Sizwe Jacob, who was born in 1994, has been what many people consider unemployed for his whole life. “I have never sat around waiting for government or big businesses to give me a formal job. I make work happen. I create my own story. And there are countless other young people doing the same. We will make a difference in this country.” Jacob has a small business buying and selling foodstuffs.“People have to eat and I provide the food.”
His self-starter skills started in 2000, after his family relocated to East London from Dutywa. “My family helped me design a flyer which we put into postboxes; R5 and I would run errands, mostly to the spaza shop. People smsed me requests. Some days I earned R40. “Once I got a driver’s licence I hired a vehicle and started moving furniture and rubble.” Jacob refused his family’s offer to go to university.
“My grandmother had little education but she made a living selling chickens and vegetables, sewing clothes and charging cellphones via a battery she purchased. If she could do it, so could I.”He said it was pointless for born-frees to mope around accusing government of failing them. “We are in the age of doing what we can and our efforts will lead to our success.”
Alana Bond, co-founder of Simanye, a BEE consultancy, and Lucha Lunako (LL), said South Africa’s youth had to be able to make their voices heard regarding job scarcity.
LL is a youth development lab that builds pathways to decent work through partnership, collaboration and innovation. “Youth unemployment has reached 58% and it cannot carry on like this or the country may burn. LL helps shift young mindsets from surviving to thriving. “An inordinate amount of money has been spent on readying young people for careers, but given the investment over the years, the broad results are woeful.”
Simanye’s access to successful BEE companies, and their social responsibility funds, gives Bond a war chest.
“We don’t reinvent the wheel. We pay successful training companies to do the developmental work. Our five-year goal is to be instrumental in changing young people’s opinions of themselves, building character and confidence and doing away with the understandable apathy.”
Another goal, said Bond, was not focusing only on the top 5% of “the best of the best” performers, but embracing all youth. “Most young people will not get top grades in maths and science. If we don’t concentrate on the other 95% we will be in trouble. We need to develop foundation [soft] skills, as well as maths literacy.”
East Londoner Lorraine Govender, a certified Gallup Strengths coach, was GM of the Car Carrier Division of Mitsui OSK Lines, the shipping company transporting new vehicles to and from South Africa. In 2007, she won the Business Women’s Association’s Achiever Award in the corporate category.
She changed careers when she decided it was time “to give back”. An example of this is a programme she ran for teachers at African Angels Independent School in Chintsa East. School founder Lou Billet said intervention had had a dramatically positive affect on the staff. Govender said South Africa’s youth had taken an identity battering over many years, forcing them to question their self-worth.
“When they understand their talents, their uniqueness, they can build resilience through the crisis, as a catalyst, to assist them in the post-pandemic years. “Self-belief, as demonstrated by Sizwe Jacob, is key to creating a future, especially as an entrepreneur. Many young people have amazing talents but they often need assistance in identifying them. Once they know what they can offer they can become extraordinary. “If they can be encouraged to think, feel and behave like winners, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”