Perception shift needed among SA youth to create next generation of entrepreneurs

It was recently revealed by a UN agency report that global youth unemployment has risen to near its crisis peak and predicted that it will keep on rising over the next five years. According to Nimo Naidoo of the Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, South Africa is in a similar situation and says that the most effective method to counteract this crisis it to create a desirability around entrepreneurship amongst the youth.

Naidoo says that although youth unemployment is a global issue, South Africa’s situation is dire. “According to the recently released Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2012 South Africa report, entrepreneurship does not seem to be a desirable career choice amongst the youth. Approximately 20% of South Africa’s youth population are potential entrepreneurs, and only 15% possess entrepreneurial intensions.”

She says that the rising levels of youth unemployment can be effectively curbed through the promotion of entrepreneurship as a viable career choice for South Africa’s youth. However, it requires a committed change in South Africa’s public perception and culture.

As the youth unemployment rate in South Africa is a very high 48%, Naidoo says that many youth are being driven to entrepreneurship through necessity, which is not necessarily appealing. “Many of today’s youth view informal, survivalist businesses as undesirable, and therefore do not choose to possess entrepreneurial intensions and often find entrepreneurship undesirable.”

She says that by uplifting local entrepreneurial role models, communities will be able build a society that appreciates entrepreneurial activity. “Entrepreneurs which employ a handful of people are effectively assisting to combat the unemployment crisis and should therefore be celebrated.

“A method of instilling a system which celebrates entrepreneurial success could inspire the youth to consider entrepreneurship as a career.”

Naidoo says that according to the GEM report, where perceived opportunities are concerned, South Africa’s rate for perceived opportunities for its youth (39%) is the lowest of the sub-Saharan African countries, as well as substantially below the average of 64%.

She says that the manner in which a country supports and recognises its entrepreneurs determines the culture of entrepreneurship and ultimately moulds the future of the country’s economy. “A positive entrepreneurial culture is not something that can be simply put in place. It begins at the roots of society and needs to be carefully nurtured.

“The level of desirability of entrepreneurship to an individual has an influence on whether or not that person will ultimately pursue an opportunity. Cultural and social norms play significant roles in the lives of individuals and may influence the extent to which an individual perceives entrepreneurship as a desirable option.

According to the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship’s Young Upstarts 2010 Report, most young people reported not having enough role models to look to or learn from and found it easier to settle for the comfort and predictability of a job, instead of perusing a risky entrepreneurial venture.

Naidoo says that the perception of entrepreneurship amongst the youth in South Africa needs to be raised. “Marketing and strategic platforms, such as entrepreneurial competitions, is a method of doing so, as a great deal of positive exposure is generated around successful entrepreneurs.

“By creating South African entrepreneurial role models out of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® winners, we are effectively building role models for the youth to imitate,” concludes Naidoo.