Address by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP "How to expose youth entrepeneurs to economic opportunities and developing youth brochure that will profile youth business" Khulisa Young Accountants Project, Walter Sisulu University, Mthatha (16 August 2007)

Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to express my gratitude for the invitation to participate in this conference and to share some thoughts with the youth of this institution and region.

I am happy that despite the education authorities' merger and attempted downgrading of this institution, that the university has retained its Economic Sciences department. I remembered in 1979 in the same faculty being lectured by Prof Nkuhlu in Accounting, when he was still here. Little did we know at that time the then-Unitra and now-Walter Sisulu University would produce such renowned chartered accountants who today work all over the country. The authorities of the new establishment since 1994 have undermined and underestimated the value of this university. It is this same university which has produced excellent medical practitioners for the entire country and neighbouring countries. It is this same universities that helped thousand and thousands of civil servants - including police, army, intelligence community and teachers - who in turn have passed their skills on. And I'm sure today they and their skills are being used in every sector of society. However the powers-that-be didn't recognise the contribution of this university and hence they wanted to close it down, and they told us that the best institutions were those ones previously run by and for whites - what a contradiction from those who claim to have been 'oppressed' and who got into power with the mandate to liberate all South Africans.

We would simply say to the family of this university that in future this mess will be changed to the betterment of this institution and the region. Sadly, families now have to pay a great deal of money to send their children to so-called 'recognised' institutions, where previously the children could stay close to home whilst they studied at this great institution at a far lesser expense.

Chairperson allow me to turn to today's topic:

Across the country the number one concern for most youth today is the question of finding employment and making a decent living wage. Even more so in the Eastern Cape, and specifically the Transkei region, which is one of the poorest parts of the country. We know that the Transkei used to have a vibrant economy supported by the state departments before they were moved to Bisho, as well as some industries which migrated to areas like East London and Port Elizabeth in the mid-90s.

Many young people face the unemployment crisis in this country with a sense of resignation. It is also true that others enter the job market with a sense of entitlement and are devastated when their high expectations are dashed. There are very few jobs and many people competing for them.

It is therefore significant that a group of young people such as the Khulisa Young Accountants Project has come together. The mere act of organising yourself and showing the initiative of giving back to your community, instead of just asking for handouts, demonstrates that you are leaders in your own right.

It is without a doubt one of the prerequisites of entrepreneurship that you should have the ability to take the initiative.

Looking at the Khulisa Young Accountants Project objectives and goals, I am impressed by the amount of thought and passion that has gone into this project. You have correctly identified many of the critical issues surrounding the youth and employment, especially within the context of the Eastern Cape and the plight of the rural poor.

One of the highest priorities for accounting students is to find internship opportunities. I believe that Government, at National, Provincial and Local level should look at ways of using the growing demands to comply with sound auditing practices as defined by the Public Finance Management Act and other legislation, to leverage opportunities for internships. If Government entered into partnerships with auditing and accounting firms to deal its growing auditing needs, then it could demand of the companies that successfully bid for such businesses to have an established internship programme for graduates. It would provide a win-win solution for all involved and also help to ensure that the taxpayer's money is responsibly managed by Government.

Right now, important as entrepreneurship is, it remains critical that you as students should not neglect your chosen field of study in pursuit of entrepreneurial opportunities. I realise that it is pro-active to seek already now to create your own opportunities and be master of your own destiny, but this should not come at the expense of your studies. It is worth remembering that one of the core objectives that you have set yourself is to prove that the youth of the region and of the Walter Sisulu University are competent and capable of outstanding achievements. Academic success is therefore a very important part of your efforts. Like with any business, you need to build the brand of youth from this region; and few things will advance your brand like academic excellence.

It is worth noting that the vast majority of new businesses fail within the first two years. The marketplace is a cruel and unforgiving environment where only the strongest and fittest ideas and people survive. Of those that overcome that hurdle only a very small percentage continue to grow from mere survival to become truly successful. It is vital that you have no illusions about this reality because entrepreneurship requires in the first place a clear grasp of the reality of the marketplace.

There is nevertheless undoubtedly space for initiatives that improve the survival and success rate of new businesses, youth-owned or otherwise. This is where I think that Government and the Business community must unite and establish Emerging Business Incubators. Such an Incubator would be a place where emerging entrepreneurs can bring their concepts for evaluation and where the best one's can access office-space, mentorships, financing, IT facilities and basic business-services for a period of two years to help increase their chances of becoming established and flourishing businesses. There are many big names in the corporate and Government circles who come from the Transkei and I think that they would be well-placed to leverage their success to reinvest in the place they call home.

Such Incubators need to be started in every region of the country, especially in an area like the Transkei. With annual funding and a two-year cycle many emerging entrepreneurs can be helped to get on their feet. And of course, once they've established themselves they can repay in part by becoming mentors at the Incubator for the next generation of emerging entrepreneurs.

These Emerging Business Incubators could also serve as central hubs in each region to bring together all Government and corporate services related to issues of entrepreneurship and business. For instance every financial institution should be represented there, along with all relevant Government departments such as Treasury, DTI, agriculture etc. This would help to cut down on the red-tape and hassle of starting a business and free up time and energy for the emerging entrepreneur to focus his/her creativity into the establishment and growth of their business.

Already you have displayed enthusiasm and initiative and I think that alone should be sufficient to make many people in corporate and Government circles, sit up and take notice.

I thank you.

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