Through YouthBuild, South Africa is cultivating its next generation of leaders

Ayanda Makaula, Acting CEO of the National Youth Development Agency, South Africa spoke at YouthBuild USA's 35th Anniversary celebration in 2013

When the father of our nation, Mr Nelson Mandela, took office in 1994, he was faced with a myriad of development challenges resulting from the legacy of apartheid and colonialism. Foremost amongst these challenges was what to do with the legions of brutalised young people. These young lions fought against the apartheid system leaving them scarred, with inadequate education and skills development, unemployed and some highly militarised.

Tata Madiba, as we affectionately call him back home, drew upon the wisdom of a close friend and liberation stalwart, Oliver Tambo, who famously said: " A nation that does not invest in its children and youth, has no future and does not deserve one". Under the Mandela administration, the Umsobomvu Youth Fund (UYF), was established and capitalised to invest in the skills development and entrepreneurship capabilities of young South Africans.

The Fund, at its inception in 2001, scoured the globe searching for youth development models and programmes that could be adapted to serve South Africa's youth. YouthBuild was identified as a key programme and its founder, Dorothy Stoneman was invited to visit South Africa. This was the start of a transatlantic partnership that has stood the test of time and forges strong into the future.

Now the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has formed out of a merger between the Umsobomvu Youth Fund and the National Youth Commission. The agency reports to the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa.

Over the years, YouthBuild USA and YouthBuild International (YBI) has assisted the UYF and now the NYDA in various ways. This included providing technical assistance, staff capacity building, staff exchanges and participation in YouthBuild USA training events. In 2007 both organisations worked together to adapt the YouthBuild programme to suit the South African conditions. The work included the adaptation of training materials and linkages to the South African formal education system; training of staff to implement the YouthBuild programme and training of partners to support the programme. This resulted in the first pilot YouthBuild programme launched in an informal settlement called Ivory Park, north of Johannesburg. A partnership with the City of Johannesburg, the National Department of Human Settlements and the NYDA saw over 80 young people participate in the programme and over the course of the programme year, they built 100 houses for the poor and elderly.

The NYDA and YBI worked together to adapt the YouthBuild model for implementation within the Further Education and Training college system. Our FET colleges are similar to the US Community College system. The adapted programme was piloted in the Waterberg FET in Limpopo Province, a largely rural province. The programme worked well and the NYDA continued with a second programme cycle at Waterberg FET. We are now expanding this programme to other FET colleges in the country.

Since the first pilot YouthBuild programme to date, the NYDA has:

  • Enrolled 2199 young people in YouthBuild programmes
  • Impacted 22 communities as project sites where young people have built houses and community assets
  • Accumulated over 384, 000 community service hours
  • Invested over 27.7 million rands, equating to 2.7 million dollars
  • Leveraged a further 15 million rands from other partners, equating to 1.5 million dollars

The new NYDA Board, appointed by President Jacob Zuma in April 2013, reviewed the YouthBuild programme and took the decision to use the YouthBuild programme model as its only skills development and national youth service intervention. Over the next three financial years, the NYDA will enroll 4,965 youth in YouthBuild programmes and will make an investment of R61 million rands (about $6.1 million) from its own funds while continually leveraging resources from other public and private partners. The Board has also approved the establishment of a NYDA YouthBuild school.

This school will help to expand the YouthBuild programme as well as serve as a centre of excellence for programme implementers. It is our intention to take YouthBuild to scale reaching all corners of our Republic while evolving and innovating for maximum impact.

Our partnership with YouthBuild is strong and also evolving. The next phase of our partnership will focus on technical assistance for expansion. We are committed to expansion while retaining programme quality and excellence. We dare not rob young people of the excellent YouthBuild programme experience. YouthBuild USA has demonstrated over the past 35 years on how to take the programme to scale. We want to draw on this wealth and experience.

We recently spent time at YouthBuild Philadelphia and were warmly received. We explored the Charter School model. As we establish a YouthBuild school in South Africa, we will rely on YouthBuild International to guide, support and provide technical assistance to us to establish this school. We could not have come so far in our YouthBuild efforts in South Africa without the partnership with YouthBuild International. South Africa is a member of the BRICS grouping of countries, a grouping that represents almost 3 billion people in the world. We will use our influence within BRICS to inform and advocate for YouthBuild as an effective and impactful youth development programme model.

In 2014, South Africa celebrates twenty years of democracy -- two decades of freedom. Young people fought for that freedom. Their contribution to the country has been historic. They continue to make colossal strides in politics, arts, culture, civil society, the private sector and within government. They challenge the status quo while imagining the prospects and promises of what could be. Youth development is an essential consideration for our country's development trajectory. Our expansion of YouthBuild is a call for leadership. We want young people to lead the change and positive development in their communities and on a national platform. Through YouthBuild, South Africa is cultivating its next generation of leaders. We are confident that they will make us proud.


Alexis Bach
"I have wanted to be a nurse since I was about 13 or 14 years old, I’m finally able to do it and it’s amazing."
"I think it’s important to make the connection between leadership development and education."
Ely Flores
"During my time at the LA CAUSA YouthBuild program in East Los Angeles, I discovered that I was indeed a leader and that there were leadership assets within me and within my community."