Entrepreneurship is an essential practice, the necessity of which has been amplified by the volatile job market since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This was the consensus during the inter-university student panel discussion which took place at the Appalachian, Zululand Entrepreneurship Development (AZED) Conference on Tuesday, 15 August 2023. The panel comprised four students from the University of Zululand (UNIZULU) and five from Appalachian State University (ASU) in the United States. The group, diverse in their entrepreneurial interests, views and experiences, was asked various entrepreneurship related questions to understand their sentiments, lived experiences and aspirations pertaining to the world of entrepreneurship.
ASU delegate Sara Figlow, who facilitated the session, asked critical questions ranging from students’ perception of the conditions for growth and encouragement for entrepreneurial development in their respective countries to the older generation’s views on youth entrepreneurship to securing business finance as a young entrepreneur.
UNIZULU student Andiswa Khathi observed that the high unemployment rate and increase in population and competition in South Africa were issues that motivated most of the youth to become entrepreneurs. Coupled with this was the desire to improve their livelihoods and contribute to the betterment of the financial circumstances of unemployed citizens.
Christy Parker from ASU was of the view that entrepreneurship was more encouraged in the United States of America following the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “I think that the youth is definitely encouraged to go a different route, not to just work a nine-to-five job and I think that has been encouraged a lot more since Covid happened. A lot of people had time or lost their jobs so they were in this mindset of thinking- in this isolation- of ways that they could do stuff to support themselves,” Parker said.
Having said this, the student noted that the success of such businesses relies on the entrepreneurs’ intent to establish their businesses. “There’s a lot of corrupt businesses that just want to make money but I think that the ones that are most sustainable are the ones that really care about their customers,” Parker reckoned.
In terms of the older generation’s views on youth entrepreneurs, the sentiments varied. One of the ASU panelists who runs a jewellery business said her capabilities are often doubted by her much older clientele because of her age and minimal years of experience in the industry. Khathi on the other hand, shared that in her community, young entrepreneurs are supported as the belief is that the youth represent the future of the country.
When it came to securing capital or investments, most of the panelists agreed that the while funding was difficult to secure, opportunities were there for young entrepreneurs to thrive.
For more on the panel discussion and other AZED sessions, please click on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwtPpIi6bO8&t=17957s
AZED is the culmination of the three-year U.S Embassy grant which UNIZULU attained in 2021 to be channeled into various projects set to fulfil the University’s entrepreneurship education plan. The grant further augmented the relationship between UNIZULU and ASU with regard to entrepreneurship development. The conference has the ambit of bringing together academics and students from both institutions in one geographical location to debate, conjecture, profess and interrogate the implementation of entrepreneurship activities on both continents.
- Naledi Hlefane
Picture: Samkele Sokhela