16 November 2021

Written by: Frans van der Colff (adjunct faculty)

What started as reports of pneumonia has since claimed many lives across the globe.

Despite the growing body of knowledge and various vaccines, the toll is far from over – and not contained to only the loss of human lives.

The pandemic has exacerbated the dire unemployment situation in South Africa and on the African continent. Among the youth alone, there are roughly 140 million unemployed on our continent, and in South Africa, 64.4% of our youth are unemployed.

It is no longer viable to believe that a youth will finish school and university, and then walk into a big business to do a job for life. Big businesses are all scaling down and employing fewer people – for various reasons, one being the giant strides made in technology.

We need to urgently shift the efforts of our youth – from seeking jobs to creating opportunities. To encourage the creation of opportunities, we need to think differently and educate differently, embracing entrepreneurship and innovation. Our youth need to understand how to run businesses and how to analyse the environment for opportunities. Most importantly, we need to help generate excitement around owning a business…to move away from labelling it an impossible dream.

It is possible for the young mom, the undergraduate, the despondent high school drop-out. It’s been done – and must be done again and again if we hope to change the future of our country. We have the talent! Many eager young people want to be actively involved in the economy of South Africa and the rest of the continent, but there needs to be a focus on creating an environment in which our youth can dream, achieve and thrive. This is imperative for the future sustainability of our country and continent. We can no longer teach people to fish without providing a pond in which to fish. Thriving youth will lead to thriving communities which, in turn, will lead to a thriving economy that will benefit all.

This creation of opportunities is not new to Africa; it simply upholds the old African values of collaboration and co-creation.