We’ve been through a tumultuous past few years marked by disruption, economic volatility, and the increasing complexity of challenges such as poverty, inequality, and unemployment. Meanwhile, South Africa’s youth have been particularly hardest hit by economic uncertainty, especially within the labour market, as they mark an unemployment rate higher than the national average.
According to Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2022, the unemployment rate sat at 63.9% for young people between the ages of 15 to 24 and 42.1% for those between the ages of 25 and 34. This is against a current national unemployment rate of 34.5% and translates to only 2.5 million of South Africa’s more than 10 million youth population, aged 15 to 24, currently participating in the labour force. This is worrying as the country’s youth population will only continue to grow at a rapid pace. It’s also a concern since this phenomenon can only exacerbate youth unemployment if nothing’s done urgently.
“The worsening unemployment situation has left so many young people discouraged and feeling like they have lost any hope of finding not just a job but meaningful work that suits their interests, skills and capabilities,” says Didi Onwu, Managing Editor of the Anzisha Prize. The initiative, which is a collaboration between the MasterCard Foundation and the Africa Leadership Academy, provides a venture-building fellowship program for businesses started by very young entrepreneurs between the ages 15 and 22 in various Africa countries.
Onwu notes that while things might seem dire, this is not a dead end for South Africa’s youth as there is another avenue open to young people. She believes that entrepreneurship will enable them to build their own career pathways, create their own opportunities, and gain their financial independence.
“Young people simply cannot rely solely on the idea of being employed by someone else anymore, but by shifting their efforts from looking for conventional employment towards entrepreneurship they will be able to create new marketable opportunities for themselves,” she adds. “However, to ensure that entrepreneurship is a truly viable alternative to traditional employment options, we need to empower young people with the relevant knowledge, resources and tools they need to succeed.”
Providing young entrepreneurs with the support they need to run successful businesses is the primary mission of the Anzisha Prize. The organisation’s three-year programme focuses on assistance in key areas such as business development and personal leadership through the codification and automation of key operations, funding, mentorship, and skills training workshops. Every year, 20 - 30 young entrepreneurs are selected to take part in the fellowship program and receive guidance to unlock their full entrepreneurial potential.
This year’s winning candidates include an array of amazing entrepreneurs who are bringing their innovations to life, such as 22-year-old Gaoagwe Jeje who founded the farming business, Kgosi Poultry, which produces chicken and eggs for consumption. Jeje created Kgosi Poultry as he had realised that chicken production was exceptionally low in South Africa, with a heavy reliance on imports. While he currently runs the business with the help of one other part-time employee, Jeje plans to expand the business to employ over 300 employees in more than eight branches across South Africa.
Meanwhile, driven by her own struggles with STEM subjects in school, Anzisha Prize winner Noreen Mutavhatsindi created Phindulo Tutoring while she was a final-year student at the University of Witwatersrand to help learners improve their grades. With the goal of encouraging more students to go into STEM careers, Mutavhatsindi hopes to become a leading provider of Mathematics and Science tuition in South Africa and build a network of over 500 tutors.
Lastly, 22-year-old founder of restaurant and catering company, Athinga’s Corner, Athingahangwi Ramabulana has always had an enterprising spirit and started her business when she was just 18 years old with the aim of providing nutritious food to university students daily - particularly those living in self-catering residences. Not only has the company developed an online ordering system and made use of platforms like UberEATS to cater to customer delivery needs, but Ramabulana hopes to expand the reach of her business in the future by opening branches across several universities in South Africa.
“Through the achievements already marked by these young entrepreneurs and their ambitions yet to be reached, we can clearly see that entrepreneurship has real power to help young people. This is not just in determining their own futures but also significantly, and positively, by creating impact beyond themselves through service to their communities via the innovations and businesses they create. These also help in the creation of new employment opportunities, and contribute to the development, growth, and competitiveness of South Africa’s economy as a whole,” says Onwu.