My fellow youth of South Africa, today marks one of the most significant days in our country, a day that has not only shaped the lives of many but has also helped shape our democracy.
We are commemorating what happened on this day in 1976 when high school students led protests in Soweto against an oppressive regime. On the 46th anniversary of the Soweto uprisings we look back at the courage and boldness of those South Africans, and are reminded that their contributions have helped rewrite South Africa’s story and have helped lift the shackles of injustice off this country thus contributing towards birthing a new democracy.
What this means for you as a young person, is that you are living in the time of opportunity. You are in your prime years. You have unlimited potential and this is your time to go for what you want, to dream the impossible, to fly high as an African child and reach the heights you have set for yourself.
And I say that intentionally: heights you have set for yourself. Your attitude determines your altitude in life. If you have a winning attitude, you will go far in life. You can win in this game we call life, however, there is a twist….
Despite the many opportunities that are available to you, our country is experiencing one of the worst economic times post 1994. The national unemployment rate is roughly 34.5% with the estimates of 63.9% for those aged between 15 - 24 and 42.1% for those aged between 25 -34 years; according to Statistics South Africa.
This dire unemployment situation has been exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic which we have all lived through in the past 2 years.
Covid has seen 30 million people in Africa be pushed into extreme poverty, and 21 million people lose their jobs on the continent in 2021 alone.
According to the World Bank, every year 12 million young people enter the job market while only 3 million formal jobs are created. With a median age of 25 years old, the African continent is the youngest in the world.
There is no sugar coating it, we are living in crises and today is a special reminder that when circumstances are dire, as the youth, you can take the power into your own hands and change the trajectory of this country. You can shape the future in the same way that those students from 1976 helped shape the future. Am I talking about protesting? No. When I say take the power into your own hands, I am talking about being a solution to the problem, being a problem solver.
As our greatest statesman has said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Education is your weapon and your tool to succeed. You don’t have to fight for a better South Africa through violence but rather by using a tool that will propel you forward. Education is about so much more than getting a degree or getting straight A’s. You should aspire and work towards getting degrees and straight A’s but… you should also be educated about life’s principles about morals, kindness, money, success and more tangibly; about what is happening in your country, the skills that are needed the most in the economy right now and the skills which will be needed in the future.
Which sectors are the fastest growing and why? If you pursue a degree right now, will it be relevant in the next 5 years? As a young person you need to prepare yourself for tomorrow’s economy by educating yourself.
In Africa currently: Agriculture, Infrastructure, Banking, Oil and Gas and Telecommunications are some of the fastest growing sectors. Countries like Egypt, Ghana and Botswana have some of the fastest growing economies. And when you look closer, you will see for example, that Google's first African AI lab was established in Ghana in 2019 and that Twitter will establish its African headquarters in the country thus making Ghana a regional IT hub on the continent.
You will see that companies like MTN for example, have aimed to provide 4G coverage to 98% of the country by the end of 2022, before quickly introducing 5G.
As I stated before, there are opportunities all around you, however, you need to see them to be able to take a hold of them. As the African youth you need to be a problem solver. And that is why right now is the best time for entrepreneurship, especially for teen entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is the answer to South Africa’s unemployment issue. It is the hope we need and the solution we need to apply.
We need more employers. People who will create jobs instead of waiting for them, people who will lift others out of poverty and will improve the South African economy. And that person could be you.
Do you have an amazing business idea as a teenager and you need help to implement it? The Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship or SAGE for short, could be your opportunity to show case your business or business idea. Are you an owner of technology SMME company? The Entrepreneurship and Business Leadership Institution could be the break you need to grow your business.
As the CEO of both organisations and a serial entrepreneur, I have seen first-hand how empowering entrepreneurship can be, I have seen teenagers travel all over the world and showcase their businesses, young South Africans who own SMME’s go from having zero profits to building sustainable businesses and hiring people.
As a young person myself, I know that there is a future in South Africa, I know that June 16 is more than about wearing school uniform and having a day off.
Today marks a day when South African youth took a stand and decided to create a better South Africa for all. As the youth of South Africa, today on June 16 2022, 28 years into a democratic South Africa, you too can take a stand and become the change you want to see in the country.
At the EBL Institute and SAGE South Africa we have positioned ourselves as change agents in South Africa, join us and let’s build a better South Africa for all.