Four hundred and fifty female pupils from 10 schools in four of the country’s provinces will benefit from an entrepreneurship development programme sponsored by MasterCard Worldwide and run by Junior Achievement South Africa (Jasa).
Through JA BizVenture, the grade 11 pupils will learn skills ranging from managing their own businesses and money to life skills including conduct in business. The courses will run over the next 11 weeks until August, and will be conducted after school hours.
Jasa is a non-profit organisation which partners with the business community as well as teachers to develop much-needed entrepreneurial skills for young South Africans who are still in school.
The programme was launched at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on 30 May where Jasa MD Linda McClure and Zanele Twala, country director of human rights advocacy group Action Aid and a trustee of Jasa, spoke on the importance of this and similar projects. Also present was TV presenter and poet Lebo Mashile, who addressed the pupils, teachers and female business leaders who were in attendance.
“This programme will equip the young women with the skills that they will need to launch their own businesses, so that they in turn can employ others,” said McClure.
“A project like this will help break the cycle of unemployment faced by school leavers that threatens the future of South Africa’s youth, and will address job creation, which is one of government’s top priorities.”
The schools involved in the programme are in Gauteng, the North West, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
Anna Jones, from MasterCard Worldwide’s South Africa office, said the country had come a long way in giving women access to education and regular employment opportunities, which are essential building blocks to further empowerment, financial independence and leadership.
“This programme addresses all of these building blocks in its course content, and we look forward to welcoming these pupils into the business world when they emerge as successful entrepreneurs,” she said.
What the programme entails
The pupils each receive start-up funding to the value of R1 000 to come up with a product or service from which they can make a profit – they have to repay the funding to MasterCard once they've completed the course. They are also given the services of facilitators who would mentor them.
Participants are required to present their product at the end of the course.
“The pupils learn the theoretical aspects of entrepreneurship first before embarking on the practical side of things,” explained McClure.
In addition to the sales and marketing training, they are taught how to conduct themselves in a business environment, conduct market research, open a business banking account and other aspects related to running a business.
There is no strict selection for participants, and the schools involved choose the pupils they wish to put on the programme. One requirement, though, is that those who are selected be passionate about learning business skills.
To incentivise the process, pupils are allowed to keep the remainder of the money they would have made, making the programme financially rewarding for them as well.
“Education and skills transfer are only part of the formula needed to help young people achieve their full potential. They also need to be motivated, and they need to build the confidence to be able to write their own success stories from the start,” said Mashile.
Boitumelo Chenepe took part in the programme while studying at St Anne’s High School in the North West in 2010.
“The programme helped me learn about the business world and its challenges, and I also learnt how to become a successful businesswoman,” she said.
“I now know that I was meant to be an entrepreneur.”
Train them while they’re young
A project like this is essential as South Africa, like the rest of the world, is battling with a situation where school leavers make up a large number of the unemployed. Entrepreneurship has been highlighted as a way to get them to be self-sustainable and make work available for others in the process.
According to Nimo Naidoo of the Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year competition, the UN estimated in 2011 that 74-million people between the ages of 15 and 24 remained unemployed worldwide, while over 6-million young people dropped out of the labour force globally.
Ezra Ndwandwe of Dualpoint Holdings, a business solutions consultancy, recently addressed up-and-coming entrepreneurs at a discussion forum hosted by Brand South Africa on 12 June, and highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship.
“Entrepreneurship is overused and least understood. It is about innovators and creators of solutions that fill a gap,” he said.
“It is about coming up with solutions to societal problems and ways to create employment for others.”