What Young Entrepreneurs Really Need to Succeed – The role of Corporates

This article forms part of SME South Africa’s Youth Month 2018 series ‘A Seat at the Table’ – an exploration of SA Youth’s efforts to step up and effect positive change. Follow all our #YouthMonth2018 coverage here.

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To help solve the country’s challenges such as the high unemployment rate and an uninspiring economy, the role of the private sector cannot be underestimated.

There are companies that are playing their part by investing their big budgets and time in helping to advance entrepreneurship in the country by providing much-needed support to promising young entrepreneurs.

Zoleka Lisa works as Sustainability Director for one of the biggest corporates supporting  youth entrepreneurship in the country – SAB and AB InBev. 

Lisa heads the company’s entrepreneurship programmes including SAB KickStart and the SAB Foundation which has a specific focus on youth entrepreneurship development. The programme offers business and personal development skills to young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35 who are looking to elevate their businesses to new heights.

Lisa says their focus on young entrepreneurs stems from their belief that young people are the main drivers of economic growth.

“As a result, we are committed to enabling a game-changing impact of empowering local youth owned businesses to become reliable and sustainable suppliers to industry organisations.”

The role of big business – Lisa gives us insider info on helping entrepreneurs succeed. 

Why we need young people to be entrepreneurs

South African youth contribute passion, innovation and exciting energy to the South African entrepreneurship world – they are risk takers and unapologetic on what it is they want. Young entrepreneurs are not afraid to take risks and are constantly searching for new and innovative solutions whilst exploring various sectors.

It”s important to acknowledge during this Youth Month that without the constant need to explore and improve from our youth entrepreneurs, the state of entrepreneurship in this country would not be at the level that it is today.

There is a lack of access to opportunities

“Access to the right opportunities” is one of the biggest challenges. Access to relevant information and skills, access to business opportunities, access to supply chains and access to appropriate enterprise and supplier development programmes.

Since many youth in our country have to overcome the “Access” hurdle this year, the SAB Kick Start has ramped up its programme reach and scope to impact 600 young people across the country. This even extends into supporting two youth townships hubs in Mohlakeng and Umlazi.

This month we are really looking forward to our second annual KickStart Buyers’ Market providing our young entrepreneurs with access to the teams that make buying decision for SAB getting to pitch their business but also understand what it really takes to supply one of the country’s largest supply chains – allowing for much engagement and learning both ways.

The global youth unemployment crisis, along with climate change, is one of the great challenges of our time

A fresh approach to problem-solving

We are at a point in time where the sustainability challenges faced by Africa, and the rest of the world, are numerous and significant. There has never been a better time to find innovative solutions within smart agriculture, water stewardship, climate action, circular packaging and entrepreneurship, guided by the spirit of collaboration.

I believe that Government has a role to play in making policy decisions that will enable an environment that is conducive for youth-owned businesses to thrive.

Sustainability and brand purpose is really important to many young people and we are tapping into this energy and drive to help us crowdsource new ideas to tackle our sustainability ambitions.

We are reaching out to youth innovators and disruption across the continent, young people who are ahead of the pack in their respective enterprises and who are keen to collaborate and accept the support of a global brewery.

It’s encouraging to see programmes such as the Youth Employment Service (YES) working to collaborate with the private sector to provide practical, meaningful and measurable ways to include young people in the economy

Government and the private sector need to play their part

I believe the South African Government has a critical role to play in partnership with the private sector. Government has a number of agencies and programmes that are focussed on youth entrepreneurship, but they need to ensure that these programmes are accessible, relevant and most importantly are impactful.

The programmes offered by our government should also guide and support the youth entrepreneurs from the onset of their entrepreneurship journey and provide adequate post-programme support. Further to that, I believe that Government has a role to play in making policy decisions that will enable an environment that is conducive for youth-owned businesses to thrive.

Youth entrepreneurship as an answer to unemployment

The global youth unemployment crisis, along with climate change, is one of the great challenges of our time. In South Africa, the unemployment rate is very high – more so among young people aged 15–34, at 38%, it implies that more than one in every three young people in the labour force did not have a job in the first quarter of 2018.

Given this back drop youth entrepreneurship is indeed a great opportunity for young people, but it requires a focussed, outcomes-based approach to building a thriving entrepreneurial culture.

We are seeing some progress

It’s encouraging to see programmes such as the Youth Employment Service (YES) working to collaborate with the private sector to provide practical, meaningful and measurable ways to include young people in the economy.

Having recently adjudicated the Business Day Supplier Development Awards it was really exciting to see how businesses are partnering with governments to ensure that young people are included in supply chains and through localisation projects.

Whilst many programme leads indicate its hard work – when done right organisations working with the public sector can open up exciting opportunities for young people.

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Michelle Strydom
Michelle Strydom
I'm a journalist for online publication, SME South Africa. I'm a BA journalism graduate from the University of Johannesburg. My areas of focus when it comes to writing are entrepreneurs, startups, marketing and funding. I also enjoy creative writing and proofreading.