–Government says it was alarming that four million youths in the country were unemployed.
Transport, Works, Supply and Communication deputy minister Panji Kaunda says the figure represents 25 percent of the population.
Colonel Kaunda stressed the need to absorb the unemployed youths in economic activities to enable them contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
"Help government crystalize how to absorb the 25 percent unemployed youths in economic activities as failure to do so results in losing out 50 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product," he said.
Col Kaunda said it was unacceptable for youths to be spectators in their own economy.
Colonel Panji said this in a speech read for him by Ministry of Transport Director, Nelson Nyangu at the opening of the strategic planning session for the implementation of affirmative action for youth empowerment and job creation in the transport and construction sectors held in Livingstone today.
Col Kaunda said his ministry was alive to the fact that the country needed a skilled set of hands to build and maintain its infrastructure.
"We need an available, skilled and recognized local contractor base. It is a well known fact that abundance of a material is only appreciated to be a resource if you have appropriate use for it," he said.
He stressed that there was no need for Zambia to be shy of employing and benefiting local citizens.
Col Kaunda said the affirmative action program aimed at enhancing local contractor capacity, creation of job opportunities via an exit strategy for Zambians graduating from skills training institutions.
He further cited reduced corruption in the construction industry, reduction of unemployment among the youth and women, increased demand for youth to enroll at skills training institutions and increased citizen confidence and appreciation of government’s support, as other aims of the program.
Earlier, Livingstone District Commissioner Omar Munsanje said government had put in place numerous measures to address youth unemployment.
Mr. Munsanje however urged youths to be productive and not just seek to be employed in the formal sector.
"We need to change the scenario whereby youths just sit back and wait to be employed in the formal sector. This is an area where I feel we have lagged behind as a country," he said.
And National Council for Construction (NCC) Architect Chance Kaonga said it was regrettable that most government departments worked in isolation and fought one another at the expense of serving the Zambian people.
Mr. Kaonga said it was imperative for government departments to coordinate their efforts if youth unemployment was to be addressed with appropriate exit strategies in instances where skills training was involved.