Former South African President, Kgalema Motlanthe delivered the keynote address at Global Entrepreneurship Week, where he highlighted the unemployment challenges in the country and urged young people to work hard to ensure they become entrepreneurial. Photo: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG – The annual Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) at 22 on Sloane ended last week with Edcon, in partnership with Proudly SA, hosting 12 up-and-coming fashion designers from its Design Innovation Challenge to showcase their stunning creations.  

The keynote address was delivered by former President Kgalema Motlanthe, who highlighted the unemployment challenges in the country and urged young people to work hard to ensure they become entrepreneurial. 

He added that the writings of the renowned Schumpeter place the entrepreneur at the centre of the innovation process and also detailed the educational work he does at the Motlanthe Foundation. 

The initiative takes high school learners to boot camps and teaches them digital skills and how to apply the concept of design thinking. To date, the post-boot camp outcomes have been hugely positive and empowering. 

The Edcon Design Innovation Challenge was launched in 2016 by the Edcon Group to advance skills development and entrepreneurialism for post-graduates in the fashion design sector, using various purpose-built platforms. 

The Challenge includes 21 Steps to Retail, a three-month training programme facilitated by Runway Productions, the organisers of the annual SA Fashion Week, as well as a one-year internship at Edcon. 

This year, the Challenge opened its doors to entrants nationwide. 

Twelve graduates from design colleges and universities across the country were selected as finalists from a field of 40.

The finalists are currently interning at Edcon’s Edgars and Jet stores, where they are exposed to the full spectrum of retail, including quality assurance, buying and merchandising for ladies’ and men’s wear, kiddies clothes and active wear. 

At the Edcon Design Innovation Challenge fashion show, I was truly amazed at the artistic creativity and quality displayed and one must applaud Edcon for this powerful developmental initiative, which inspires and encourages all our young “Versaces” and “Stella McCartneys” of tomorrow. 

Today, it is estimated that the fashion industry globally is worth around $1.5 trillion (R22.05trln) and, with our population numbers in Africa, I assume that we contribute substantially to it. 

The Proudly SA initiative of Buy Local must be commended and we need to push other African countries to also implement such initiatives, as this will help support young designers across the continent. 

We must also drive a Proudly African – Buy African initiative. If the Africa Free Continental Trade Agreement is positioned correctly, it will also drive the production and consumption of African goods. Our continent has to industrialise and build the capacity to support its own initiatives, products and communities. 

In closing, I would like to personally congratulate the 12 finalists; Botshelo Molete, Dewaldt Kriel, Mashoto Maredi, Michael Reid, Mike Ubisse, Nadja Rabin, Nina Peterson, Sinethemba Mthethwa, Siviwe Ntwana, Thabang Mabe, Thabiso Molelekoa, Zanele Ndlovu – and last but by no means least – the winner Siviwe Ntwana from Walter Sisulu University. 

Well done to Edcon, Proudly SA and Runway Productions. When we give hope to our youth, we are building our communities, our nations and ultimately our continent. 

The GEW was hosted in partnership with IBM, USAid, BLSA, SAB Foundation, Edcon and Proudly SA.

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-chairperson of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa. 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest start-up campus.