10 Ways to get more young people into the engine room of our economy


According to data released by Statistics South Africa this week , SA’s unemployment rate has increased by 1.4% in Q2 of 2019 to 29%, the highest level since Q1 of 2008. We must create more opportunities for young people to enter the job market. But where will all the jobs come from? Currently employing half of South Africa’s labour-force and contributing a third of its GDP, small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) seem like the obvious solution. The question becomes, how best to develop our youth as entrepreneurs. And how to more effectively support the SMMEs already operating.

A much-needed dialogue on the practicalities of job creation was hosted recently by Sanlam in collaboration with the iMadiba Project. One of the panelists at the debate entitled ‘Macro conversations in micro spaces’, was Gugu Mjadu – spokesperson for the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards sponsored by Sanlam and Business Partners – who said not every business idea will be a unicorn like Facebook. But every idea can make a difference. It comes down to spotting local challenges and turning these into opportunities that provide real-world solves to South Africans.

Panelist Zuko Tisani, General Partner at Opus Ventures and owner of Legazy Technology Conferencing (which has sponsored over 80 start-ups), agreed, adding that one of the big issues is that entrepreneurs don’t create South African solutions for South African problems, “We need to take off our business hats and put on our problem-solving hats. Who are we solving a problem for and why? Entrepreneurs must problem-solve for key elements in our unique ecosystem, rather than mimicking Facebook or Uber.”

This discussion formed part of an hour-long conversation on SMEs held in the evocative setting of the iMadiba micro-museum on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. Built to mimic the specifications of Madiba’s prison cell and to catalyse conversations of change, the micro-museum was the optimal setting for the topical debate, hosted by SA media industry icon Joanne Joseph.

Here are some of the key takeaways for stakeholders – parents, government, corporates, SMMEs and individual South Africans – on how to relook entrepreneurship to unleash the full might of SMMEs. Panelists included Mjadu and Tisane, as well as Vere Shaba, founder and director of Shaba Africa, a 100% black-owned consulting firm; and 30-year-old university lecturer in molecular medicine Thulile Khanyile, co-founder and chief operations officer at Nka’Thuto Education Propeller – a non-profit organisation.