Fifty-nine Malawian young men and women have left for the United Arab Emirate of Dubai in a labour export deal, President Joyce Banda disclosed on Saturday.
“I didn’t want to announce this until the youths had left the country,” she said at the opening of the National Youth Initiative in the southern district of Neno.
Banda was apparently referring to a similar botched labour export deal with South Korea.
Banda and former Labour Minister Eunice Makangala announced that Lilongwe and Seoul had struck a deal where up to 100,000 Malawian youths would work in the Asian country’s agriculture and hospitality industries.
But Seoul distanced itself from such a deal, saying no one in that government had ever discussed a labour export deal with Lilongwe.
“Our government has not received any official request from Malawi that they want to send their workers to our country,” Moon Sung Hwan, director at the Africa Division of South Korea’s foreign affairs ministry, told Bloomberg in Seoul on May 31.
But, speaking on Saturday, President Banda – who did not mention the South Korea deal directly – said 59 youths had already left for Dubai and 21 more would soon leave for Kuwait.
“A delegation from the ministries of labour and youth visited them to see how they are fairing and they are fairing well,” he said.
Banda said all the 59 were working in hotels as cleaners and waiters and waitresses in Dubai.
“Unemployment rates here are appalling, especially among the youth and women, so when such opportunities occur we should celebrate,” she said.
Banda said the initiative targeted youths aged between 15 and 35 who represented a significant proportion of Malawi’s population.
“My government recognises that if we have to realise our vision to eradicate poverty and create wealth, we need to harness the potential of our youth and provide them with the means and opportunities to fulfill that potential. Our future rests on their success. Their future is our success,” she said.
Sports and Youth Minister Enoch Chihana said every year up to 300,000 youths left school at various levels to join the hunt for jobs but only 30,000 of them were absorbed in both the formal and informal sector.
He said the National Youth Service President Banda launched on Saturday was geared at creating up to 18,000 jobs for youths.
Women make up to 52 per cent of the country’s population of 13 million. The youth comprises 57 per cent of the population.
Malawi’s most recent Welfare Monitoring Survey (2011) estimates that Malawian youth unemployment is around 16 per cent, with females slightly higher than males, 17 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively. Of those that are employed, the majority, about 81 per cent are engaged in farming where they do not receive regular salary.
To launch the National Youth Service President Banda opened the Neno Youth Development Centre modeled on the Songhai Centre in Benin