As Africa’s population is becoming younger, it stands to reason that youth development will form the cornerstone of efforts to build a successful generation of future leaders.
“The voice of the youth brings a different perspective, as opposed to the older generations who are more experienced, but tend to have a linear way of thinking. Young people tend to think more creatively, broadly, and innovatively which is what is needed to move Africa forward,” says Shandre van Rheede, Programme Administrator in Executive Education at the GSB.
Van Rheede is one of four graduates from the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development (RAA) who now work at the GSB and who represent a new generation of South Africans; young, ambitious, and courageous.
What they have in common, apart from having had the good fortune to cross paths with the RAA, a specialised unit within the GSB that develops business and life skills in young people via an intensive six-month entrepreneurship programme, is a heartfelt desire to make a difference in their communities, country and continent.
Growing up in difficult circumstances comes with its challenges says Gcobisa Maqanda, a 2013 RAA graduate. “South Africa has been through 21 years of democracy, but there is still so much to be done. I want to help educate young black people in my community so that they too have access to the opportunities that I have had.”
Maqanda, 29, worked in a call centre before attending the RAA programme and is currently the MTN Solution Space Coordinator at the GSB. She says the RAA gave her a conviction about her future. “I now know that there is so much out there and so much that I can contribute,” she says.
Van Rheede and Maqanda both feel that while much lip service is paid to youth development, more needs to be done to give youth greater access to opportunity.
“I believe young people should be given platforms where they are encouraged to have a voice,” says van Rheede, who recently had the opportunity to be heard on a global stage when she travelled to China on a fully sponsored scholarship with the Young Global Pioneers (YGP), a non-profit organisation that promotes global insights and engagement, intercultural competencies and networks between young people. She was one of two RAA graduates, the only South Africans, chosen for the trip.
“Young leaders have an important role to play in shaping the future of this continent and government and corporates, as well as civil society organisations need to open up more to this possibility,” she says.
“We need to shift towards a different mindset,” agrees Zikhona Stuurman, a 24-year old RAA 2011 graduate who is now working as an administrator at the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “There needs to be a change in policy and mindset in order to bridge the gap in unemployment. Young people are full of entrepreneurial ideas and skills, however they do not have access to the funding that is available to them and they are often pressured to put food on the table by their families.” She adds that the change in mindset also needs to happen in the home. “As soon as you leave high school, you have all these responsibilities that are dumped on you. It’s a big challenge.”
Nareeman Africa, 2009 RAA graduate, agrees. “It’s not easy shifting the mindset at home. Especially when you are a woman, you have all these responsibilities that you are expected to attend to.” Now working as an administrator at the RAA, Africa says she does not see herself working there forever, as she believes in giving other young people a chance.
“Going forward I would like to continue to work with young entrepreneurs, helping them to better themselves. I am not sure yet how I will be doing it. But my goal is to ensure that young people continue to have such opportunities as I have had in order to succeed.
“Great leaders encourage others to develop and they also look out for others. This is what the leaders of the RAA do”, she adds.