information and youth in remote areas are the most impacted. He said there is information online that can be accessed but it is hard for those in remote areas without electricity and internet to access it.

Some of the things are also not known by media, he said, as people who are able to reach a wider range of people say it is quite a challenge and there are no proper platforms through which to disseminate information.

He said that is why people always say only people in urban areas access information better but sometimes even those in urban areas are struggling to get information. In line with this, on Wednesday this week, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Business development held a sensitisation workshop for journalists on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a way of driving the development agenda.

AfCFTA is a trade agreement with a comprehensive scope that includes the most critical area of Africa’s economy, by eliminating barriers to trade in Africa. The objective of AfCFTA is to significantly boost intra-Africa trade, particularly trade in value-added production and trade across all sectors of Africa’s economy.

Lesotho ratified the AfCFTA in 2021 and thereby committed to full implementation of the agreement. The membership of Lesotho in this agreement opens up large and dynamic market opportunities for the private sector to expand its market base considering the small domestic market in Lesotho.

It will be through the benefit of this preferential market access that the private sector will be able to achieve product and market diversification and establish its place in the regional value chain.

To engage youth, the ministry has under its incubation a youth-led organisation called the Independent Continental Youth Advisory Council on AfCFTA (ICOYACA).

While presenting the historical development and overview of AfCFTA, Letlotlo Motanyane of ICOYACA said the agreement establishing AfCFTA was officially established in January 2012 by the Heads of States and government of the African Union (AU). He said to date it is the largest free trade area measured by the number of participating countries.

Lesotho signed the agreement in 2018 and ratified it in 2021 adding that as of February 2023, up to 54 countries have signed the agreement and 46 have ratified it. He said the aim of AfCFTA is to lay the foundation of a continental custom union and to promote sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development considering gender equality and structural transformation, to mention a few.

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