by Staff Reporter on 18/07/12 at 3:10 pm
There’s something about the mix of the energy of youth and a little support that can result in unlimited potential. That’s why much is said about youth entrepreneurship being so important. Unfortunately, in South Africa, no connection exists between the youth and that ever so critical support and therefore limits prevail. Well, until now that is.
For a week, early in June, 30 young global entrepreneurs attended the Power of Youth South Africa Summit in Cape Town, to discuss issues of unemployment and seek solutions for the barriers restricting entrepreneurialism in the country. The summit brought together powerful entrepreneurs in the likes of Roa Chen, founder of RenRen (China’s Facebook), Maikel Beerens, winner of the 2011 Shell Live Wire prize for entrepreneurship, and John Roberts, founder of the Open University of West Africa.
Power of Youth is a growing community of entrepreneurs from 16 countries who showcase innovative business practices, design programmes for young entrepreneurs, and work closely with policy-makers. The organisation also encourages new and ethical business practices that incorporate collaboration instead of competitiveness, and that have a social impact. Their first summit was held last year in Beijing.
“The aim of the summit was to stimulate youth entrepreneurship and employment, through peer-to-peer interaction,” says entrepreneur Stuart Minnaar, who brought the summit to South Africa. Minnaar is an alumnus of the UCT Graduate School of Business AIM programme and a national winner of the SAB Kickstarter 2011 competition.
He says the decision to host the summit in Cape Town came after a snappy six-minute skype session between himself and the young founder of the Power of Youth, Adam Purvis.
“They are so driven to make a change in the world, to help young entrepreneurs succeed in the world, that it took no time at all to convince them of the need for a summit here,” he says.
And what a great need the country has. South Africa has a population of roughly 49 million people of which 70% are between the ages of 14 and 35. Of these, according to the Congress of South African Trade Unions, more than 70% are out of work. According to Minnaar,33% own their own business but 43% do this out of necessity rather than opportunity.
“So we see this entrepreneurial spirit, whether out of desperation or not. It exists. But, these businesses are doomed to fail or never grow because the entrepreneurs lack support, both financial and otherwise,” says Minnaar. According to him, close to 75% of the youth are not aware of the existing support programmes.
“The support for entrepreneurs is there, but the connection between that support and the young entrepreneur in the township, doesn’t exist,” he says. “There are many initiatives to encourage youth entrepreneurs but everything seems in a state of havoc, very much scattered about, diluting the effort,” he says.
The Power of Youth Summit was coordinated and managed by a team of powerful young entrepreneurs. The team consisted of the UK based Power of Youth team (Adam Purvis, Alex Scott-Tonge and GurjitLalli Singh), Stuart Minnaar (as the South African member), and was facilitated by Ilana Wetzler, Tim Hartley, Mich Joffe and Noa Zajav.
As a result of the meeting of minds at the summit, Minnaar and other South African entrepreneurs have undertaken the task of creating a council for young entrepreneurs, that will aim to connect the top with the bottom, the money and support with the ideas and determination of the youth. This could effectively begin to solve the accessibility conundrum in the country.
“This generation, if given the tools, will do amazing things, in the right kind of environment,” he says. “The youth can be incredibly industrious.”
Proving how industrious young people can be with some money in their pocket and the challenge to make the sum grow, the charity, WildHearts, running an initiative called Micro-Tyco, gave £1 each to 550 teams from schools, colleges, universities and businesses last year to see who could raise the most money.
Participants were given the £1 seed capital, and keeping things legal – the only rule – had to grow that in four weeks under the mentorship of some of the world’s top entrepreneurs. The results were inspiring, and incredible.
In first place, raising £19,008.72 was Deloitte. That can be expected from a big company. But in second place, raising £9527.37, beating colleges, businesses and universities, was a group of ten-year-olds from St Joseph’s Primary School, in Aberdeen, UK.
Learning from the challenge, a little boy from the school in Aberdeen, named Peter, now 11, said that it doesn’t matter how much money you have, but how much imagination you have.
Overall, £106,882 was raised, invested by WildHearts as micro-finance in 21 countries across the world.
In a video promoting Micro Tyco, Founder of WildHearts, Mike Jackson, said: “Micro-Tyco is a business challenge designed to ignite the spirit of enterprise inside of you.”
Igniting the spirit in South Africa, Minnaar believes, will depend on education firstly, and secondly, more creative approaches to making access to support for young business-minded people easier. That means aligning the private, public and NGO sectors with the drive to help the youth help themselves.
One such organisation, though under heavy fire last year for spending millions on a less than grand occasion celebrating youth development, is the National Youth Development Agency. The NYDA acts as a facilitator between the youth, the private and the public sectors. The NYDA was also the core sponsor of the Power of Youth South African Summit.
At present, and for the next 12 months, the agency is running a national campaign calling on the youth to ‘Be Limitless’ in an attempt to instill in the youth the mind-set that ‘I am limitless’.
And really what is the point of all this, entrepreneurial development, youth agencies, micro finance charities, summits, if not to ensure that in times when dreams abound, nothing hinders the attainment of them. Be it individual dreams of personal development and enrichment, of emancipation, or national dreams of unity, equity, and economic development.
Ideate is one of South Africa's biggest business blogs, with a team of authors all of whom have had entrepreneurial experience. Ideate is read by entrepreneurs thinking BIG. Follow us on Twitter here. View more articles by Staff Reporter.