Yesterday, Statistics SA released the latest employment figures and sadly, the figures are rather disappointing with 27.1% of the population without a job, the highest in 13 years. As if this wasn’t bad enough to report, Gauteng’s treasury department reports that the country’s economic powerhouse will grow only by 0.8% this year. Africa’s economy is also expected to fall up to 1.4% this year.
Is this a time bomb waiting to explode? And if it is, who will be the casualties? It is no secret that 47% of the South African population earn below the R3500 proposed minimum wage which can be translated into more than 25 million people earning below R3500. Are businesses and government organisations perhaps not doing enough to create an environment where there are better incentives for their employees? (That is a story for another day). In my opinion, South Africa’s downfall when it comes to combating poverty (which by the way is relative concept) is lack of entrepreneurship and new venture creation. It is easy for many to talk about entrepreneurship, but in all practicality, it not a natural process in our society today. Our education system doesn’t enhance critical thinking and creativity. The only thing that has been drilled into my pretty little head since I was young was to get good grades so I can eventually get a good job, but if that was true for everyone, we wouldn’t be sitting with millions of discouraged job seekers with degrees in our population.
I remember the first time I drove home, how most of the community members deemed me “successful” because I was driving a car (a ford fiesta by the way) when in fact they should have applauded the guy at the taxi rank who owned a telephone container that employed three other people from our village. Such is the attitude that most South Africans have when it comes to accomplishment. If you post a status on facebook and rave about buying the latest VW Golf GTI you will be applauded more than the guy who just started his own garden and sells vegetables as a street vendor, despite the fact that it will take you six years to finally call the car your own. Now I am not discouraging buying expensive cars or living a lavish lifestyle, in fact I am an advocate of wealth generation. The point I am trying to make here is that we need to start applauding and recognising people that are trying to lift themselves out of the gutter by daring to be different and defying the odds before them. We need a society that recognises business, no matter the size because in one way or the other, they contribute to the growth of the economy.
So where do we start?
Perhaps we should start by incorporating entrepreneurial skills in our education system from an early age instead of teaching the little ones nursery rhymes about two little birds named Peter and Paul sitting on a tree. Not that I am against them, what I am merely saying is that we could incorporate useful techniques in our system that will encourage problem solving from an early age. As the saying goes “a stick is bent while it is wet”. Potential is in all of us, we just need to be taught how to tap into it and unleash it... and what better way to start tapping that potential at an early age.