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OPINION: Turn every community into entrepreneurs’ hothouse


We need a whole-of-society approach, involving every parent, teacher, civil servant and politician

Recent Statistics SA research indicates that the country’s total unemployment rate stands at 26.7%, which is significantly higher than what is targeted for 2030 in the National Development Plan (NDP) and which suggests that about 11-million more jobs need to be created in the next 12 years to reach the targeted unemployment rate of 6%.

Eking out a living: A woman waits for customers at a converted spaza shop. The youth account for 63.5% of SA’s total number of unemployed people. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/RAYMOND PRESTON

The only way to achieve the exponential employment growth required to reach the NDP’s 2030 goal is to enable the country’s unemployed to create their own opportunities through entrepreneurship.

Make no mistake, this is a mammoth task, and the question of how to accomplish it within the limited timeframe remains unanswered.

Considering the fact that the youth population accounts for 63.5% of the total number of unemployed people, they should be the primary focus for initiatives and programmes to foster entrepreneurial skills. But entrepreneurship is not as simple as saying, "If you cannot find a job start a business."

The skills and attitudes required to succeed as an entrepreneur are exceedingly complex, and the youth segment cannot be expected to simply "find their own way".

What is needed is a whole-of-society approach, involving every parent, teacher, civil servant and politician. Every family and community has to strive to become a hothouse in which young entrepreneurs can start and grow their businesses.

Basic vocational skills such as welding, plumbing, driving, carpentry, electronics, programming, tiling, panel beating, cooking, designing, farming, painting and sewing are valuable foundations for developing entrepreneurial skills. Entrepreneurs cannot build successful businesses if they do not understand their sectors from the ground up.

Next on the list is the teaching of general business knowledge such as a management, planning and accounting. Also part of this knowledge is entrepreneurship awareness, general, innovative and lateral thinking skills, which will go a long way to start and sustain a youth entrepreneurship movement.

Young South Africans also need to be equipped with entrepreneurial values such as resilience, self-reliance and recovery from failure, to cement the culture of entrepreneurship. The teaching of entrepreneurship cannot be limited to a single course. It is a long-term atmosphere and frame of reference that needs to be created at every opportunity and at every stage.

Of course, the role of teachers, from primary school to tertiary institutions, cannot be overemphasised in this process. Teachers do not have to be entrepreneurs themselves in order to participate in a youth entrepreneurship movement. By bringing local entrepreneurs into the classroom, a teacher can change the employment prospects of learners.

Education alone will not create the kind of change required. The entrepreneur industry is one more component required to drive youth entrepreneurship.

Established entrepreneurs also have an important part to play as role models and mentors, and their businesses can benefit from contributing to enterprise development programmes. Senior entrepreneurs can set aspiring young entrepreneurs on the path to success just by allowing them access to their established support networks. The burden of supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs becomes lighter if captains of industry join forces to start industry-wide enterprise development initiatives.

Access to finance also remains an important catalyst for the growth of businesses. Angel investors, crowd funding opportunities, corporate enterprise development funds, government programmes and finance institutions are all vital.

There is no doubt that SA has a difficult path ahead if we are to stand any chance of meeting the 2030 employment goal. However, it is still attainable if we all work together and invest not only our money but also our energy and time into creating a new generation of builders, movers and shakers.

• Morobe is regional general manager at Business Partners Limited, a specialist risk finance company for formal small and medium enterprises in SA and selected African countries.



Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER

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