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Recently Statistics SA announced that the country’s unemployment rate had jumped in the first quarter of 2016 from 24.5% to 26.7%. This means that today there are 8.9 million South Africans who want to work, are able to work, but are not able to find employment and most of these willing citizens are of South Africa’s youth.

Besides data from other emerging world economies suggesting that entrepreneurial activity increases job security and contributes positively towards Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report notes that in South Africa such activity remains considerably low, and although it has increased marginally over the last 10 years, in 2014 it dropped by a staggering 34% (from 10.6% to 7%). The report further states that there has been an increase in women’s entrepreneurship primarily due to government support, but that the perception of opportunities to start a business, and confidence in one’s own abilities to do so, remains alarmingly low compared to other sub-Saharan African countries.This could be attributed to common belief that creativity, ingenuity, and passion are innate personal qualities which are the hallmarks of a successful entrepreneur. However, there is another school of thought which argues that entrepreneurs are made and not merely just born. They are made through dedication, hard work, sheer will power and more importantly through education where they can acquire the correct skills needed to become successful entrepreneurs.

Two inspiring stories of BA Graphic Design 3rd year students at the Design School of Southern Africa (DSSA), a brand of the Independent Institute of Education (The IIE), also affirm this belief.

Sabelo Sibisi operates the brand, STRU, which is in the business of selling trendy street conscious apparel targeted at the youth. Although STRU is still in its infant stages, Sibisi says that he is encouraged by the fact that customers love and support the label and that it gives him an extraordinary sense of accomplishment seeing people wear the brand. His time at DSSA has enabled him to nurture his vision, giving him the necessary knowledge and skills needed in order to work towards his goal of a sustainable design for the STRU brand which he hopes to successfully promote and position on social media using his new way of innovative thinking encouraged by DSSA.

Also seeing a gap in the market, Tayla Kohler took a hobby and turned it into a sustainable enterprise by custom making tapers and ear gauges. She then expanded into making interesting necklaces, which are far more universal as not everyone wants to stretch their ear lobes, and now she caters to both markets. Kohler says DSSA opened her up to the defining truth of her business, “we all just want to be individuals in a world that is becoming ever generic.”

DSSA national marketing manager, Nicky Stanley says that the school balances natural creative potential with vocational preparedness through academic excellence and industry experience. “Sabelo and Tayla are a true testament that our inspirational, adaptable and innovative learning environment gives students the best chance of success, challenging and empowering them to become enterprising.”

South Africa faces a number of economic challenges that can only be met if it has innovative, well-educated, and entrepreneurial citizens who, whatever their walk of life, have the spirit and inquisitiveness to think in new ways, and the courage to meet and adapt to the challenges facing them. A dynamic economy, which is innovative and able to create the jobs that are needed, will require a greater number of young people who are willing and able to become entrepreneurs, schools and tertiary institutions should play greater roles in shaping these young people’s attitudes and skills towards becoming captains of industry.

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