Programme offers bright future for young entrepreneurs

A Claremont non-profit company is tackling South Africa’s soaring unemployment rate, by helping young people in the townships and rural areas tap into the country’s largely underdeveloped green economy.

SA Business Resources Institute (SABRI) runs a programme called Eco-Connect, which works at grassroots level in communities to help young people develop sustainable businesses that are gentle on the environment. It’s a formula designed to create jobs and spread entrepreneurial skills around communities.

The institute’s CEO, Lynn Maggott, says the programme is open to those who do not have a business idea, but believe they have entrepreneurial skills; those who have a business idea and need help to develop it as well as those who have a business and need support to grow it.

And during Youth Month, they are running a recruitment drive to select 20 aspiring entrepreneurs for the programme.

“A key feature of our incubation programme is that we encourage entrepreneurs to reduce the carbon footprint of their businesses and to use it as a unique selling point to market their businesses as we all have a responsibility to conserve our planet for future generations,” Ms Maggott said.

“Poor education, youth unemployment and the need to create environmental awareness at grassroots level in communities are issues underpinning the development of this project,” Ms Maggott said.

SABRI’s success stories include the Eco Barber Kit, a solar-powered barber kit that does away with the need for users to run potentially hazardous electrical cables from home to home; the Waterless Car Wash, which uses minimal water, and a recycling programme.

“Waste in our communities has huge value so entrepreneurs are equipped with a trolley that allows them to collect waste in a dignified and structured way through acquiring the necessary permits from the municipalities.”

There are also plans for a solar-powered sewing machine.

“It is in the national interest to develop programmes such as these to attempt to address the youth unemployment crisis. This programme addresses two challenges, youth unemployment and environmental conservation,” Ms Maggott said. “We are looking to give our youth advice at absolutely no cost.”

SABRI has helped to establish four cooperatives bakeries in Hanover Park, Manenberg, Khayelitsha and Mfuleni. And, in collaboration with Uni-Lever, they trained 20 ex-cons from Pollsmoor prison who went on to find employment as hairdressers, and one started her own salon.

Participants in the SABRI programme receive business advice and mentorship from experienced business people who have partnered with the institute.

“You can’t depend on any person, company or organisation to give you jobs in these difficult economic times. Entrepreneurship can be an alternative,” said Ms Maggott. “You have to be committed, focused and be tenacious about achieving your goals, but it should not outside of your reach.”

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