Address by Kwazulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Mr Michael Mabuyakhulu during the Kwazulu-Natal Youth Chamber of Commerce and Industry's annual general meeting (AGM)
26 Aug 2010
It gives us pleasure to be part of this auspicious occasion where the young people of this province are meeting to discuss ways of ensuring that young people play a critical role in molding the future of the KwaZulu-Natal and creating a prosperous province in which all of us can have a stake.
In the days leading up to this conference, I chanced upon this trivial piece of information from the Encyclopedia which I imagined would be of interest to those attending this meeting.
"Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (born May 14, 1984) is an American entrepreneur best known for co-founding the popular social networking site Facebook. Zuckerberg cofounded Facebook with fellow classmates Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, and Chris Hughes while attending Harvard. As of March 2010, he is the youngest billionaire in the world, with a net worth of United States $4 billion in 2010 due to his 24 percent share of Facebook".
Just like Twitter, blogging and M-Xit, Facebook is among the world's most popular networking sites. Indeed, it is often asserted that those who are at the cutting-edge of communication have presence on the Facebook network.
However, the interesting fact for us is that Mark Zuckerberg was only 20 years of age when he founded Facebook in 2004. This then led me to ponder to myself the question: "why can KwaZulu-Natal not produce its own Mark Zuckerberg?"
Indeed, I am certain that as members of the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Chamber of Commerce you would have a number of reasons why we have not been able to produce pioneering, innovative, internationally competitive and young entrepreneurs. Most of the arguments that you advance will be true and factual but if we are to change the world and develop a cadre of young business people to take our province forward, then we will need to heed the words of Karl Marx who said: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it".
At this, the KYCC annual general meeting, we are called upon, as young entrepreneurs, to rise to the challenge of building a vibrant economy and ensure that the province of KwaZulu-Natal assumes its rightful place among the economies of the world.
This, for us, is not a time for finger-pointing and pontificating, but for the young business leaders to pose to themselves pertinent questions and respond to the question of how we can create our own Mark Zuckerbergs.
Programme director, one of the issues that our government has put at the apex of its list of priorities since the birth of the new dispensation is the issue of youth empowerment. We have done this not only because young people are the inheritors of the future but also because we understand that a nation that does not invest in its young people is a doomed nation.
We have always understood that while as government we have a role to play to fostering social, economic and political change, however all our efforts will not yield the desired result if we don't involve young people so that they can assist in shaping the future of their choice.
Amongst key areas that we put under close scrutiny was the interest and wellbeing of our young people, which included taking stock of the education system to ensure it prepared them for active roles in the country's future. We wanted an education that helps nurture young people into responsible citizens that play an active role in the country's economy.
One of the ways to get young people to play a catalytic role in shaping a future that they can be proud of was to rationalise existing structures for youth empowerment. These included the National Youth Commission, National Youth Council and Umsobomvu Youth Fund. The latter had been the key instrument towards giving aspiring youth entrepreneurs a head start in business amid some challenges that some of you are aware of.
This instrument was established through contributions made by all citizens that acknowledged that a strong foundation to build the future of this country lied on the development of young people in terms entrepreneurial capacity to be able to get into the core of the mainstream of this country's economy.
Investment in shaping skills, competencies and experiences of young people has always been at the centre of this government's developmental agenda because we know of the energy and enthusiasm they bring into any activity they engage in.
To ensure that such passion is not lost to anti-social escapades such as substance abuse and other related dangerous acts, the youth had to be encouraged to hone their skills to prepare themselves for the challenging adult life in which they could make choices of whether to seek employment with confidence or venture into entrepreneurial world to create jobs for themselves and others.
However, it became clear that given limited resources and the need to provide holistic and integrated developmental services to our young people, a single entity was inevitable hence the National Youth Day of 16 July 2009 became the birth day for the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) to cater for a wide range of developmental needs for the young people.
As a typical one-stop-shop providing business support and even socio-political education to the youth, the agency has the tough task of exceeding the level of achievements scored by its predecessors that had a huge challenge of meeting the expectations associated with the transitional phase towards a democratic dispensation.
