JUNE 16 will this year mark the 45th anniversary of one of the most pivotal events in South African history when thousands of students took to the streets to protest against an unequal and unjust schooling system.
While 1976 brought many realities to light, the most poignant reality – one which I have been reflecting on recently – is that the opinions, words and actions of our youth matter.
What the youth believe, say and do plays a central role in what the future of this country will look like.
Despite challenges, the youth still offer hope. We reached a concerning milestone in our democracy as the youth unemployment rose to 46.3 percent in the first quarter, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. We have to acknowledge that over the years we’ve seen some success stories coming from youth support programmes throughout both the public and private sector that we can build on.
We are waking up to the fact that an investment into our youth is a direct and sustainable investment into our future. We have far to go.
The recent statistic from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor South Africa (Gem SA) report showed a substantial increase in the number of people who believe that there is an abundance of opportunities to start a business in South Africa.
We are commemorating Youth Day against the backdrop of a very different world. South Africa has been swept up by the seismic shift caused by Covid19 and the climate change imperative has reached new heights. Leaders in green entrepreneurship are stepping up in a big way to contribute towards the solution.
In the digital age and what we now refer to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the youth of South Africa should be taking their place among the youth of the world. South African problems are world problems, and world problems are South African problems.
As businesses, private investors, and governmental organisations, there has never been a better time to invest in youth entrepreneurship.
Even in the midst of a paradigm-shifting pandemic, we have seen the inspiring perseverance and tenacity of young South African entrepreneurs demonstrated in businesses like grocery delivery service, Zulzi.com.
We saw local fashion brand Maxhosa Africa shift its focus from brickand-mortar retail to an e-commerce offering, to the benefit of the brand and its employees.
South African sneaker brands such Drip and Emerging Entrepreneur as awardee at the 2019 Business Partners Ltd Entrepreneur of the Year® competition – Bathu – are growing in leaps and bounds in spite of the pandemic. Innovation is everywhere, we just have to open our eyes to see it.
This is not just about larger, more profitable brands: micro-entrepreneurs, we are looking to you as the next generation of leaders.
We see you in your homes, creating baked goods to sell at a market, or in your first creative space, honing your artistic skill while burning the midnight oil. South Africa sees you and encourages you to keep going.
Today, we resonate with the words of former president Nelson Mandela in his Youth Day speech in 1994:
“Let us all rise to the challenge of the freedom that we have won. That challenge is to create a better life for all South Africans: to create jobs, to provide free quality education and open up opportunities for skills training, to build houses, to provide health facilities and other basic services. Let us together answer the question, ’so where to now?’ with a new youthful determination to learn, to build and to live life to the full. The country thirsts for your talents and energy.”
Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited
*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites