Instilling a culture of entrepreneurship in teenagers


With such high unemployment among young people in South Africa, there is great need to rethink strategy. SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation was formed specifically to instill a culture of entrepreneurship in teenagers . Its findings have been both eye opening and challenging. SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation has therefore embarked on a campaign to introduce a culture of entrepreneurship in teenagers through workshops, seminars, exhibitions and conferences. Youth unemployment in South Africa has reached crisis point, and it is vital that we explore new ways to actively bring young people into the economy.  In 2012 SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation will focus on creating the first ever South African National High School Enterprise Competition/Awards.


Currently South Africa has 18 million teenagers and from a population of 50million this means that almost 45% of our population is in the teen bracket. As per the latest Quarterly Labor Force Survey, almost three quarters (72%) of the unemployed population of 4.5 million people are younger than 25. Fewer than 50% of current matriculants will hold jobs before the age of 24. Public discourse has been dominated by discussions of this spiraling youth unemployment crisis, yet government intervention has been slow and perhaps not out of choice, but due to lack of credible partners to implement policies and interventions on the ground.  As a part of an ongoing drive to present government and the nation with solutions to this crisis, the SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation is proposing a deliberate intervention to increase the facilitation of teen entrepreneurship as a means of bringing more young people into the economy.

According to Youth Business International, running a business helps young people achieve economic independence, reducing their reliance on state welfare. Young entrepreneurs are more likely to engage in their local community, spreading their experience and energy, and creating additional jobs. In both developed and developing counties, the small business sector is regarded as the driving force of economic growth, innovation and job creation.  South Africa can benefit from this, but by starting today to encourage its young people into mainstream economic participation from a young age. Gone are the days when university education guaranteed you a job. It is in times like these that countries have to think strategically with the resources they have. The national 2030 development plan states that South Africa through various incentives will create 5 million Jobs. If we are not going to seed a culture of entrepreneurship in our very young people, then this anticipated result will elude us.
It is clear that if we are to see a significant dent in youth unemployment, we need to both encourage existing business to give opportunities to young people, as well as create an environment in which young people are encouraged and supported in developing their own job-creating enterprises.


The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2010 report indicates that the Total Entrepreneurship Activity (TEA) for South Africa is ranked 27 out of 59 countries at 8.9%. The average for the countries surveyed is 11,9%. According to GEM, South Africa should have a TEA rate of 15%.

Over 60% of businesses that are started by young people fail within the first year of opening. This can be largely attributed to four major factors, as per the GEM report:

  1. Culture  – entrepreneurship is not encouraged as a career in schools, where there is more focus on seeking employment than creating employment. There is room for increased participation through a deliberate policy to introduce an entrepreneur culture through competitions, training, workshops and seminars while these teenagers are still in schools.
  2. Skills  – lack of knowledge, experience, business and entrepreneurial skills, largely due to a lack of formal education and training. Again a remedial and deliberate policy of introducing a suite of introductory entrepreneur workshops and seminars would go a very long way in breeding and instilling a culture of entrepreneurship.
  3. Support –  lack of government and private sector, parental and school sector support for enterprises skills hinder the growth of entrepreneurial skills at a young age.
  4. Finance – while finance is available, it is difficult to access. For the few that try by some hook and crook to establish and mimic some business prowess, the red tape around access and other restrictions continue to hinder a vibrant society of young entrepreneurs.


Taking in to consideration the most significant barriers to market entry for young entrepreneurs, the following section outlines practical interventions that can be made by  SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation in partnership with both Government and Business Sector.

In our understanding of the national development plan which seeks to create 5million jobs by year 2030, and to marry this with our objective to create a one million entrepreneurs by 2030, SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation propose to run yearly High School enterprise competitions. The following is a brief outline:

  • Harness the support,  approval and buy in from both the department of education and that of Economic Development to involve schools in such a project. Initial approaches in this direction have been positive.
  • Present a systematic flow of order of events and timetables for such a competition.
  • Gets schools to submit two teams of students  ( Junior Team grades 8 & 9 and Senior Team grades 10,11 &12) to undergo basic training in our 4 main workshops on:
    Business idea generation and innovation
    Business planning and marketing
    Leadership and financial wisdom
  • Schools to then submit their business plans to SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation
  • Panels to review the business plans and invite top 40 (20 in Junior and 20 in senior level) business plans in each province to pitch to another panel for a provincial award
  • Top 10 (5 in Junior level and 5 in senior level) business plans in each province to pitch to a national panel of reviewers for a national award.
  • Categories for competitions
    Employment creation
    Social benefit
  • From each high school there will be 2 main streams of teams
    Junior High School Enterprise – For grades 8 & 9 ( Each team to have minimum of 4 partners)

    Senior High School Enterprise – For grades 10, 11 & 12


It is worth noting that less than 35% of learners who successfully pass matric enroll for university/college education. It therefore means that around 65% of all matriculants annually will be job seekers or adding to the high number of the unemployed young people in the country. Thus it is vital for young people to be prepared at a school level for possible entry into the market as an entrepreneur.

There is a great emphasis on mathematics and science education in schools as the gateway to professional careers, and while these are important areas, equal emphasis should be placed on enterprise and entrepreneurial development. Entrepreneurship education should therefore be and integral part of any child’s education.
However, this process to try and force some change in curriculum will take some time to achieve. The competitions will raise the level and culture of entrepreneurship in our young people from an early age. The competitions will also raise without too much push the level of enthusiasm for mathematics and science subjects as these will be needed in understanding and running businesses.


The main reason why most businesses fail is that there is not much emphasis placed on mentoring. The SA Foundation will create a pool of mentors throughout South Africa to continue to monitor and mentor the created businesses. They will continuously update the foundation on the progress of each business. The Foundation will seek to engage government and private sector through its partners to see that the created businesses are well resourced. We realize that there is some red-tape around the age one can register a business and the Foundation will seek to create mechanisms that will endeavor to give support to such businesses and owners to work around such issues.


SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation as a NPO relays mainly on donations and grants. In 2010 most of its funding has come from Training registrations, advance interest free loans from Founders, Business Partners, and Coronation Fund. In 2012 the Foundation has been given low rent offices within the New Cape Town Science Centre (formerly MTN Science Centre). The Foundation relays on service providers who receive a monthly fee and only has the Director to co-ordinate all functions and facets of the running of the Foundation. In 2012, with the planned move and more workshops planned, there will be need to employ a team to mirror the external service providers.

In considering the work of the Foundation and the expansion of programs to include the SA High School Enterprise Competition, there is need to relook at the 2012 budget and factor these new areas. The budget to be presented below will include the running costs of the offices of the SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation and the roll out of the SA High School Enterprise Competition.
We are therefore seeking partners that will assist in meaningful resources to realize the vision of this project. To hear more on this project and needs please contact:

Lydia Zingoni
Project Director
SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation 2011