14 June 2020
As Youth Month gets into gear, my mind raced back to my school days and how I picked up the dirty habit of smoking, not only cigarettes, but the holy herb too.
Thankfully, I was able to see through all the smoke the folly of my ways and, in September, I’ll be celebrating 12 years of kicking butts out of my life. Cigarettes consumed me. When I woke up, before even brushing my teeth, I would light up. After a meal, I needed a stick of Camel Lights in between my fingers. After extramural activities, there needed to be smoking satisfaction.
When I was growing up in the early 70s, entrepreneurs were a novelty, especially black business people. My peers and I all aspired to wear ties and become messengers in town. We never dreamt of emulating the modest Dr Kgomo, who made house calls in a VW Beetle, or Bra Line, who was forever chomping on his cigar long before cigar lounges became fashionable, hawking veggies from an old Bedford truck at Merafe railway station in Moletsane, Soweto.
Thankfully, our messenger images were banished by Junior Achievement programme. High school pupils were asked to establish their own little businesses and compete with rivals from neighbouring schools. Products were made, services were offered and money machines were created. At the end of six months, monies were tallied and the school with the most cash won awesome prizes.
So not only were we being taught about the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck to our shores, but how to start and successfully run our own little businesses. I just wished it had spread throughout the South African schooling system. The country is crying out for entrepreneurs, problem solvers and more taxpayers so that civil servants like me can still continue to draw a salary.
As we restitch our lives after the pandemic, let’s encourage the youth to consider becoming the Aliko Dangotes, Chris Kirubis, Strive Masiyiwas and Tlhopane Motsepes of this world. Our salvation lies with entrepreneurs who make products, sell machinery, create employment and contribute towards much-needed dues for roads to be constructed and hospitals to be built.
Our budding entrepreneurs, who have been churning out compelling audio-visual content, headlining virtual concerts, delivering online orders, producing face masks and sanitisers by the truckloads, need to, however, guard against being sucked into the Instagram world of flashing wealth, and splashing out on depreciating assets like luxurious cars.
Don’t be fooled. Governments do not create jobs. The old age home that is our parliament passes laws. It does not create commerce. It is entrepreneurs who think up the impossible, implement the unthinkable, produce the unexpected and eventually create wealth.
African child, it can be done.
- Mafata is a Johannesburg-based communicator. He writes in his personal capacity.