The vital need to empower young people through entrepreneurial education

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Entrepreneurial education is becoming increasingly important to empower young people in South Africa.

The most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report (2019/2020) reveals that entrepreneurial activity between the ages of 18 -44 is lower in South Africa than in any other African region.

This is not surprising since South Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has been rated one of the most challenging in the world, with almost 50% of South Africans citing fear of failure for not starting a business.

According to Statistics SA, the current unemployment figure for South Africa stands at 32.6% and entrepreneurship is often touted as the key to combatting the youth unemployment crisis in the country. 

One way of changing this statistic is through increasing awareness of the entrepreneurial resources that are available to young people.

In short, entrepreneurial education!

This was a key message to emerge from a recent career webinar attended by global speakers and hosted by KMF. 

“With all the current challenges in SA, many argue that being an entrepreneur is just too risky, however, SA can offer extraordinary opportunities for growth and revitalisation. The resources for entrepreneurs are available, they just need to be empowered, and from a young age,” says KMF CEO, Lauren Bright.

Addressing ‘entrepreneurial fatigue’

Speaking on the aforementioned career webinar, Simon Pickett, Director of International Energy Management Company, Eldo, said that there are investors who are always looking to back entrepreneurs.

“There is money out there waiting to back good ideas, both in South Africa and globally, it’s just a matter of connecting the two.”

This is where entrepreneurship education can play a vital role.

In KMF’s learner research, lack of funding or capital support is listed as a huge barrier to pursuing an entrepreneurial path.

Grade 12 KMF scholar, Aluthando, from Cape Town says “What stands in my way of being an entrepreneur is funding. Starting a business requires capital, and I’d have to get a loan. Also, economically South Africa isn’t an ideal place to start a business.”  

Grade 10 KMF scholar, Sesethu says that considering entrepreneurship is not viable as she wouldn’t know where to start. “I fear that I don’t have the knowledge on how to run a successful business.” 

Bright emphasises the importance of changing this mindset in young people.

“There is a feeling of powerlessness and ‘entrepreneurial fatigue’ amongst scholars and graduates that needs to be addressed.”

KMF recently launched its Catapult career programme to help learners network and to link them up with mentors in their field of interest.

Access to resources is so important. We have to bridge the access gap and expose learners at school age already to the options they have. By helping them network and find mentorship, they can get the support they need to pursue their ideas,” says Bright.

Entrepreneurial education requires resources

Speaking on the career webinar, KMF Board Member, Eva-Maria Dimitriadis, highlighted the entrepreneurial resources that more young people need to be made aware of.

“For new entrepreneurs there are numerous incubators, accelerators and boot camps designed to help them scale their ideas. These programs provide access to resources, mentors and training to help leapfrog a few of the initial start-up hurdles. Some of them also offer seed funding.”

By supporting potential entrepreneurs early on and equipping them at school level with entrepreneurial knowledge and skills, they can then use these tools to promote self-directed job creation.

Over and above the knowledge and skills needed to start a business, Bright points out that entrepreneurship education holds several other benefits for young people, such as attitudes that they can use in everyday life or future employment situations. 

Below she lists key areas she believes can help drive entrepreneurship education in the country: 

  • Reaching young people at school level – by sowing the seed at school level already, learners will be more likely to consider entrepreneurship if they are aware of the support that’s possible.
  • Making resources and funding accessible – government and private funding support are always needed, but more than this, it needs to be easier for young learners to qualify for and receive funds. There is currently a gap between what young entrepreneurs need and the funding that’s offered. 
  • Driving continuous entrepreneurship education – there is a lot of great resources for young learners and graduates, but if they aren’t informed about these resources, they can’t use them. Entrepreneurial programmes, workshops, start-up training, career coaches, etc. need to have their finger on the pulse and continuously equip young people with this knowledge. Often training is very siloed, but there needs to be a more holistic approach. 
  • Mentorship and social influence – it’s often assumed that the mentee needs to find the mentor, but mentors can reach out to young people who show an interest in entrepreneurship and initiate the coaching relationship. We also need to instil entrepreneurial values in learners at a societal and community level. 

Learn more about the KMF Support Programs.