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The future of youth entrepreneurship in South Africa


The future of youth entrepreneurship in South Africa

South Africa’s staggering youth unemployment rate has prompted youngsters to venture into entrepreneurship to generate an income and participate in the economy. The role of entrepreneurship in tackling youth unemployment in South Africa is a crucial point of discussion. There is a growing need for public and private sectors to think about the future of youth entrepreneurship and the skills required by current and future entrepreneurs to survive and thrive in the present and future contexts.

Dr Olebogeng Selebi, Deputy Director of the University of Pretoria’s Centre for the Future of Work (CFoW), recently addressed this subject in a seminar presented by the University of Leeds’ Virtual International Programme (VIP).

The VIP was born from a need to adapt to a changing world during the height of the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020, which disrupted learning and other essential aspects of student life internationally. The 2020 programme sought to bring international insights into business across the globe through online interactive webinars, workshops and lectures, and to offer the best international learning experience possible during the pandemic. Participants in the 2022 VIP, which took place from 26 to 28 July 2022, were from Pakistan, the United States, Switzerland, India, the United Kingdom and South Africa, and attempted to find answers to the following questions through their presentations: What is the future of work? How are companies changing across the globe? Which skills will be most needed?

Topics that were discussed included the future of work: continuity and change during and after the COVID pandemic; skills for the future; changes in organisational structure and value creation; and the future of product management and remote work.

Dr Selebi conducted an interactive virtual seminar on the future of youth entrepreneurship in South Africa. During her presentation, she noted that although enterprises run by youth contribute significantly to the economy, they tend to have high failure rates. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) particularly perform poorly and often fail completely in their early stages. She stated that youth entrepreneurship in South Africa can only thrive if young entrepreneurs receive the support needed to ensure success. “Many young South African entrepreneurs are unable to meet their business goals for successful business operations, thus support is needed specifically from external stakeholders, such as universities, private institutions and/or government,” she said.

To support the entrepreneurial ambitions of youth in Mamelodi, Pretoria and develop their entrepreneurial skills, the University of Pretoria recently launched the Mamelodi Business Hub.

Dr Selebi explained the importance of applying a futuristic lens when discussing youth entrepreneurship: “When we talk about the Future of Work (FoW), as a developing field of research and knowledge, it is important that we discuss it from inter-, multi- and trans-disciplinary perspectives that include various disciplines and span across all professional and institutional boundaries.”

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