In May 2017, the Department of Basic Education formalised a 13-year blueprint to embed practical Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship and Employability Training into the National School Curriculum, from grades R to 11 (grade 12 learners will focus only on their matric exams). Furthermore, the Department is eager to work with non-profits that are currently supporting youth entrepreneurship to roll out this plan.
It was against this backdrop that a panel discussion on youth and entrepreneurship took place at Trialogue’s 2017 Business in Society Conference.
South Africa currently has one of the lowest levels of entrepreneurship in the world, and the lowest level of all African countries. In 2011, Kgalema Motlanthe convened an enabling entrepreneurship task team, chaired by Taddy Blecher. Motlanthe’s motivation was to reduce youth unemployment (the third highest in the world) by making South Africa more entrepreneurial.
The task team was assigned to research schools, universities, colleges, and the small business space, to discover how best to enable entrepreneurship in the South African context. Following this, they were required to develop a set of national recommendations for entrepreneurship.
Once they have matriculated, a very small percentage of South African school leavers will find jobs. An even smaller percentage of these graduates will go on to complete tertiary studies. As such, the development of entrepreneurial competence and getting young people to believe in themselves is of upmost importance.
Panellists agreed that South African youth need to create their own jobs by building businesses around gaps in the market – value adding ideas that will change the way people do things, rather than ‘quick fixes’.
Many young people starting businesses come from advantaged backgrounds. However, the parents of disadvantaged youth rarely talk to their children about business. Many of these youths’ are exposed to limited forms of entrepreneurship, such as the local selling of fruit and vegetables and, as a result, view entrepreneurship as a means of survival, rather than as an empowering way to be self-sustaining and even to create jobs.
In addition, South Africans seem to have the mindset that they are not capable of entrepreneurship. The enabling entrepreneurship task team found that only 40% of South Africans felt that they could build a successful business. Elsewhere in Africa, this percentage is far higher (e.g. 90% in Nigeria).
Although the enabling entrepreneurship task team found that not all youth have the ability to become entrepreneurs, the panellists agreed that the following conditions would allow for the development of an entrepreneurial generation of South African youth:
- Entrepreneurship must become a life skill that is taught by parents and at schools.
Parents and teachers need to be empowered to start conversations about business with their children. Parents, even those that are not business-minded, can assist their children by directing them to online resources, such as Ted Talks and podcasts, on entrepreneurship.
- Interventions must be repeated and ongoing.
Many young people have great ideas, but are unsure about how to take them forward. In addition, they want to start businesses quickly, and are often unaware that business development is an ongoing process. As such, interventions to develop entrepreneurship must be repeated and ongoing – they cannot simply be once-off.
- Provision of role models and mentors.
Local South African role models can inspire youth, and show them that entrepreneurship is possible.
The national blueprint for including entrepreneurial content into the grade R to 11 school syllabi over the next 13 years will include many of the above elements. The government policy for this project will be to partner and collaborate with non-profits, to ensure repeated interventions, provision of role models, and empowerment of parents and teachers to start business conversations with learners. This programme will create the necessary environment to build entrepreneurship, and to facilitate entrepreneurial thinking from a young age.