The World Bank estimates that, by 2015, 3 billion people worldwide will be under the age of 25. The world’s ability to meet challenges associated with the 21st Century will be greatly affected by the quality and level of their education and employment. They are considered to be almost three times as likely to be unemployed as adults – a situation that will be worsened by the current global economic crisis. This presents a huge challenge.
The solution? Support for youth enterprises. Entrepreneurship has a big role to play in changing the unemployment problem in South Africa, but this could only be fulfilled if these entrepreneurs receive adequate support.
Encouraging our future
It is important that youth entrepreneurs are encouraged and supported by all South Africans, especially older entrepreneurs who can act as their mentors. The focus should be on supporting and mentoring them so that they can make the most of their innovativeness, energy and positive spirits. This will lead to them positively contributing to the economy.
Youth entrepreneurs’ role in the South African economy is unique in that they are often the pioneers of new innovations and opportunities – a much needed aspect in the current economic climate. They could also be agents of change to spearhead transformation by creating innovative business cultures in their respective societies. Youth entrepreneurs also tend to give other youth a sense of meaning and belonging in the greater social context.
The level of youth entrepreneurship tends to be considerably lower than adult entrepreneurship. These figures also tend to vary according to age categories and gender. Generally, more young men are likely to be self-employed than young women. Also, older youth are more often entrepreneurs than younger ones.
There are a few constraints faced by youth entrepreneurs in particular. Compared to adults, young people are generally disadvantaged in various ways. More youth face problems with regards to access to resources and start enterprises with lower levels of initial capital. Youth have a lower market value, are engaged in a narrower range of activities, tend to lack access to space from which to run their businesses, do not bring experience and contacts to the table and youth tend to rely on simple or no equipment at all.
The youth advantage
Yet, while they face many such constraints, they also have a few advantages over their adult counterparts. For example, youth entrepreneurs often have more creative ideas and tend to be more open to risk. They also tend to have fresh mindsets and a lot of energy. Also, youth entrepreneurs may be particularly responsive to new economic opportunities and trends.
There are many benefits associated with support of youth entrepreneurs. For example, one could help create employment opportunities, help bring back alienated youth into the economic mainstream, help address problems that arise from joblessness, promote innovation and help promote the recovery of the economy and the local community concerned.
In support of youth entrepreneurship, the South African Youth Entrepreneur Network (SAYEN) was recently established. Its purpose is to serve as a platform where youth entrepreneurs could network, share ideas, comment and possibly find synergies and ways of working together with other like-minded youths.
Entrepreneurs interested in SAYEN can visit the Facebook page or post comments on Twitter at @sayouthnetwork.