It’s time for schools to take entrepreneurship more seriously.
Dirk Lotriet. Picture: Alaister Russell
This year will be remembered as the year of Covid-19. But I believe history will also label it as the year in which we were forced to become entrepreneurs. Our official unemployment figure stands at well over 30%. Unofficially, every second person is jobless.
When I look around me, more and more people are trying to make a living selling something: boerie rolls, plastic kitchen accessories, shares in pyramid schemes… Until recently, you only saw beggars at the traffic lights. Now they are outnumbered by people selling sunglasses, vehicle licence holders, energy drinks, Chinese manufactured toys… One day, we will wake up and realise that we have become a nation of shopkeepers and traders.
My cousin is a farmer. She also deals in antiques. During the recent drought, her farm only survived thanks to her buying and selling old stuff. Of course, not every tale of entrepreneurship is a success story.
An acquaintance decided to take cigarette smuggling seriously “and go big” during the lockdown. He ploughed his life savings into his illicit business, bought overpriced stock, destroyed friendships … until the tobacco ban was lifted two days later. But, on average, South Africans are survivors.
Not all of them – many are patiently waiting for the economy to recover. I’ve got bad news for them. I can’t see our economy soon becoming the vibrant money-generating machine it was before 2009. We had two consecutive recessions before March and we had to borrow money to see us through the pandemic.
At the moment, three out of every four rands that reaches the state coffers are used to either service foreign debt or to pay our bloated civil service’s salaries. Tax income is bound to shrink. But the cost of expensive foreign credit won’t. And government has shown an unwillingness to cut back on the vast numbers of overpaid civil servants.
It’s time for schools to take entrepreneurship more seriously. Until now, a school career tried to prepare pupils for employment. Those employment opportunities don’t exist anymore. And I’m not holding my breath for them to return soon.
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