Economic Justice Literacy: An eye opener for Africa Unite Peer Educators

An eye opener for Africa Unite Peer Educators

On the 22nd and 23rd of June 2019, Africa Unite hosted a 2-day residential Economic Justice Literacy training at Umhlanga Durban Accommodation in Durban. The training was attended by 25 Youth Human Rights Peer Educators from diverse backgrounds within KwaZulu Natal Province. This training was aimed at mobilizing and capacitating our peer educators on how the economy works, power dynamics and its impact on young people’s daily lives.

The training was facilitated by Mr Mervyn Abrahams (former Director of PACSA)   

During the session, the facilitator covered the following topics:

  • Economic justice literacy
  • Economic theories (capitalism, communism and socialism)
  • Economics and its model of development
  • How an economy works
  • The power dynamics inherent in an economic system
  • The role of Africa in the global economy

In exploring the education system in South Africa, through a simple exercise of drawing a set up of a classroom, the participants discovered that often there is a social order which has been put in place to create fear of authorities. Often the majority of people do not interrogate why a certain social order has been put in place. Hence, when the people start thinking out of the box, it becomes a threat to the social order.

The facilitator explained that the economy is about management of a household, he used a family as an illustration (Husband, wife, children etc.).The allocation of resources among the family members is to make everyone happy. However, the need of the family is unlimited and yet the money is limited. Although the family members would expect to receive as per need, the provider will make many considerations before responding to their needs and wants.

The participants learned the following economic theories: (1) that capitalism is based on the accumulation of wealth by few and they distribute to the rest by exploiting workers – they do not want government to be involved. (2) According to Karl Marx, the wealth must be in the hands of the population and the government must not be involved; The Marxist theory of cultural hegemony associated with Antonio Gramsci is the idea that the ruling class can manipulate the value system, however there is a counter-hegemony which attempts to dismantle hegemonic power, meaning a confrontation and opposition to the existing status quo by observing other spheres of life such as history, media, music. Etc.; (3) John Maynard Keynes, his theory is for the idea that government should intervene to stimulate demand and pull the global economy out of depression by creating jobs as there is a high level of unemployment.

From the above theories, our peer educators understood that there are no easy solutions to the economy. During the presentation, they also understood who is behind the economic activities such as land, raw materials, sea, infrastructures, labour, electricity, mining etc. Investors play a big role in supporting the economy. In South Africa, there are two kinds of investors, foreign (Europe and China) and local investors. Some of the critical conditions investors consider before investing are elements such as infrastructures, electricity, policies, political stabilities, materials, labour force and the market (consumers).

During the discussion, Mr Mervyn showed the role played by the financial institutions in the economy. In South Africa, contrary to many other countries, The Reserve Bank is being controlled by individuals. Often, the reserve bank keeps the inflation high which affects the borrower as the credit and bonds increase which in turn reduces job creation. Thus, explains why we have high unemployment rate among young people (55% Rate). The mandate of South African Reserve Bank is currently a serious debate which is dividing the leaders (President and Vice President) within the ruling party.

This topic generated a lot of discussion amongst young people who were interested to know more on the topic. The facilitator was obliged to give a brief political background on how South Africa was liberated through various negotiations which led to the final agreement in CODESA. One of the clause in the constitution was the respect of private property, which is one of the key element in the capitalist system.  

He also explained the idea behind the Land Act of 1913 where black people were not allowed to own or buy land. Majority of black people were allowed only 7% of the land and the rest of fertilised land was given to the white minority.

Looking at the importance of the content covered during the training, all the peer educators present agreed that they did not want this to remain a talk show and therefore agreed on the following actions:

  • To establish a youth economic forum comprised of the youth from different backgrounds to promote youth participation to influence policies
  • The group to undertake baseline research such as data on youth unemployment in townships and similar baseline research
  • More engagements with peers and communities on the economics of South Africa to create a culture of economic sustainability and curb ignorance on economic issues.
  • The group agreed to meet monthly at Moses Mabhida Stadium where a suitable venue was already given to Mr Mervyn (The facilitator) for ongoing youth gatherings.  
  • Africa Unite Durban office will publish a monthly calendar from July to December 2019 which will be distributed to youth from different backgrounds in the province in order to attract more young people.
  • The structure will try to work with other legislative and academic bodies.

All participants mentioned that the training was an eye opener as most of the issues raised were unknown to them. They do not want to be bystanders; they want to play a role in their respective communities. They were grateful to Africa Unite for the opportunities presented to them in order to have a general knowledge on the economy and its impact on their lives. Furthermore, the youth thanked Mr Mervyn Abrahams for making the economy interesting and easy to understand.

As Africa Unite, we are hoping that we will soon take the Economic Justice Literacy training to the Western Cape Province.

Additionally, We would like to thank our partner Misereor, DKA and CCFD for their contribution. .

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