Education and entrepreneurship can address youth unemployment

Highlights from the Discovery Mentorship with Purpose masterclasses will be available on Discovery SA’s social media handles

Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe says the change in SA is possible when young people choose their paths wisely and follow their dreams.
Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe says the change in SA is possible when young people choose their paths wisely and follow their dreams.
Image: 123RF/Rawpixel

On day 4 of Discovery’s Mentorship with Purpose Masterclass series with entrepreneur Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe, Quadcare CEO, and Shaun Matisonn, Vitality Group head of insurance markets, talk about the solutions to high youth unemployment levels.

Rakumakoe started with one medical practice in a rural town, which almost went bankrupt, but today runs 10 facilities in Gauteng. She says the journey has experienced many failures, but because she was backed by the right mentors and education, she succeeded.

“I was a six-year-old when my grandmother told me to grow up and become a doctor, so she doesn’t have to queue when she’s old. It’s about someone believing in you at that age. My teachers in high school guided me with the correct subjects to study for medicine.

“After my first practice nearly failed because I didn’t have the right tools in place, I decided to study business, and through my MBA, I was mentored on personal mastery. Now as a businesswoman, my mentors offer me advice on leadership and leading other leaders. It takes special skills to work with and lead people who are leaders in their fields themselves.”

Rakumakoe’s business developed through a series of business acceleration programmes and she received external investment to expand and make her vision of providing health care to communities a reality.

Entrepreneurship starts with storytelling

“We need to hear that entrepreneurship is possible for young people. Having grown up in a township, I know people are not talking about starting businesses. It’s about going to school, getting a job, and supporting the family. But this is why we have unemployed graduates.

“We can start with our children in school by telling them that it is possible. The township view is that entrepreneurship may not often lead to success because it’s risky and there isn’t a lot of money going around. Families ask ‘what if you fail and we are counting on you to support us?’ We need a culture of being brave and trying — even if you fail.”

Rakumakoe says practicalities are also important. “We need an environment for entrepreneurship to succeed. The government has a huge role to play — to create a space where the business, legal and political environment allows people to succeed and contribute to the growth of the economy and the country.” 

Watch the video below:

Matisonn, who’s been involved in the Discovery business since 1994, says, “We shouldn’t underestimate the power of education as a catalyst for making a difference. But jobs today are coming from new businesses, not corporate SA. To be an entrepreneur, you have to be prepared to fail, and manage the risk appropriately. If you have an education, it balances the risk out because you can fall back on that. We can’t all be entrepreneurs, but we can be intrapreneurs by working with or for someone who has a great idea.

“We have to give young people the right narratives. Invite entrepreneurs to schools and share stories with them. Our media should be celebrating entrepreneurs. Companies and corporates should create awards for them. But the main message is that education is the catalyst to entrepreneurship and that there are many failures as well as lessons in failure along the way. Good decisions come from experience, but experience comes from bad decisions. It’s OK to make bad decisions and fail.” 

Start where you are

Rakumakoe says her message to unemployed youth is education: “It doesn’t have to be formal education. What do you want to learn? Go to get books from a library, watch all the YouTube videos around you, and upskill about that topic. Then, start working with people around you. First, those who can help you. Then, and especially for graduates, look at the businesses around you, and see how you can help them.

“Many young graduates think life is about working in a big organisation, wearing a nice shirt and tie. But while you wait for that, how can I use the marketing I’ve learnt to empow

er small entrepreneurs in my community and help them build up to a certain level. Then I can attract other graduates who’ve studied accounting or IT and formalise those small township businesses and take them to the next level.

“Even if it’s your neighbour’s kota business — they may not be able to pay you immediately, but show them how you can grow the businesses with your skills. If you do it well and they grow, they can pay you. Your CV will look better and it will show that you are not chilling at home doing nothing. It shows ambition.”

Rakumakoe says, “Young people must be creative. The problems in this country are many, but find solutions. Even a pandemic like Covid-19 presented opportunities. I’m working with a company that uses scooters that deliver medicine. If you have a bicycle, hire someone to start delivering the kotas and chips your neighbour is selling. Sneaker companies such as Bathu and Drip started from the boots of cars in the township.”

Both panel members iterate that failure should not be feared. “We fail quickly and fail forward. If you have an education, you have something to fall back on should you fail. It is only when you make those mistakes do you grow. We need to teach failure differently,” says Rakumakoe.

Mattison says, “When I recruit talented people, and I see they have tried a start-up which didn’t work out, it makes me want to recruit them. If they have not succeeded, we can try to figure it out and give them tools to be successful. The most important narrative is that failure to grow and learn is failure. You can’t learn to walk without falling over.”

It takes a number of players on the team for success

Mattison says young people need the support of businesses and individuals. “To counter unemployment, we must make capital available and create small business funds. There is a lot of private capital available in SA to help people create businesses. We have not joined the dots correctly, and we are not giving enough credit to entrepreneurs and education. But if we enable people to try to fail, we can do enormous things.”

Rakumakoe says the change in SA is possible when young people choose their paths wisely and follow their dreams. “When people get to tertiary institutions, they choose what they think they will pass, and not what they think they will spend the rest of their lives doing and what they are passionate about. At the same time, it’s important for tertiary institutions to include courses that make them think about the impact of work. You can study education, but instead of being a teacher, how can I create a private education network that fills a niche? It starts with thinking about the problems in the country and how to be a part of the solution.”

Highlights from the Discovery Mentorship with Purpose masterclasses will be available on Discovery SA’s social media handles.

This article was paid for by Discovery SA.


Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.