Pupils win big at Youth Entrepreneurship Awards

Winners Nobuhle Motlounu and Babongile Maqutha, with Martin Sweet, MD of Primestars.
Winners Nobuhle Motlounu and Babongile Maqutha, with Martin Sweet, MD of Primestars.

Learners from the Charlotte Maxeke Secondary School scooped the overall winning prize at the Step Up 2 A Start Up National Youth Entrepreneurship Awards 2018, held in Pretoria this week.

The two grade nine winners, Nobuhle Motlounu and Babongile Maqutha, developed Find My Kgontshe, an accommodation booking app targeted at the lower income market.

Now in its fifth edition, Step Up 2 A Start Up is a youth development programme aimed at providing entrepreneurship and ICT skills to thousands of young South Africans who face a future without work.

The programme was founded by youth skills development organisation, Primestars Marketing, in partnership with the Department of Small Business Development, and other stakeholders.

The awards evening was the culmination of a five-month entrepreneurship programme, where 12 000 secondary school learners from over 20 schools competed to make it into the finals. This number was narrowed down to nine schools, tasked with using technology to find innovative solutions to society's most pressing social and environmental problems.

"Congratulations to all the finalists. You have shown great potential to begin walking in the direction of your dreams," said Martin Sweet, MD of Primestars.

"Our Step Up 2 A Start Up programme teaches vital lessons in entrepreneurship to thousands of South African learners through edutainment. Each year, the programme focuses on global trends in entrepreneurship, seeking to inspire participants to explore these in the context of their surroundings by looking for business solutions to real problems in their communities."

This year's theme, "Think Tech. Do Business", encouraged learners to embrace technology as a platform for small business creation.

The runners-up were learners from Sir Pierre van Ryneveld School: Tshegofatso Mathabe, Anele Mahasela and Tsholofelo Moetji. They created On The Go, an app aimed at locating nearby health institutions and booking medical appointments.

In third place were grade nine Secunda High School learners, Mmamokgele Mphokane and Caitlin Murray, who developed an app for connecting companies/people looking to donate resources, with deserving charities.

All finalists were awarded prizes valued at over R2.5 million, comprising bursaries, business incubation, cash and gadgets.

"We are grateful for being among the finalists. The bursaries will help us gain access into university and gain skills to navigate the world of entrepreneurship," said Mathabe.

"During the training we learnt how to refine our app by making it more marketable and we gained a better understanding of our target market and licensing requirements. We have also learnt coding skills, the Internet of things and maximising the use of social media."

Unemployment crisis

According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey by Statistics SA, of the 10.3 million young South Africans aged 15 to 24 years, about 30% were not in employment, education or training. This equates to more than three million young people who cannot find work because they are regarded as too unskilled and inexperienced by prospective employers.

Addressing delegates, small business development minister Lindiwe Zulu explained: "Our department has been part of the Step Up 2 A Start Up programme since 2015.

"With the high unemployment levels in SA, this programme encourages young people to start their own businesses and provides them with the tools to succeed, shaking off the notion that we are a nation of job-seekers and strive to build a nation of job creators. We need an army of entrepreneurs equipped with the tools to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution, creating new industries and new jobs."

Last year's edition of the JCSE ICT Skills Survey revealed that despite a number of initiatives to bring technology into education, the education system continues to fail to generate a cohort of work-ready youth within the field of ICT.

"The fourth industrial revolution is, by now, widely predicted to bring with it disruption and displacement, including job losses. Beyond our 27.2% current unemployment rate, the rest of the continent faces significant infrastructural and educational challenges, making it one of the regions most at risk. In order to reverse this, we have a responsibility to ensure opportunity and knowledge is shared far and wide," commented Sweet.

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