But, the NYDA is expected to learn fast and start delivering on its mandate which is to draw as many youth into the mainstream of the economy as possible to prepare them for roles in both national and global economies.
One of the often recited complaints about Umsobomvu was that it had limited reach in rural areas and the youth in the remotest settlements were unable to access its services. But I believe that this time around, the NYDA has reasonably spread its wings across the country, with its tentacles in the form of business advisory outlets stretching into various parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
The question is whether young people are aware of these offices and if so, are they getting the anticipated level of quality service that would help them achieve their envisaged business objectives?
Those that have been able to gain support to make to the top, were they able to share their experiences with those still traversing the route towards economic achievement or were just busking in the lime light and pretentious splendour against the backdrop of their fellow compatriots still languishing in poverty and despair.
These are some of the questions that could sound rhetoric, but we need to respond to them as we have to ensure that all our young people are dragged out of socio-economic squalor that often drives them to crime and other social ills that eventually deprive them the prospect of pursuing decent and respected careers or lifestyles.
We therefore believe that the efforts to keep the youth on the radar screen is not an option, but a national pre-requisite which has been embraced by the new government that decided to help transform the shape and functions of statutory organs responsible for dispensing developmental services to benefit the youth.
Collectively, we can make all state interventions work to advance the lives of young people. Where we identify challenges, we have a duty to raise the alarm for swift redress to ensure that organs such as the NYDA don't slide to a state of nonentity by failing to adequately fulfill their primary mandate of empowering the youth.
It's therefore imperative that we keep NYDA busy by seizing the opportunities offered through its various vouchers designed to provide business and financial support services for different levels and phases of enterprises such as Business Consulting Services Voucher programme for start up business ventures.
Such service could be matched with other financial products offered by other government agencies including the Department of Economic Development and Tourism which has an array of business development institutions that include the KwaZulu-Natal Growth Fund, Ithala Development Finance Corporation, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal.
These provide a combination of general and specialist enterprise development packages to suit the need of each business undertaking and in view that we want small businesses to grow, those already in business could explore expansion opportunities by accessing funding from Growth Fund.
However, this programme was established for enterprise with a R30 million financial overlay and hence it's ideal for entrepreneurs wanting to broaden their market niche, yet it welcomes brand new ventures needing substantial working capital for the acquisition or building of premises and other related trading logistics.
We all know that young people are natural risk takers hence even in business one would expect such trend and we as government would encourage entrepreneurs that look beyond their own borders to explore economic opportunities.
The Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal offers that scope for our business people to get expose to serious export market. The country's exposure to the process of globalisation and fast growing information highway has made it possible to interface easily with counterparts from other continents and countries to consider business partnerships and joint ventures.
The above mentioned state agencies and many more at national level and as well as means that we have put in place to leverage both domestic and global economic opportunities, including the establishment of facilities to facilitate easy trade between the province and the rest of the world such as King Shaka International Airport, forming part of the mighty Dube Trade Port, featuring agri-zones, cyber-port, cargo terminal and trade zone; all provide for a comprehensive capacity for KwaZulu-Natal to become the region's economic hub.
But its long term plans would only be sustained if our young people desist from shouting from the sidelines by using organisations such as the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has to be an active voice of the aspirant youth entrepreneurs whose dreams of making big in business would have to be developed early to be able compete effectively in the global market.
Hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup further opened more avenues for the country, the province and young people in particular to seek their positions in the world stage, with more people of the world now being aware of what the country could offer in terms of requisite infrastructure for investment.
It's up to young entrepreneurs to use the world cup legacy as a springboard to forge their presence in the world market. But charity begins at home and hence we would urge our emerging business people to align themselves with our efforts of strengthening business ties with our own neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regions as well as immediate provinces sharing borders with us.
When packaging ourselves as a trading block rather than competitors, we would have more benefits to be distributed amongst our people.
We have already engaged with the three neighbouring provinces of Eastern Cape, Free State and Mpumalanga on this matter. This process will be advanced very soon to include frontline states such as Swaziland, Lesotho and Mozambique whom we believe we have to pool our resources and thoughts with to ensure socio-economic transformation for our people.
