An on-going challenge in South Africa, where the youth unemployment rate is estimated to be approximately 60%, is to provide jobs and opportunities for the youth. When considering the idealistic and optimistic nature that today’s youth are synonymous with, the country needs to realise that this generation could potentially redefine the current status quo – if we harness it correctly.
This is according to Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, who says that millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – possess the entrepreneurial spirit and characteristics that are necessary to create employment and start businesses to combat unemployment in the country.
“Entrepreneurship requires a certain set of characteristics, as building a business takes vision and determination. Millennials possess such characteristics, and although they have been described by older generations as being sheltered from criticism and being self-absorbed, there is something inspirational about this generation.”
She says that while some may associate millennials - or Gen-Y, as they are sometimes referred to - as self-entitled, these individuals possess numerous inherent traits of a great entrepreneur. “Millennials have grown up during a time where information is instantly available, thereby making them more creative and self-assured, given that answers to their problems are just a Google search away. Their connection with social media also allows them to network more easily. These individuals also favour working in teams, and have a very social responsibility mindset – they care about the world and their place in it.”
Mjadu adds that another reason millennials have the potential to be great entrepreneurs is their characteristics of being irrational and wildly optimistic, as it is these characteristics that can aid in saving the business when an entrepreneur is out of options, or when drastic decisions need to be taken to stay afloat.
Research reveals that entrepreneurs, and the new businesses that they create, play a critical role in society and the economy as a whole, yet the country isn’t adequately equipping the youth to pursue this career option. “We need a new approach to job creation as we cannot rely on the old way of thinking, where one’s life course was predetermined by parents and/or teachers who likely taught the youth to be a job seeker, as opposed to a job creator,” says Mjadu.
The South African school system does not effectively equip or prepare youth to consider, as well as embark, on an entrepreneurial journey. “Compared to the USA, which has seen the rise of entrepreneurship education on campus, with more than 5000 entrepreneurship courses and more than 400,000 students a year opting to sign up for these classes since 2008. According to the Kauffman State of Entrepreneurship 2015 address, South African lags behind as many school-leavers do not have sufficient skills to participate actively in the economy.”
Mjadu adds that while the youth need to be educated on entrepreneurship at school level, the period post university needs to a focus time for nurturing and supporting these potential budding entrepreneurs.
She acknowledges that access to finance is a limitation for youth and that this does hinder some from progressing on their entrepreneurial quest. “Many millennials are at a disadvantage as they do not have sufficient capital to start a business, or security to secure financing. Young entrepreneurs shouldn’t be discouraged though as there is always a way should you have a winning business plan. There are also institutions such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (sefa) that can assist with financing to get entrepreneurial initiatives off the ground.
“Millennials have more opportunities available than ever before, and should be capitalising on these to understand the significant impact they can play in the greater economy by harnessing their unique opportunities and making something great out of it,” Mjadu concludes.