UCT has launched a study to avert the time bomb of unemployed youth, funded by a grant of R12,45 million from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Canada.
The three-year pan-African study is being conducted in the Faculty of Commerce's Development Unit for New Enterprise (DUNE).
Researchers will gather information about the mind-sets, perceptions, attitudes and intentions of youth with respect to entrepreneurship. Having started in South Africa, the project will span 10 countries, including Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia.
Executive director of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Dr Mike Herrington, and Jacqui Kew of UCT's College of Accounting are the project co-ordinators.
Kew said: "While the project will help policymakers make better decisions to foster youth entrepreneurship, we're particularly excited about the collaborations it will trigger between UCT and research academics from these African countries. DUNE, under the leadership of commerce dean Professor Don Ross and Stuart Hendry, is the perfect vehicle."
Preparing young people to be the architects of their own success is key to reducing poverty and inequality in South Africa, Ross said.
"But this wisdom has little practical significance until we identify and prepare realistic interventions," he added. "We need a much clearer understanding of the present barriers. DUNE sets out to capture that crucial knowledge."
The study is important, given recent unrest in Europe and North Africa, sparked by unemployed and under-employed youth.
"The problem of youth unemployment is not isolated to certain countries in Africa or other developing countries. It's a growing worldwide phenomenon that needs urgent attention," said Ross.
The South African leg of the research started with a pilot study conducted in the Free State in December. This work will be in conjunction with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and 750 young people ( between 15 and 35 years) who will share their insights on what it means to be an entrepreneur, what challenges they face in starting a business and whether they consider entrepreneurship as a career option.
The findings will be rolled out across the 10 sub-Saharan African countries early in 2013.
Herrington said a consolidated youth study had not been undertaken before in the sub-Saharan African region.
"It's important to know what our youth are thinking because this has a very real impact on the future of our country and others in sub-Saharan Africa."
In the sub-Saharan region between 45% and 50% of the population is classified as youth (15 to 35 years). Between 60% and 65% of the youth is unemployed or under-employed.
"If you apply these figures to a country like Nigeria, with a population of approximately 180 million, there are more unemployed young people in Nigeria than the total population of South Africa," added Herrington. "This is a potential time bomb which needs active solutions."
The research will provide comparable data with respect to the youth in South Africa's neighbouring countries.
"More and more South Africa's development will become linked to developments throughout Africa, and we need to understand developments in the other sub-Saharan African countries," said Kew. "There are success stories in the region that we can learn from - and quickly."
In South Africa SMMEs contribute more than 35% of the country's total GDP and just over 50% of the employment opportunities. However, the latest international measures find that South Africa is lagging behind most of the world in entrepreneurial interest and activity. This is most worrying in that South Africans, especially the youth, have a low perception of opportunities for starting their own businesses (40% in South Africa versus 80% in Uganda and 81% in Zambia).
"Our prediction is that in two years' time, Nigeria, with its progressive, positive attitude to small business development will be the economic leader in Africa," said Herrington.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.