All stakeholders such as the government, the private sector and education institutions must be invested in creating jobs for the youth and developing small businesses, according to consultancy company Economic Development Solutions (EDS). This would help achieve a greater level of collaboration to fully understand what sort of support SMMEs needed to thrive, said EDS managing director Janine Espin.
Like many others, she believes that SMMEs are crucial to growing the country’s economy. And she supports interventions such as the government’s R5.2 billion tax relief measures and the Small Business Development Department’s plans to support at least 15,000 youth-owned enterprises. However, Espin said that support for the youth needed to be channeled correctly through existing small business development resources.
“From a youth development perspective, the Umsobomvu Youth Fund and the National Youth Service have already been established for the purpose of helping our youth set up, expand and develop their businesses by teaching them essential business skills,” she said. “Youth Advisory Centres (YACs) have been established around the country, providing walk-in facilities for youth to receive information, training and referrals.”
Espin also believes that the country needs a more defined and structured process around establishing entrepreneurs and helping them grow. This includes establishing more entrepreneurial hubs that are accessible to those who need them. “All the various small business development agencies need to come together at these hubs to facilitate business support in one easily accessible location within our living spaces,” she advised.
“In addition, business support interventions like manufacturing hubs will be critical for growth. “Here, multiple businesses share access to expensive manufacturing equipment that they would not be able to achieve alone,” Espin warned that the government must avoid throwing money at small businesses and youth development, as focus and collaboration were just as crucial.
“By properly defining and appreciating what the entrepreneurial needs are, we can then start to define how entrepreneurs can best be developed to encourage employment, which will, in turn, have the consequence of creating youth employment opportunities,” she said. Epsin also said that the country’s economy did not need any more lawyers or accountants to rebuild it. “School learners need to realise that entering a trade or acquiring a critical skill that is in shortage is the best way to ensure employability and to earn a living reliably,” she said.
And in terms of skills development, there had to be a rebranding campaign for blue-collar or artisanal trades. “For example, every year the government releases its list of critical skills,” Epsin said. “This is a missed opportunity for youth skills development, as we have the potential right under our noses, (and) all we need to do is to identify their potential and develop these critical skills within our own borders by creating the necessary educational, training and support structures that help to make the youth employable while creating employment opportunities through entrepreneurial development.”