Addressing Africa’s Socio-Economic Challenges Through Entrepreneurship

June marked the Youth Month in South Africa. During this time there were various public and private interventions to highlight challenges faced by young people as well as various outreach and support programs in aid of this.

Various accords were formed in the past looking particularly at the youth, of importance are;

  • Youth Accord which is a commitment to create 5 million new jobs by 2020.
  • Education Accord which sets out a framework for partnership to strengthen the performance of the nation’s schools which impacts directly on the ability of young people’s employability.
  • National skills accord, which seeks to equip school leavers with skills.
  • Local procurement accord supporting the efforts to re-industrialise South Africa and increase employment opportunities.

South Africa in particular and Africa in a general are faced with varied challenges such as vast youth unemployment, poverty, and poor levels of education to name a few.

Entrepreneurship as an intervention to these challenges is an opportunity for young people to work for themselves as well as create opportunities for other young people who are unemployed thus up-skilling them and providing means for them to feed their families and contribute economically to the country. This is also an opportunity to bring those considered to be marginalised into the mainstreams of the economy. The bigger outcome however, is the developing of new markets and reviving of otherwise dormant economies.

As a starting point we need to enhance our own skills and capabilities and further grow our intellectual capital by understanding what the issues really are. After all, entrepreneurship is the ability to identify challenges and address them through a product or service.

As young people in South Africa we need to expand our thinking by realising that these issues are not just ours alone. It is by collaborating with other young people in the rest of our continent that we begin to find smarter solutions to these problems. It’s not just a wonderful South Africa that we strive for, but an Africa that is free from poverty and inequality for us all, because “when it rains it does not rain on just one man’s house”.

Social issues tend to be universal in nature, and as we look at the face of the young people in South Africa, you’ll see that they are from other parts of Africa too such as Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and Uganda and the like. By this fact alone we need to work from common ground which is that we want a better Africa. There is a lot we can do together, far more than what we do when our efforts are isolated.

In Gauteng alone, women have a higher life expectancy than men yet in the same vein young women between the ages of 15 and 34 have a higher unemployment rate. In west and east Africa even north and central Africa young women experience a similar challenge. Women’s as the bearers of life and guardians of children are impacted the most such as when there is no clean drinking water women are the ones who need to walk for miles to find a water pump..

What is important to note is young people are not just leaders of the future; we are leading right now. We have the power and voice to speak up. We are inheriting this world and its problems from those who came before us. In order for the future to be bright, we need to ensure that we bring others along with us and to begin with, let us advocate on better living conditions for all and the “scrapping” of the red tape around starting a business.

I truly believe we can solve Africa’s socio-economic challenges through entrepreneurship and there is already a small movement towards this through initiatives such as the Hook-Up Dinner for one and many other “movements” which create platforms for start-ups to form communities of practice.

Africa’s problems truly can be solved through entrepreneurship. At face value this appears to be a sweeping statement but let’s consider that the public and private sectors are no longer able to absorb as many of us into formal employment as they used to. Those who can are start – ups. Start-ups are innovators; they have new solutions to our problems and are using their businesses as a means to solve them. They have the capacity to hire young people and that is why the government through various instruments namely youth set asides, is looking to provide opportunities to youth owned start-ups. So let us advocate for the doing away of processes that strangle the growth of this sector.

We need to engage embassies, and organisations such as the African development bank, requesting that they help us identify the gaps, ask them to help us figure out where to play.

Just a few facts around intra Africa trade; almost 90% of South Africa’s exports to the rest of Africa go to the SADC economies. In 2011, South Africa’s trade with the rest of Africa exceeded R220 billion (approx. USD30bn) which amounted to 17% of SA’s total trade with the world. This amounted to a R40bn trade surplus for South Africa compared to a R68bn deficit with Asia. South African exports to the rest of Africa are predominantly of value-added goods. The country’s investment stock in Africa has increased from R14.7 billion in 2001 to R121 billion in 2010, amounting to 21% of its total outward Foreign Direct Investment.

Imagine just for a moment the statistics if we had more entrepreneurs.

entrepreneurship

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