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Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Africa Report – Omidyar Network

Written by Linda McClure, Managing Director of Junior Achievement South Africa

The recently released research report published by Omidyar Network in partnership with Monitor Group makes interesting reading and warrants comment.

The report, titled Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Africa: Understanding Africa’s Challenges to Creating Opportunity-driven Entrepreneurship, surveyed entrepreneurs in six sub-Saharan countries, the results of which were then benchmarked against 19 global peers.

The survey focussed on four critical aspects of entrepreneurial environments:

–          Entrepreneurship assets (financing, skills and talents, and infrastructure)

–          Business support (government programmes and incubation)

–          Policy accelerators (legislation and administrative burdens)

–          Motivations and mindset (legitimacy, attitudes, and culture)

In South Africa, 75% of respondents do not believe that schools devote enough time to teaching entrepreneurship in schools.  As such, there are limited opportunities for learners to experience hands on learning in the field of business and entrepreneurship so necessary to foster and develop the practical thinking and problem solving skills essential when embarking on an entrepreneurial career.

Yet the education department has disappointingly excluded Economic and Management Sciences from the primary school curriculum, with the exception of Grade 7. This is not good for a country so desperately in need of new and sustainable businesses to not only grow our economy but address the extremely high levels of unemployment.

But what an opportunity for an organisation such as Junior Achievement which has actively worked in the school environment for over 33 years, providing exactly the kind of programmes recommended by this research – recommendations including entrepreneurial and vocational training being integrated into the education system, career guidance counselling that encourages entrepreneurship as a career, and the celebration of successful entrepreneurs to encourage those just starting out.

This is exactly what Junior Achievement is about. We fill a critical need in the education space where we run practical, hands on entrepreneurship education programmes, nationwide, during the course of which learners start up and run a REAL business. Market research is conducted, a product selected, money changes hands and is recorded and managed accordingly and profits are shared.

And participants may struggle with business risks, team conflicts, product and sales challenges, disappointing sales, and low profits. BUT they all learn the essential skills to move onto an entrepreneurial career upon leaving school with a can do and positive attitude.

And many of them do. Take Nthuthuko Shezi, who runs a successful 24 hour mobile panel beating business based conveniently at OR Tambo International Airport; Keagile Makgoba who offers services and catering to parties; Takura Mutemasango who runs youth empowerment programmes while managing her own handbag designing business; and Zaza Motha who launched a self-empowerment movement for young woman.

Through Junior Achievement Programmes, in 2012, over 2 000 high school learners across the country experienced the realities of starting up a small business.  We reached over 14 500 primary school learners with our financial literacy and environmental entrepreneurship programmes.  Although we are pleased with our reach, representing an increase from 2011 of 87%, we are not even reaching 1% of school learners. To achieve this, we need the support of the department of education and funding from all sectors – government, corporates and foundations. It is in the interests of all us in the country to ensure that young people develop the skills needed to actively and productively participate in the economy.

Our success in the school environment has lead us into the out of school youth unemployed sector with an action learning, incubator style programme for small groups of young, unemployed BUT enthusiastic and motivated individuals. With funding from Absa, we have launched 5 programmes in Gauteng alone, reaching over 170 unemployed youth to date, with more programmes planned for launch over the year. In 2012, we ran a number of these programmes in Cape Town with great success. It is indeed very gratifying to witness a student who, in his own words, has never completed anything before in his life, attending every programme session, and launching his own successful business offering a delivery service to take away food outlets.

The research also shows that although attitudes towards entrepreneurship as a viable and aspirational career are changing, only 44% of South African respondents agree that “most people consider becoming an entrepreneur a desirable career choice”, and only 47% agree that those who have started new businesses have a higher level of respect than a manager in a corporate. To address this relatively low level of respect, the research recommends programmes and media initiatives that honour the journeys of successful entrepreneurs and encourage those who have failed to try again.

So let’s celebrate our successes, ever mindful of the growing need, while grasping every opportunity we have to develop and grow young entrepreneurs. Join us in our work and see the massive impact we can have in developing entrepreneurial thinking in the young people of South Africa.

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