By Dr Felleng Yende
“As an entrepreneur, I am bringing something of value to society, making a job for myself and others, and creating wealth that benefits my family, community, country, and world.”
This entrepreneur pledge from the Kauffman Foundation, an American organisation that works with communities to foster economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success, may be an answer to the lack of employment opportunities that ranks top of a list of challenges young South Africans face today.
As we bid farewell to the 2022 Youth Month under the theme: “The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke: Growing youth employment for an inclusive and transformed society”, it is critical to answer the following question: How can we nurture an entrepreneurial mind-set in our youth, and how can that be sustained?
The foundation of our answer comes from anti-colonial nationalist and political ethicist, who employed non-violent resistance to inspire movements for civil rights and freedom across the world, Mahatma Gandhi, who once said: “The future depends on what you do today.”
This is a powerful message and one that should resonate, especially with our youth today.
Gandhi reminds us that as we grow, we have certain dreams about what we would like our future to look like. But it is important that our youth continuously work towards that goal.
Every decisions they make today determine what their future will look like.
Plenty of options are in-store. Further study is one way, on-the-job training is another, and an entrepreneurial mind-set is another.
An entrepreneurial mind-set is a way of life, a belief that a young man or girl can start a business through perseverance and resilience and by transforming challenges into opportunities, daring to dream and believing in yourself, discovering your passion but also being eager to learn, embrace uncertainty and accept failure.
For a country still grappling with startling statistics – 63.9 percent for those aged 15 to 24, and 42.1 percent for those aged 25 to 34 years, while the current official national rate stands at 34.5 percent – economic self-reliance through entrepreneurship has relevance today, not only because it helps young entrepreneurs better fulfil their personal need, but because of economic contributions to economic growth and poverty alleviation.
An entrepreneurial mind-set helps create a perspective and a level of thinking to see challenges and disrespect a fear of failure.
Our youth need a mind-set of seeing opportunities where others see problems and think about creating jobs instead of waiting for someone to create them. That mind-set imbues in them the refusal to join the crowd of whingers, but to seek solutions and opportunities to build a better future.
As the South African youth continue to bear the burden of unemployment, what opportunities are available to exploit their talents and skills to better themselves and, importantly, create a better society?
Pillars to drive entrepreneurship
Of course, although more and more youth are looking into entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment, poverty alleviation and eventually economic growth, this sector faces many challenges like the lack of access to information, finance, networking and mentoring.
So, how can we nurture an entrepreneurial mind-set in our youth? Through mentoring, networking, financing start-ups, information sharing and reducing the red-tape. These five pillars, complemented by the digital economy, are critical in modern-day entrepreneurship.
United States (US) President Franklin D Roosevelt once said: “We cannot always build a future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future.”
In Roosevelt’s view, no matter how well the future is shaped, if the young people are not mentored well, they may never be ready for the opportunities and challenges of their times.
We often tell the youth about the future and how today’s initiatives, such as education and skills development and an entrepreneurial mind-set could be foundations for a better future.
But how well prepared, nurtured and mentored are our youth for this future. Young entrepreneurs require mentoring to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set.
There is enough evidence that the youth, if well-nurtured and mentored, can be crucial to achieving prosperous, well-governed and peaceful communities. Mentorship is key in building young peoples confidence, attitudes, sense of direction and self-esteem which positions them ready to face the world and achieve their dreams.
Networking helps the youth to establish contacts and relationships. Through networking, they can exchange information and ideas.
I put an emphasis on networking because I love talking to people, and I enjoy meeting new people and learning about what they do and their businesses. I know that if I can help them get what they want, they help me get what I want. It is that simple. The idea is to help one another and, of course, grow our businesses together.
Funding makes entrepreneurship possible. Because financing start-ups remains the greatest challenge, there is a need for strategic partnerships between government entities and the private sector.
Fortunately, banks have been making moves to facilitate small and medium enterprises and start-up loans, such as lowering the minimum capital requirement, thus allowing businesses to start up with less initial capital.
Also, seed funds, guidance, and advice to start-ups are offered in many cases. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement in funding. To give the industry the extra push, we need more stable financial start-up platforms from which the youth can launch themselves.
Youth employment has the capacity to drive economic development, and it is therefore critical that all sectors work together to share information on the success of entrepreneurial projects.
Information sharing allows innovation, efficiency and emergence of new ideas to emerge.
Through information sharing, our youth can generate new knowledge, develop new products, processes or services, or improve those that already exist.
There is a need to look into the manner and pace at which licenses to start-ups are issued so as to improve efficiency. We must abolish unnecessary bureaucratic procedures and make public services, in general, more efficient and admirable.
Despite these gloomy scenarios of youth unemployment, the country has a rich pool of youth.
The success factor for our country is educated young boys and girls who are prepared to take positions that form building blocks in entrepreneurship to develop a sustainable future.
Yende is CEO of the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing Sector Education and Training Authority which facilitates skills development programmes for 13 sub-sectors