Bridging Horizons: Dutch Ambassador's sojourn into South Africa's youth renaissance

In a captivating journey spanning late November 2023, Jurriaan Middelhoff, the Netherlands Ambassador for Youth, Education, and Work, immersed himself in the vibrant tapestry of South Africa. During four enriching days, Middelhoff engaged with key stakeholders, including Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities, and Mr. Waseem Carrim, CEO of South Africa's Youth Development Agency. The focal points of this diplomatic foray were the realms of youth entrepreneurship and the crucial intersection of youth, peace, and security.

Image: ©Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken
Jurriaan (middle row, second to the right) with students and teachers of Tshwane North Technical and Vocational Education and Training College


Middelhoff articulated the significance of the Youth At Heart Strategy, underscoring the imperative of economic empowerment and meaningful youth participation. The KNVB's World Coaches program, germinated in South Africa, emerged as a pivotal avenue for outreach. A promising trajectory for collaboration on Youth, Peace & Security was identified, aligning seamlessly with the shared aspirations of both nations.

Youth Advisory Council Launch

A milestone moment unfolded with the inauguration of the Youth Advisory Council, a vehicle designed to 'youth proof' embassy policies. This esteemed council, comprising experts from diverse fields, now stands as a beacon for shaping future diplomatic strategies and engagements, placing a premium on amplifying youth voices and perspectives.

National Youth Service

In a meeting with South African Minister for Women and Youth, Dlamini-Zuma, a comprehensive plan for a National Youth Service, encapsulating training in agriculture, infrastructure, digital technology, oceans, and defense was discussed.  Existing collaborations between the Netherlands and South Africa address gender-based violence, Youth, Peace and Security and championing meaningful youth participation.

Youth Development Agency Collaboration

A rendezvous with the National Youth Development Agency delved into the multifaceted challenges of youth unemployment, climate change, and the nurturing of entrepreneurship. Collaborative opportunities, including the KNVB (Dutch national Football Association) World Coaches program, Dutch company traineeships, and the Orange Corners entrepreneurship initiative, were meticulously explored, hinting at future symbiotic collaborations.

Addressing Gender-Based Violence

The Lady of Peace Foundation took center stage, shedding light on gender-based violence through its innovative Peacebuilder card game, designed as a tool for conflict resolution. Ambassador Middelhoff's poignant visit to the 16 June Memorial, the venue of the 1976 Soweto uprising, underscored the gravity of gender-based violence in South Africa, particularly among the youth. Sonke Gender Justice organized a debate with local youth from Soweto, themed a ''Generation for gender justice''.


Journeys through Tshwane North Technical and Vocational Education and Training College and Joshua's Training Centre, together with Equal Education, uncovered the formidable challenges embedded in South Africa's education system. From the struggle to secure employment post-graduation to the dearth of teacher development opportunities, and from lack of internet access to pit latrines at many South African schools, these insights are poised to shape future educational programs.

Healthcare and Sexual Education

A revealing visit to Jozi Business Hub and the Rhiza Babuyile Clinic in Diepsloot spotlighted the challenges faced by small entrepreneurs and the pressing healthcare issues in the region. A stark absence of sexual education and knowledge of preventive measures underscored the need for greater youth involvement in discussions around sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Embarking on this odyssey, Ambassador Middelhoff unearthed both challenges and opportunities in South Africa's burgeoning youth landscape. The collaborative spirit between the Netherlands and South Africa promises innovative solutions to address the urgent issues of youth entrepreneurship and security. As the Netherlands Embassy in Pretoria charts the course for the development of the Youth Advisory Council, the insights gleaned during this diplomatic endeavor are poised to shape future initiatives, ushering in a brighter and more empowered future for the youth in both nations.