Unisa online - A conducive economic climate for young entrepreneurs?
June 16 (Youth Day, following the 1976 Soweto Uprising) marks an important period in South Africa’s young democracy, with immense contribution from young people who fought for freedom, justice and equality. 26 years later and the prevailing questions keep growing: Was it all in vain? Is there more that needs to be done and why are the youth still struggling for job opportunities and economic freedom?
In a roundtable discussion hosted by Unisa Radio on 15 June 2012 with key panelists, concerns were raised on the current economic climate in SA and whether it is conducive for young people to be innovative and successful entrepreneurs.
Broadcast live on Unisa Radio, the roundtable panel consisted of Roche Mamabolo, Director of Radipolelo Business Consulting; Alpheus Maphosa, Public commentator on skills and education; Molefi Olifant, Head of Communication: Y-AGE Programme; Veli Ngubane, Strategic Director & Co-founder @ Avatar Digital Agency; and Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, Unisa’s Deputy Registrar and Political Analyst, with Unisa Radio breakfast show host, Olethabo Maboya facilitating the discussion.
With a fundamental shift in the culture of entrepreneurship and the way in which businessmen are viewed, the problem, Maphosa believes, is that many youngsters deem entrepreneurship successful only when it’s in the league of English entrepreneur Richard Branson and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale to name a few. He urged that entrepreneurship be triggered by a need in society and should respond to social issues.
Echoing this, Ngubane spoke of his own experiences as a businessman where his ventures sometimes take him to Nigeria. “Whenever I am in Nigeria I see it’s not about the conditions, it’s about the entrepreneur. It’s about how you see value in your society and try to unpack your entrepreneurial flair.” Dishing out strong words on complacency, he said, “If you’re still waiting for funding and if you’re still waiting for people, you’re not an entrepreneur.”
Acknowledging that unemployment is the biggest issue facing SA youth, which comes with the social evils of crime, drug abuse and poverty, Mamabolo believes that those who question the place of education in entrepreneurship stand on dangerous ground. Referring to the likes of Richard Branson and Microsoft Boss, Bill Gates, where it’s been reported, education played a minimal part in their entrepreneurial success, Mamabolo said, “We shouldn’t make a rule out of exceptions. The more literate a society is, the more likely it is to produce successful entrepreneurs. In addition to education, you need skills; as entrepreneurship is knowledge-based. There is a distinct correlation between education and entrepreneurship.”
Relating to Maphosa’s point on the culture of entrepreneurship, Prof Maluleke urged youngsters to stop thinking of entrepreneurship only in terms of the likes of celebrated South African businessmen, Herman Mashaba and Richard Maponya. “Instead, it should come from a personal level that allows you to do something for yourself and your dependents. “We have to scale down on this notion of what entrepreneurship should look like,” he said.
With education being his everyday platform, Prof Maluleke believes that there’s an entrepreneur in each and every person. “Some of us murder that entrepreneur and some allow it to emerge, blossom, learn and to grow. The challenge faced in this country is releasing as many entrepreneurs as possible from inside the chests of millions of South Africans.”
For Prof Maluleke, the argument of whether education is needed or not does not exist. “However, we sometimes confuse certificates with education. We forget that certificates and titles are rituals and markers that are not necessarily the only forms of recognition showing that a person has skills. We should never rubbish any form of education, formal or informal. Education is a tool to help you think and a tool to help facilitate the development of yourself and others. One thing I have never come across is a person that is poor and struggling because they are educated.”
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