More youths like this are needed in South Africa

Only South Africa’s young professionals can take this country in a new direction. Young people whose minds are not polluted with all this anti-colonial and anti-apartheid rhetoric and garbage. Those who are capable of clear thinking, can see things with acute clarity, and can understand that the leadership must be held accountable for the mess in South Africa.

The new breed of South African does not play the blame game or join in the nationalisation call. They do not sit there waiting for the government to come and fix things or do everything for them through nationalisation. These young South Africans are members of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) - a group of students from the country’s various universities involved in community based entrepreneurship projects. They teach petty traders, hawkers, and small artisans how to improve productivity and accounting skills and, as a result, have made many of these self-employed artisans self-sufficient. These students teach community members, especially in previously disadvantaged communities, skills that result in improved business productivity and developing ways to profit from their creativity.

Another group of South Africans who are making a difference are those who are starting up their own businesses wherever they can - mostly in their own dwellings, taxi ranks, non-residential buildings, on streets and other open places.

According to Stats SA, about 1,076,000 South Africans owned and operated registered non-VAT businesses in 2009. These non-VAT businesses are in such industries as trade, transport, finance, community and social services, and manufacturing. Of the 1,076,000 individuals who started small non-VAT businesses in 2009, 964,000 were African, 44,000 Coloured, 14,000 Indian/Asian and 45,000 White.

What the ANC Youth League should be calling for now is ways to make more youths entrepreneurial and able to take control of their futures. According to the audit report of public entities, the number of qualified audits as defined by the auditor general has reduced from 46.3% in 2000/01 to 24.5% in 2008. If the government and state entities have a long term reputation for unqualified audits then nationalisation as called for by the ANC Youth League may just increase the scale of unqualified audits.

The third quarter labour force survey showed that only 40.5% of South Africans aged 15-65 are working - a 1.1% decrease from last year’s figures. The labour force participation rate has also decreased.

Students in Free Enterprise and the thousands of other young South African entrepreneurs represent the kind of youth that is needed to take this country forward. The time has come for the nation to recognise and support these efforts to increase entrepreneurship and creativity in the county. The young people who help aspiring entrepreneurs to achieve success, equip the unemployed with skills to find productive employment, teach families how to gain financial security, and bring economic development to South Africa’s struggling neighbourhoods. Through helping communities achieve excellence through their various community projects, they are building a culture of excellence for themselves and their peers. This is the kind of youth we need – now more than ever before.

Author: Vivian Atud is an economist with the Free Market Foundation who specialises in socio-economic issues. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author. The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation.

FMF Feature Article / 16 November 2010

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