Felleng Yende | Let’s enable and support driven youth to entrepreneurship


“As an entrepreneur, I am bringing something of value to society, making a job for myself and others and creating wealth that benefits my family, community, country and the world.”

This entrepreneur’s pledge from the Kauffman Foundation, an American organization that works with communities to foster economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success, may be an answer to the lack of employment opportunities for our youth.

As we bid farewell to Youth Month under the theme: “The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke: Growing youth employment for an inclusive and transformed society”, it is critical to answer the following question: How can we nurture an entrepreneurial mindset in our youth and how can that be sustained?

The foundation of our answer comes from Mahatma Gandhi, an anti-colonial nationalist and political ethicist, who once said:

The future depends on what you do today.

This is a powerful message and one that should resonate, especially with our youth.

Gandhi reminds us that as we grow, we have certain dreams for what we would like our future to look like. But, it is important that our youth continuously works towards that goal. Every decision it makes today determines what the future will look like.

There are plenty of options available, including further study, on-the-job training and an entrepreneurial mindset.

Entrepreneurial mindset

An entrepreneurial mindset is a way of life, a belief that a young person can start and sustain a business through perseverance and resilience. This is done by transforming challenges into opportunities, daring to dream and believing in oneself, while discovering a passion and being eager to learn, embrace uncertainty and accept failure.

For a country still grappling with the ever-escalating unemployment statistics – 63.9% for 15-to 24-year-olds, 42.1% for 25-to 34-year-olds, while the current official national rate stands at 34.5% – self- reliance through entrepreneurship has much relevance today.

It also contributes to economic growth and poverty alleviation.

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Our youth needs a creative mindset of seeing opportunities where others see problems and create jobs instead of waiting for someone to do it for them.

An entrepreneurial mindset imbues in them the refusal to complain but seek solutions and opportunities to build a better future.

As the South African youth continues to bear the burden of unemployment, what opportunities are available to exploit their talents and skills to better themselves and, importantly, create a better society?

Pillars to steer an entrepreneurial ship

Although more and more youth are looking into entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and poverty alleviation, they face many challenges, such as a lack of access to information, finance, networking and mentorship.

So, how can we nurture an entrepreneurial mindset in our youth? Through mentoring, networking, financing start-ups, information sharing and reducing red tape.

These five pillars, added by a digital economy, are critical in modern-day entrepreneurship.


US President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “We cannot always build a future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future.”

In Roosevelt’s view, no matter how well the future is shaped, if young people are not mentored well, they may never be ready for the opportunities and challenges of their times.

We often tell the youth to create a brighter future through initiatives such as education and skills development and an entrepreneurship mindset.

But, how prepared, nurtured and mentored are our youth for this future?

Young entrepreneurs require mentorship to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

There is enough evidence that youth, if well-nurtured and mentored, can create prosperous, well-governed and peaceful communities.

Mentorship is key in building young people’s confidence, attitudes, sense of direction and self-esteem, which position them to face the world and achieve their dreams.


Networking helps the youth to establish contacts and relationships. Through networking, they can exchange information and ideas.

I put an emphasis on networking because I love and enjoy meeting new people and learning about what they do. Networking, I have learned, creates a two-way relationship. It is that simple. The idea is to help one another and, of course, grow our businesses together.


Funding makes entrepreneurship possible. Since financing start-up businesses remains the greatest challenge, there is a need for strategic partnerships between government entities and the private sector.

Fortunately, banks have been making moves to facilitate small and medium enterprises and start-up loans, by lowering the minimum capital requirement, thus allowing businesses to start with less capital.

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However, there is still a lot of room for improvement in funding. To give businesses the extra push, we need more stable financial start-up platforms from which the youth can launch themselves.


Youth employment can drive economic development, and it is, therefore, critical that all sectors work together to share information on how to succeed in entrepreneurial projects.

Information sharing allows innovation, efficiency and the emergence of new ideas.

Through information sharing, our youth can generate new knowledge, develop new products, processes and services, or improve those that already exist.

Eliminate red tape

There is a need to look into the manner and pace at which licenses to start-ups are issued to improve efficiency. We must abolish unnecessary bureaucratic procedures and make public services more efficient and admirable.

Despite these gloomy scenarios of youth unemployment, the country has a rich pool of young people.

The success prospect for our country is to enable and support driven young people in their entrepreneurship journey.

Dr Felleng Yende is the CEO of the Fiber Processing and Manufacturing SETA, which facilitates skills development programs for 13 sub-sectors.

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