Entrepreneur of the Year 2018 spokesperson Gugu Mjadu says women wanting to be entrepreneurs face social and financial barriers. Picture: Supplied
JOHANNESBURG - Implementing  youth focussed employment initiatives and fostering entrepreneurship was key to addressing South Africa’s dire youth unemployment stats.

This is according to Gugu Mjadu, Business Partners’ executive general manager of marketing and spokesperson for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year competition.

She said Statistics SA  recently released its unemployment data for this year’s first quarter, which showed that youth unemployment in the country had risen to 52.4 percent in the first quarter, from 51.1 percent of last year’s fourth quarter.

Mjadu said there was no time like the present for both the public and private sectors to take tangible action and referred to President CyrilRamaphosa’s Youth Employment Service (YES), which was launched in March as one method of tackling the issue.

She said South Africa needed to use these and other platforms to get more young people into employment.

“It is particularly encouraging that the YES initiative encourages small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) to also host young people in their companies as this will introduce more young people to entrepreneurship. If South Africa can implement this programme effectively with the participation of SMMEs, we have a chance at addressing two of the countries key, challenges, the high youth unemployment and low entrepreneurial activity,” said Mjadu.

She added that by exposing young workers to SMMEs, South Africa would possibly contribute to them pursuing this endeavour as well and create more employment opportunities in the future because it tackled the unemployment issue from two sides.

“It creates a job for the entrepreneur themselves, effectively opening up another space for someone else in formal employment, as well as creating a future job pipeline when and if the business grows enough to be able to hire its own staff,” she said.

Dr Leroi Raputsoane, the chief economist at Productivity SA, said that according to the latest Institute of Management Development (IMD)’s World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY), South Africa had failed to improve on its overall competitiveness.

Raputsoane said in the IMD’s rankings, South Africa remained rooted at 53 out of the 63 countries surveyed by the institute, which was the same ranking the country achieved last year.

He said that of the myriad of issues that hampered South Africa’s growth, youth unemployment stood out starkly with unemployment among the youth increasing from 50 percent last year to about 65 percent this year.

“The concept of international competitiveness has gained importance in recent decades from the viewpoint of economic growth and development of nations, and as such, one of the key priorities of economic development policy in South Africa should be to foster the country’s productivity and competitiveness in domestic and international markets to attain improved welfare and prosperity for the citizens,” said Raputsoane.

He said for economic performance, South Africa declined from 58 last year to 59 this year, for government efficiency, the country’s performance moved from 50 to 49, for business efficiency the performance declined from 41 to 46 and for infrastructure, has recorded a drop from 56 to 58.

At the top of competitiveness rankings, the US moved from fourth position last year to be ranked the most competitive economy this year, while Hong Kong dropped to second position, Singapore maintained third position and Netherlands was ranked fourth with Switzerland fifth.

South Africa’s counterparts in BRICS showed slight improvement with India moving from 45 to 44, China showed a significant movement from 18 to 13, Brazil moved from 61 to 60 and Russia from 46 to 45.

- BUSINESS REPORT