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Development Bank of Southern Africa celebrates Youth-driven social innovation during Youth Month

In honour of Youth Month, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) is proud to highlight a series of impactful community engagement projects that extend beyond its investment in Early Childhood Development Centers (ECDs). These initiatives, prominently led by young social innovators, exemplify the DBSA’s unwavering commitment to fostering sustainable development and community advancement.

¬†South Africa has one of the worst rates of unemployment in the world, and young people’s vulnerability and unemployment are major concerns for all South Africans. This is supported by Statistics SA indicating a 45,5% unemployment rate among young individuals (aged 15-34 years), in contrast to the national average of 32,9% in the first quarter of 2024. High youth unemployment rates have profound consequences for economies and societies. Economically, they lead to lost productivity, increased government spending on welfare, reduced consumer demand, and potential skills erosion among the young workforces. Socially, they contribute to higher poverty levels, worsened mental health outcomes, and can even provoke social unrest.

 Addressing these challenges requires holistic approaches that include targeted job creation, improvements in education and skills training, and reforms to enhance labour market flexibility and reduce barriers to employment for young people.

¬†The DBSA is dedicated to supporting young leaders who are driving transformative change within their communities. The Bank’s financial backing has enabled visionaries to implement innovative solutions that address critical societal challenges. From creating sustainable water systems to developing educational outreach programmes, these young innovators are at the forefront of stimulating positive change.

 Murendi Mafumo, leader of Kusini Water

Kusini Water is actively tackling water scarcity challenges in the Kwa-Mhlanga area, where the DBSA has made significant investments in Early Childhood Development Centers (ECDs). Recognising the fundamental importance of access to water, Kusini Water’s initiative aims to bolster the overall development and progress within these communities. By providing sustainable water solutions, the project addresses a critical basic need, promoting health and well-being among residents.


In addition to giving communities dependable access to water, Kusini Water gives young people the skills they need to participate in initiatives for water sustainability and employment creation. In several communities, Kusini Water has produced 122 new jobs and trained 106 youth to date.


Thembiso Magajana, leader of Social Coding

Social Coding is an organisation dedicated to bridging the digital divide in South Africa’s rural areas by providing tailored digital skills development in AI, Robotics, and technology. With the support of the DBSA, Social Coding will launch a program in Ga-Mphahlele, Limpopo, in June 2024, benefiting 120 rural youth directly. This initiative aims to empower them by providing comprehensive training, mentorship, and hands-on experience, alongside establishing essential internet infrastructure. Additionally, the program will indirectly benefit the community by hosting community digital training programs that support and promote digital transformation in rural areas, equipping residents with the necessary skills and opportunities to pursue careers and pathways in technology.


In South Africa, the digital divide is a multifaceted issue that includes not only technology availability but also access and quality of engagement. Many underprivileged schools lack basic computer access, affecting digital literacy and internet connectivity. This gap exacerbates educational and employment inequalities. Addressing this issue requires enhancing both access to and the quality of digital engagement tools.


Dr. Rosy Ndlovu, leader of Mobile Health Foundation

The project endeavours to enhance access to high-quality healthcare for children residing in underserved communities. In collaboration with the DBSA, the Mobile Health Foundation, under the leadership of Dr. Rosy Ndlovu, will initiate a pilot programme tailored specifically for children attending Early Childhood Development Centers (ECDs) that have received infrastructure funding from the DBSA. This partnership highlights the fundamental pillars of ECDs, emphasising the essential need for children to have access to basic healthcare alongside a nurturing, secure learning environment.


The objective of Mobile Health Foundation is to screen 1 000 000 school learners, in the next ten years, through primary and preventative health care screening. This will help in reducing time away from school and dropout rates by identifying health barriers to learning.

Since 2019, the foundation has screened a total of almost 60 000 learners across different provinces in South Africa. Improving access to quality healthcare for children in poor communities. To date over 81 914 school health screenings, 723 916 clinical services and treatment, 91 236 eye tests and glasses issued, 85 214 dental treatments in 131 locations in South Africa.


The DBSA’s support for these projects highlights its commitment to meaningful and sustainable development. By nurturing the talents and aspirations of young social innovators, the Bank is not only investing in the future of these individuals but also in the broader community. This approach aligns with the DBSA‚Äôs mission to drive development through innovative and sustainable solutions.


“We are incredibly proud of the young innovators who have taken the initiative to create positive change within their communities,” said Lunga Schoeman: CSI Programmes Manager: DBSA. “Their dedication and creativity are inspiring, and we are committed to providing them with the resources and support they need to turn their ideas into impactful realities.”


As these young social innovators continue to make strides in their respective projects, the DBSA remains steadfast in its support. The Bank believes in the power of youth-driven initiatives to drive sustainable progress and shape a brighter future for all.

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