Builder of hope

The need to develop an entrepreneurial culture at school level is crucial to future economic growth and social upliftment, writes Nelly Mofokeng, Managing Director of JA South Africa


In the 2017 budget speech, concerning statistics about South Africa’s current economic state was noted: over half of all grade five learners in South Africa are unable to read adequately in any language, and 75% of school leavers are left unemployed five years after entering the labour market.

Looking at these figures in the context of the current 26.5% unemployment rate, it’s crucial that our country’s leaders and partners find alternative ways to empower the youth to help them become self-sufficient adults. However, young people are groomed to join the workforce as employees, instead of being exposed to skills that enable them to independently pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures once they leave school.

Focusing on entrepreneurial development at an early age has a positive ripple effect – equipping young people with the tools to uplift themselves means that many of them will not have to rely on an employer to earn a living once they leave school.

They will be better empowered and prepared to pursue their own entrepreneurial efforts, which will help to lower the unemployment rate and boost the country’s economy through the development of more small businesses.


Small businesses boost SA’s economy

Research by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows that small businesses are responsible for over 50% of job opportunities in South Africa, while the National Development Plan envisions 11 million new jobs created by 2030. Most of these jobs are expected to stem from the small business sector.

This proves that SMMEs are the backbone of our economy. However, young people are still lacking the skills required to establish and run their own businesses. Research shows that 80% of start-ups fail within the first year, due to a lack of resources as well as experience and understanding of what it takes to run a business.

While there are numerous internships, apprenticeships, and learning programmes already in place for young adults, availing adequate opportunities – particularly in rural areas of great need – remains elusive. In addition, more entrepreneurial development programmes need to be introduced at school level, but the success of these initiatives rely heavily on private sector funding.

Working with the Department of Education, the private sector has the potential to implement more accessible learning programmes to support the development of all learners across the country and make a positive impact on employment levels. This can be achieved through integrated school curriculums and even after school initiatives, for example.

The success rate of programmes like JA South Africa’s ‘Environmental Entrepreneurs’ Programme for primary school learners, as well as the ‘Mini Enterprise’ platform offered at high school level reflects the importance of such initiatives. These serve as proof of the positive impact that entrepreneurial development programmes introduced at school level have on the youth and within their societies.

Let’s support the youth to become successful, active and contributing members of society through these entrepreneurship-focused initiatives and, by extension, make a positive impact on the South African economy at large. Let’s invest in the development of tomorrow’s leaders.

As acknowledged by the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2017, “Entrepreneurship must be part of the school curriculum. Young people must, from an early age, be encouraged to innovate and be problem-solvers. They must be given the skills to turn ideas into viable businesses.

“Most importantly, they must leave school appreciating that entrepreneurship can be a viable career option.”


  • Nelly Mofokeng is the Managing Director of Junior Achievement South Africa, offer a platform of opportunity for all young people in South Africa.