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Boosting SMMEs and driving youth employment – can’t have one without the other

IN support of economic recovery and to boost youth employment, the government has proposed R5.2 billion in tax relief while the Department of Small Business Development has announced plans to support at least 15 000 youth-owned enterprises. Although the proof is still in the pudding, this is a step in the right direction given that small businesses are the backbone of the economy and youth unemployment is one of South Africa’s biggest and most pressing problems. To ensure that the proposed measures have the desired outcome of small business development and youth employment creation, it is necessary that all stakeholders are involved – from government agencies to private sector players and educational institutions.

Properly utilising existing resources

Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) are crucial for the redevelopment of our local economy and these proposed interventions from the government can provide much-needed relief. They however do need to be channelled correctly through existing small business development resources, such as the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), the Cooperatives Incentives Scheme and the Black Business Supplier Development Programme. From a youth development perspective, the Umsobomvu Youth Fund and the National Youth Service have already been established for the purpose of helping our youth set up, expand and develop their businesses by teaching them essential business skills. Youth Advisory Centres (YACs) have been established around the country, providing walk-in facilities for youth to receive information, training and referrals. Funding can be facilitated through agencies like Khula Enterprise Finance and the South African Micro-Finance Apex Fund, as they all have their own criteria and processes and service providers to ensure that we achieve the desired trickle-down effect towards beneficiation and job creation.

 Educational foundations

Our economy doesn’t need more lawyers or accountants to rebuild. Instead, school learners need to realise that entering a trade or acquiring a critical skill that is in shortage is the best way to ensure employability and to earn a living reliably. For example, every year the government releases its list of critical skills. This is a missed opportunity for youth skills development, as we have the potential right under our noses – all we need to do is identify their potential and develop these critical skills within our own borders, by creating the necessary educational, training and support structures that help to make the youth employable, while creating employment opportunities through entrepreneurial development.

Developing on the right idea

While the government has all the right intentions with small business support and youth development, it’s going to take a lot of focus and collaboration in order to properly understand what the needs are in this sector. Without this understanding, it’s simply throwing money at a problem. By properly defining and appreciating what the entrepreneurial needs are, we can then start to define how entrepreneurs can best be developed to encourage employment, which will in turn have the consequence of creating youth employment opportunities, for which the youth need to be adequately trained, equipped and skilled in order to be employable.

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