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Ntsaphokazi Madyibi and Motshedisi Mathibe | 25 March 2024

One of the strategies many developed nations used to achieve rapid social and economic growth was investing in the education of young people to develop solutions for their pressing issues.

Despite the gains from South Africa’s young democracy, now 30 years old, there is a considerable amount of work to be done to ensure we develop an educated workforce that will not only seek employment but also create jobs through entrepreneurial opportunities.

Chapter Two of the Constitution outlines the Bill of Rights for citizens, among which is the right to education. As we approach a new decade, we need to reflect on the past and chart a new path for the country. It is for this reason that we are exploring the right to education under the theme of “Entrepreneurship as a skill that the youth have been deprived of”. This is based on the understanding that the public education system is the backbone of skills development for the majority of young people.

Reflecting on the history of exclusion from the education system, the promise of education was seen as a beacon of hope to improve people’s lives. Nelson Mandela said education is the most powerful tool that can be used to change the world. Today, we find ourselves reflecting on these words in light of the fact that almost 46% of our youth do not have a matric qualification. This prompts us to ask: what happened, and what can be done to improve this situation?

A professor once said, “A child born into poverty will likely repeat that cycle unless they are taken out of it.” This statement resonated with many young South Africans as it mirrors their stories. They believe education can rescue someone from the clutches of poverty. But they are faced with the stark reality that almost half of those looking for work do not even have a matric qualification. 

How can education enable entrepreneurship? 

Education, in its form, is very broad. This article, the focus is drawn to the integration of entrepreneurial skills at primary and secondary schools. Schools are social centres that provide learners with opportunities to acquire knowledge, interact with peers and prepare for the future. Education yields a variety of outcomes, with the major ones being knowledge acquisition and skills development. From this perspective, entrepreneurship can be introduced as a creative problem-solving mechanism, where people can learn to develop solutions to pressing problems. 

Contrary to the belief that entrepreneurship cannot be taught, it is an academic discipline that dates back to the early 1950s. Joseph Schumpeter, an Austrian political economist, defined entrepreneurship as a process of creative destruction where long-standing products or services are replaced by more innovative and disruptive ones.

In her book, Journeying Through Entrepreneurship, Ntsaphokazi Madyibi argues that entrepreneurs can sometimes emerge as a response to a particular problem that came as a result of know-how (having both the knowledge and the skill) to develop and execute a solution. 

Integrating entrepreneurial programmes in the education curriculum can enable learners to gain the know-how of solving societal problems so that they can develop solutions to alleviate poverty, reduce unemployment and improve their environmental wellbeing even after they have exited the education system without matric. 

A distinction needs to be made between starting a business and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is primarily concerned with the mindset and behaviours, whereas business ownership involves using an existing model. The best way to understand this distinction is that anyone can take something and sell it, but it’s only a few people who can start something that creates value in the lives of people. Most entrepreneurs are driven by a vision that emanates from their passions, which then compels them to create something valuable that they can commercialise through an enterprise. Whereas starting a business might be about selling anything (even something that one might not necessarily care about); if there is a transaction, one is in business.

The reason it becomes difficult for people to see themselves as entrepreneurs is we have reduced this dynamic phenomenon to a “business”, whereas the business is the outcome of the entrepreneurship process.

When someone identifies a problem, there is an automatic response from our minds that entices us about all the possible solutions to that problem; and if we were to be trained to “act (behaviour)” on those convictions, then half of our problems would be solved, and we would prosper. 

Embedding entrepreneurial skills in curricula

In looking at the right to education, we must not only consider education for the purposes of employment, but to teach young people to think about how their education can help shape the world they aspire to live in. It is through leadership that we can develop intentional strategies of integrating entrepreneurship skills into the education curriculum. 

  1. Equal opportunities: embedding entrepreneurial skills in the curriculum provides an opportunity for learners to make informed decisions about how they can contribute positively to their communities, societies, and the country at large. 

  2. Reduces reliance on grants: the majority of the unemployment pool rely on social grants for survival whereas if they had entrepreneurial skills, they might have been able to develop solutions for their current circumstances. 

  3. Foster innovation and diversity: when we focus on integrating entrepreneurial skills at schools, we would have diverse mindsets thinking about positive change in their neighbourhoods and thus develop different solutions to the various challenges facing the country and the youth. 

When more young people think about solutions, we could see South Africa embracing diverse markets that can also compete in the global space. 

Empowering the youth through entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship has the power to transform lives, uplift neighbourhoods and drive economic growth. In South Africa, where youth unemployment rates are high, entrepreneurship has become a crucial tool for empowering young people and securing their right to success.

Despite the difficulties they face, young people are defying the odds and embracing entrepreneurship as a means to create employment opportunities for themselves and others. 

The government, along with various organisations and initiatives, has recognised the importance of entrepreneurship and implemented measures to support young entrepreneurs. By providing financial support, mentorship programmes, skills development opportunities and an enabling regulatory environment, they are laying the foundation for a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. Aspiring entrepreneurs in South Africa can get a range of resources, support systems, and networks to navigate the entrepreneurial landscape effectively. By using these resources, developing their skills, and embracing innovation, they can increase their chances of success and contribute to the country’s economic growth and social transformation.

Ntsaphokazi Madyibi is the author of Journeying Through Entrepreneurship and the founder of the Entrepreneurs Development Forum. Motshedisi Mathibe is an associate professor and head of faculty at GIBS Business School.

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


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