We therefore want young entrepreneurs to board this transformational train as its journey hinges on the continuous production of new ideas and strategies to make KwaZulu-Natal the real hub of economic advancement in the region.
It's however, worth stressing that genuine youth participation in the province's, country's, the region's and global economy will be fuelled by relentless skills development programmes. While we acknowledge the role of formal education centres, it is also worth mentioning that experiential training through a combination of initiatives such as learnerships, internships and apprenticeships offered by both government and social partners in the private sector couldn't be underrated.
We are aware of the prime prize other organisations such as the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Chamber of Commerce and other allied formations place on skills training which is critical in ensuring that our people embark on careers that have adequate know how to survive in the highly competitive business environment.
Our belief in a true youth empowerment through skills development is also inscribed in the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Economic Empowerment Strategy which emphasises an integrated approach to youth development, ranging from general life skills to professional and career oriented nurturing of young entrepreneurial talents.
This is because our province and country can only compete with success in the world market if our reservoir of future leaders is equipped with a wealth of technical and business skills.
Programme director, we believe we would be failing in our duty if we do not raise some of the issues that we think you have to focus on as young people driven by a quest a create a bright future for our province. This chamber has given you an opportunity to organise yourselves as young people facing the same challenges and a common destiny. Therefore, this means that a lot is expected from this forum.
Given the fact that this forum is for young people who are always bubbling with fresh ideas and who are impatient with doing things the normal ways, this doubles the expectation that this forum should be populated by young people who are innovative and are able to think out of the box.
Therefore, this forum cannot afford to be an annual pilgrimage where we meet and pontificate about issues facing young people with no clear outcomes. This forum cannot afford to be a forum where all of us are long on noble speeches but short on action.
Each year when we meet as young people we should be able to review the journey that has been covered in the previous year to advance the interest of young people while plotting the way forward.
The future of any nation lies in the hands of its young people. As government we have crafted a broad vision about where we want to take this province in the next few decades to come. As young people we expect you to crystallise these ideas and turn them into tangible results.
One of the immediate challenges facing our province is to increase our gross domestic product so as to help the province realise its economic potential. Currently, our province has the second biggest economy in the country after Gauteng. However, we believe that we are yet to meet our full economic potential. We believe we have not been able to optimally utilise our comparative and competitive advantage of being the only province with the country's two biggest ports and a multi modal transport system.
We therefore believe that young people of this province would not have done justice in their deliberations if they don't assist in coming with solutions on how the province can attain these goals.
While other provinces are far ahead in terms of implementing Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBEEE), the reality is that in KwaZulu-Natal the BBBEE train has barely moved out of the station.
This is as a result of a number of reasons caused by both objective and subjective factors. As all of us know, BBBEE is essential about transforming the provincial economy of KwaZulu-Natal and ensuring that our people are given a role to determine the economic trajectory of this province.
As young people who will inherit the future of this province, we believe that you can ill afford not to be part of this important debate. Our contention, programme director, is that this forum should be a fountain of bright and new ideas on how to catapult the economic cart of this province forward.
This forum should not be a forum where we come to mourn about what government is or not doing to improve the lot of young people but should be a melting pot of ideas that young people have developed to help contribute to the province's economic well being and transformation.
Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, we wish to remind all of us here that the pivotal business of government is to create an attractive environment for business to flourish.
This is done in various ways that include the formulation and implementation of favourable policies and legislations to support growth and as well as basic funding for some categories of enterprises to be able to take off and compete with others.
It's therefore inherent upon those with entrepreneurial inclination to avoid perennial dependency on government support, but seek to expand their market niche beyond founding boundaries.
The challenges facing our province and our country require a breed of entrepreneurs who are not only concern with boosting their bottom line but who also understand the strategic role that should be played by business to create a country that we can all be proud.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said: "the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams". This means that as young people we have been given the greatest gift on earth to imagine the future. Unlike many of us who can only wistfully curse the past, you have been given the power not only to visualise what kind of future you would like to have but to lay the first brick of that bright tomorrow.
The power is therefore in your hands to work hard to craft the future of your dreams.
I thank you.
Source: Department of Economic Development and Tourism, KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government
Issued by: KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development and Tourism
26 Aug 2010
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