Township Youth Development Programme Grooms Social Entrepreneurs of the Future

Jayshree Naidoo, Head of the Standard Bank Business Incubator was moved by the business idea pitches submitted by 12 finalists at the Giving Wings Pitch Competition and Awards Ceremony held in Olievenhoutbosch, near Midrand. The ceremony closed the 5 week youth development programme, which was sponsored by Standard Bank in partnership with Liberty. It was evident from reviewing the pitches that the new breed of young South African entrepreneurs are more socially aware. Their inspiration stems from solving community problems when creating their start-up businesses in the townships. “What was most noteworthy about this event was that most of the finalists looked to create businesses that would impact the community at large, children requiring educational assistance and people within the community with special needs,” said Ms Naidoo.

“It was heartening to see project ideas that ranged from solving townships litter problems through recycling to businesses catering to the needs of the disabled. Also featured strongly were web and mobile-based interventions designed to assist learners with after- hour’s studies. The presentations at this competition, although unique in many aspects, mirror the growing trend towards social entrepreneurship, which is becoming increasingly common in South Africa.”

“Today’s potential entrepreneurs not only wish to be successful but want to use their innovative business solutions to also improving the lifestyles of their customers. Often, customer bases for the businesses are being drawn from the townships where these entrepreneurs attended school and still live.” The competition, which involved several secondary schools in the township, ended at the Steve Tshwete Secondary School on Youth Day, with Phiwokuhle Basi from the host school taking top spot in the event for her idea to start a recycling business called Station Nation that would help fight pollution by means of biometrics. “My Giving Wings journey was phenomenal. It taught me a lot and inspired me to make a positive contribution towards my community”, she says.

Drawing on the experience at the event, Amanda Khoza, Head of Transformation and the Blue Skies Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) Programme at Liberty, said that the educational initiatives identified as potential business ideas by the participating learners addressed one of the most crucial concerns in township schools. “The entrants in the competition were very aware that with teachers controlling classes of between 30 and 40 children, that it is virtually impossible for the needs of all learners to be met. To cover the demands of the syllabus, a teacher has little option other than to progress at a pace that meets the needs of strong and average learners. Unfortunately, many of the children who are unable to cope are then left to acquire the knowledge they need through extra lessons and self-study,” she said.

“The advent of the Internet and mobile devices allows home-based study to be directed into subjects where many students need assistance. The addition of in-class video recording of lessons and self- assessment tests on programmes enables individuals to develop at their own pace. The unique idea of rewarding achievements with the allocation of free, sponsored airtime to reduce costs to learners is great for township learners who have low economic resources.”

The event was the second annual occasion of its type devised by ‘Giving Wings’ – an SME led by Kefilwe Morobane, which concentrates on helping secondary school learners in the Olievenhoutbosch township develop communication skills. The aim is to give the students communication skills and the ability to confidently pitch a business idea to an audience of potential investors or buyers. This a critical skill that all small business owners need to master. Without these basic skills, their businesses have little prospect of succeeding in a competitive marketplace. Thus, programmes like these are vital in developing and empowering the youth to make change.