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Could entrepreneurship unlock prosperity for Africa?
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South Africa’s unemployment rate increased in the third quarter of 2018 to close to 28%, equating to approximately 6.21 million individuals. SA is by no means in isolatio n: unemployment is on the rise in regions across Africa, placing big burdens on states traversing the continent. The National Development Plan, recent Jobs Summit and Youth Employment Service (YES) all begin to address the underlying issues at play in South Africa.  

However it becomes increasingly clear that enterprise development and entrepreneurship are critical to combat unemployment and catalyse sustained economic growth.

De Wet Schoeman, Programme Director for Entrepreneurship at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, Executive Development (USB-ED), says it is imperative for South Africa to adopt an alternative approach to boost the rate of employment, “We need to teach people as from school level how to be employers rather than employees.”

To this end, USB-ED has developed the Young Minds Entrepreneurship programme. This gap year programme takes matriculants on a personal journey of analysing themselves and the economic environment in order to discover what exactly they want to do with their lives and how they’ll practically achieve these ambitions. Entrepreneurial behaviour and business skills are big areas of focus during the programme.

De Wet says, “In a depressed economy, programmes like these can have a positive impact in influencing and upskilling young people to create employment and opportunities that can stimulate growth from the grassroots up."

When looking at Forbes’ list of the 30 Most Promising Entrepreneurs in Africa in 2018, it is clear that Africa is booming with entrepreneurial potential. These young people hail from all over the continent and their ingenious understanding of how to come up with innovative solutions to key socio-economic issues is profound.


"In a depressed economy, programmes like these can have a positive impact in influencing and upskilling young people to create employment and opportunities that can stimulate growth from the grassroots up"

De Wet Schoeman, Programme Director for Entrepreneurship at USB-ED

The current state of entrepreneurship in Africa

According to the African Economic Outlook (AEO) report, published by the African Development Bank, up to 22% of Africa’s working-age population are starting new businesses. Africa is leading the world when it comes to new start-ups. Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs); those with fewer than 20 employees and less than 5 years’ experience, now constitute the largest providers of formal jobs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Entrepreneurial activity in Sub-Saharan Africa is on the increase with several African countries starting to move to opportunity entrepreneurship, rather than necessity entrepreneurship. According to research in the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 70.9% of African respondents stated that they had chosen to pursue an opportunity as the basis for their entrepreneurial motivations.

Schoeman says that the time has come to change the narrative when it comes to job creation. We need to encourage the youth to use their skills and talents to create their own opportunities and ventures to hatch further employment opportunities, thereby bringing hope to many that are, for now, another statistic in the growing problem of unemployment.


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