The Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, is shown around the 22 on Sloane campus in Johannesburg by the co-chairperson of Global Entrepreneurship Network, Kizito Okechukwu. I Supplied
JOHANNESBURG - As Youth Month comes to an end, we must ask ourselves, what have we done differently to make our communities, cities, countries and continent better?

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his State of the Nation address (Sona). It was praised by some, while criticised by others because of its dream-lined fantasies and undercurrent.

Most argued that concrete steps about turning these dreams into reality should have been provided. My guess is that the concrete steps have to be provided by each individual department led by the ministers that the president has appointed.

One cannot also blame these reality seekers. We are swamped in a code-red youth unemployment crisis, which needs rapid, laser-sharp solutions. Yet, we can't place the blame solely on the president because, as a leader and former businessman, his key focus is on attracting direct foreign investment to create these jobs - and investors need a dream, a vision, to believe in and assurance that the future is indeed investable.

We're also not alone here. This is a global problem, although, it seems some countries are better prepared to tackle this problem than others.

Recently, MultiChoice announced it's about to cut 2000 jobs because of the rise of new technologies.

One cannot ignore the fact that competition in this industry has increased dramatically over the past few years with entrants such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Black and others joining in.

Yet job cuts are quietly becoming a swift reality in all industries, as the need for human resources continues to decline.

Take Standard Bank, for example, which has begun cutting down on brick and mortar branches, preferring to offer a more streamlined and digitised experience.

Many more are soon to follow and I believe the emphasis will be on those linked heavily to connectivity, such as financial services, where fintech start-ups are now disrupting the market.

Facebook has also just announced its plans to launch Libra, which is a cryptocurrency that processes payments via its WhatsApp platform.

Other industries include insurance and retail, which employ most of the low-skilled workers, especially in call centres and customer services.

On the flip-side, in the public sector, Eskom is expertly deemed to be a whopping 66percent overstaffed with a massive wage bill.

Cutting jobs (mostly redundant, middle-management ones and not those tech-threatened) could help save Eskom financially in the long term.

For South Africa, speed is of the essence.

The country is feeling the pressure because it has the advanced infrastructure to embrace and exploit digital solutions to compete globally, yet hasn’t really done so - while a lot of African countries still don’t even have the capacity yet.

Thankfully, in 2017, we foresaw many of these challenges, prompting us to launch the Youth Weekend Programme that targets young people aged from 13 to 17.

The programme aims to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and groom the next generation of founders and game-changers, who seek to improve the communities where they live and also advance disruption in various other industries.

The programme usually runs for six months on selected Saturdays and covers the following modules: Introduction to design thinking and entrepreneurship; concept development and testing; the consumer value proposition; disruption and future industries; designing a winning pitch and coding and drone technology.

After completing the modules, participants have the opportunity to enter the Youth Innovative Business Competition, which drives innovative thinking and the creation of youth-owned business ideas that are presented to a panel.

Cash prizes are up for grabs and the chance to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Week, hosted by GEN Africa at 22 on Sloane in November.

Last year, we had 10 participants from the suburbs and we judiciously matched them with another 10 participants from the Diepsloot community, which we subsidised with the payments made from the suburban kids’ parents.

The initiative also boosts community interaction with idea exchanges, all of which help build a brighter future for the youth.

This year, we hope to do the same and the first programme will start on Saturday, July 6.

For more information, visit https://www.22onsloane.co/youth-weekend-programme/

Today, there are many youth development programmes and we are proud to be a significant part of the mix as key stakeholders, working together to empower the next generation of young, aspiring entrepreneurs.

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

BUSINESS REPORT