The co-chairperson of Global Entrepreneurship Network, Kizito Okechukwu. I Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - Last week, I had the privilege of attending the launch of the Monaco Sports Academy (MSA) under the auspices of His Serene Highness (HSH) Prince Albert II of Monaco.

This initiative is a collaboration between the Yacht Club de Monaco, presided over by the prince, its general secretary Bernard d’Alessandri and Philippe Ghanem. The primary objective of the MSA is to groom and support young athletes living in Monaco to reach their highest levels in sport.

Coincidently, South Africa is now celebrating Youth Month, which has a special significance in the history of the country. It recognises and remembers the brave young activists, who lost their lives during the 1976 uprising in Soweto on June 16. Personally, the month of June and the 16th has a special place in my life too, given that I celebrate my birthday on this auspicious day.

The power of the youth can never be underestimated, and it must be taken very seriously. Take the recent uprisings in Sudan and Algeria - and the massive protests in Hong Kong, all largely led by the youth.

To put this into context from a youth perspective, I would like to share a few simple, yet inspiring sports analogy take-outs I learnt from the MSA speakers during the launch, especially from Yohann Taberlet, the renowned French skier, ones which are generic enough to really help and motivate me and other young people to never give up finding ways to better ourselves and the world we live in.

If your job is your passion, it won’t even feel like a job. So choose something you love doing.

Identify your objectives and priorities. Yes, you will have many choices, but you must have priorities and create the means to achieve these.

If you want the boat sailing fast, you need a team.

When you’re in a team, it’s your family. Remember, your family and friends are also your team.

Your path is so important. A coach will help you take the right one. It’s not about the target, it’s about the path to get there.

I used to cry after losing a game, but year in and year out, I learnt the pleasure of winning. Sport helps with physical and mental health.

Have a goal. You’ve got to dream it, believe it and live it. There are no “ifs” or “buts”, when you want to achieve your goal, just go for it.

You reactivate what you experience. It’s all in your brain. And you can alter 50percent of what’s in your brain.

Be careful, emotions often take over our rationality. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Once you can do that, you make less and less mistakes.

Sport is a universal language and on the basis of that you can create a dialogue. In sport, people leave their religion, emotions and fears etc behind.

Energy, mind and body must work as one.

Persistence and passion are the basis of your success. 

You can’t know how strong you really are until you test yourself. Don’t be afraid.

You have to be in action to see the reaction of life.

Mental power can help influence positivity in any environment and help you to stay on course.

Sport plays a pivotal role in building tomorrow’s youth and it shares such obvious common values, characteristics and objectives with entrepreneurship. After all, they’re both all about the mentality, the attitude, the self-belief and the willingness to go the extra mile.

As the only yacht club offering this high level of training to athletes, the approach maintains a balance between their sporting, academic and personal lives, in the belief that long-term constructive investment in the future generation will lead them towards a life where values shared by top-level sport and professional success will prevail.

Monaco, a recognised yachting capital, constantly seeks ways to drive this innovative, hi-tech and progressive industry forward. As a key player promoting and guiding the sector, the Yacht Club de Monaco aims to interest and integrate young people to share this passion through instruction, sharing experiences and inter-generational exchanges.

From the throngs of wealthy tourists who frequent the principality in roaring top-end supercars and the opulent lifestyles of yacht-trotting billionaires to the residents who, I was told, pay an average of 48000 (R795612) per square metre to own a home here, overall my experience in Monaco was an absolute eye-opener.

What’s more, I was very excited to realise that there’s also a healthy and vibrant start-up scene, after chatting with Monaco Tech, which supports local start-ups.

Yet, on my way home, I could not help remembering that South Africa’s youth unemployment rate sits at 55percent. Another stark reminder is that the African Development Bank has warned that 100million African youths, who would be new entrants into the labour market, will be unemployed by 2030, if the current trend is not reversed.

In its African Economic Outlook report, the bank predicted that most of the jobs will be generated by the informal sector where “productivity and wages are low and work is insecure, making the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030 a difficult task”.

Raymund Furrer, the Bank Governor for Switzerland and part of the Boost Africa initiative, which aims to create 25million jobs in 10 years, says these days it’s important that partners work together to put talents together in a complementary fashion. These are two areas which are forward-leaning and positive for the African continent.

There is no doubt that advancing the youth towards a brighter future is going to need a massive team effort from all (especially governments) that recognise that uplifting and empowering the youth is of international importance.

Our youth must have something to believe in and it’s us, as a collective, who have to provide this. Youth Month is the ideal backdrop to reflect on what more we can do to move our young society forward and create a conducive environment for their growth and leadership.

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

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