Business & Economy

The Youth Entrepreneurship Awards is nurturing entrepreneurship in the green economy

The seventh installment of the National Youth Entrepreneurship Awards, held at the Houghton Hotel, celebrated young learners as climate change activists and entrepreneurs of the green economy. Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu, former first lady Zanele Mbeki and business leaders joined this prestigious ceremony.

The Awards are part of the Step Up 2 A Start Up Programme that’s been running since 2014 in collaboration with Youth Start, Primestars, the government, media and other organisations. Initiated with the Department of Small Businesses Development as a pipeline development and mindset and culture creation programme, it aims to nurture young entrepreneurs and to encourage young people to leave school as job creators, not job seekers.

First prize at the Awards went to the team Green World from the Sir Pierre Van Ryneveld High School, who developed a business creating building materials from mine waste. Second prize went to Teens Are Going Green from Curtis Nkondo School of Specialisation, and third went to Recycle from Khombindlela Secondary School. All educators were awarded with prizes and the top teams also took home a range of prizes generously awarded by the sponsors.

Step Up winners 2021

The inaugural Thought Leader Award went to a media industry powerhouse and veteran of over 30 years, Hoosain Karjieker, Mail & Guardian CEO. Karjieker has played a key role in leading this charge and in doing so, has brightened the prospect of saving tomorrow for our future generations.

One of the most prestigious awards on the agenda is the CEO Innovation award, which recognises organisations that embody and pioneer innovation for the benefit of the economy and the South African people. This year’s recipient was the deserving CHIETA SETA — a trailblazer driving innovation, digitisation, skills development and job creation in the sector. Yershen Pillay, CEO of Chieta, received the Award and was widely acknowledged by executive stakeholders.

This year the programme focused on the green economy. It allowed young people to learn about climate change, the challenges it presents and how to mitigate and adapt against it in the green economy. Climate change not only presents the single biggest threat to sustainable development; it also impacts the poorest and most vulnerable communities disproportionately. Young people were able to learn how to turn environmental challenges into business opportunities, or make disposable products into reusable goods and to use technology to start green businesses.

Managing Director at Primestars Martin Sweet said the programme taught the learners two important lessons. “The programme enabled them to understand climate change. What we discovered, to our surprise, was that a lot of learners didn’t know what climate change was. Although they love their planet, it was rewarding to see them gain the knowledge,” Sweet said. The programme highlighted the importance of working together in the fight against climate change.

Another important lesson it taught them was the green opportunities for business. “The green economy presents business opportunities to fix the planet and we speak about raising young entrepreneurs for a changing climate. You can’t imagine the amazing businesses they came up with. We’re very proud of what we taught them and how quickly they got to understand the entrepreneurial opportunities.”

As the leading organisation in developing young entrepreneurs in South Africa, Primestars believes in the importance of nurturing job creators. General Manager at Primestars Nkosinathi Moshoana said the Step Up 2 A Start Up programme provides a solution to South Africa’s youth unemployment crisis. It is designed to help develop a mindset and culture of entrepreneurship in South Africans at an early age.

Kurt Schovell (SAFRIPOL Executive: HR) and Hoosain Karjieker (M&G CEO)

“As Primestars and the Youth Start Foundation, we did research to look into how we can respond to social challenges, these mainly being youth unemployment, job creation and economic growth. When you look overseas, entrepreneurship is often taught at high school level, but in South Africa, we don’t have a pipeline of entrepreneurs who can contribute to job creation and achieve the goals of the National Development Plan that speaks of 90% of new jobs coming from SMMEs,” Moshoana said.

The programme shows young people in under-resourced communities that they have the talent to be the job creators that the economy needs. “We put them together in an ecosystem that we have created that gives them access to incubation and further education. There’s over R6-million in prizes up for grabs for the top teams.”

The programme has involved 12 000 learners across 91 public, lower quintile and under-resourced schools across South Africa. Learners have gone through a six-month-long process of watching the Step Up 2 AGreen Start Movie at cinemas and engaging in online educational content about social and environmental change and creative ways of using entrepreneurship. They were required to identify an environmental or social problem in their school or community, which could be solved by making a product or developing a service.

They submitted a detailed business model canvas of the green product or service they propose, and how it solves the problem that they have identified. Following this, the learners had the opportunity to participate in the competition and bootcamp pitch their businesses to different sponsors that are the top 10 businesses in the country.

“This project was important for my learners because it enhanced their education by teaching them skills such as communication, negotiation, partnership and time management. They learned innovative thinking skills they can apply to their walk of life,” Accounting Educator at the Curtis Nkondo School of Specialisation, Thamsanqa Twala, said.

Twala said the initiative has really changed his learners’ futures: “The learners felt the [programme] was thought-provoking and demanding, teaching them resilience and hard work. The workshops gave them important points to consider when doing business model canvas. I personally have also gained a lot from the camp and feel my entrepreneurial goals have been revived.”

Wandile Mbambo and Andiswa Mnyandi, learners at Sibusisiwe Comprehensive Technical High School in Umbumbulu, said being part of the programme was both challenging and enriching. “It’s been hectic, especially because I was not that much educated about business. I’ve now learned entrepreneurship skills like communicating with your customers, having a goal, never giving up, being dedicated … It’s been very educational,” Mbambo said. “Before this programme, I knew a little about climate change, but being here changed my mindset,” Mnyandi said. “I now realise the importance of caring for our environment.”

With the Covid-19 pandemic in mind, the process of implementing the programme required innovation. Primestars and the YouthStart Foundation implemented the programme in cinemas across the country and in rural communities digitally and online. With this, they have been able to reach new communities and introduce entrepreneurship to young people whilst adhering to strict Covid-19 safety protocols.

“What the future holds is more: a bigger base of students, more businesses coming out of the programme, jobs being created from the youth in this programme, reaching new communities, and building a national movement of young entrepreneurs,” Moshoana said.

The programme is also instrumental in the fight for entrepreneurship to be part of the school curriculum, an objective which Primestars and the YouthStart Foundation fundamentally believe in. “We look forward to transforming our youth and education system, for the youth to become the very job creators they seek, and ultimately with the goal to address the South African youth unemployment crisis.”

Partners and co-investors included Sanlam, Omnia, Sasria, Clicks, Safripol, Absa, EOH, PAMSA, SAPPI, Mpact, SEDA, MMI, Mulilo, Regenesys Business School, Raizcorp, Regent Business School, Chieta, Richfield, University of Johannesburg, Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, Zutari, Women’s Development Business, Buhle Waste, ProudlySA, Uber, Kulula, Tourvest, DNG Energy, Protea Hotel Marriot, Sizwe IT, Airlink, Lift, Nando’s and Seed Academy.


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