Entrepreneurs key to addressing South Africa’s desperate jobs crisis

South Africans must embrace the entrepreneurial culture because the old days of jobs waiting for them after graduation are long gone. The country’s economic future depends instead on the quality of its entrepreneurs, in whose hands most future jobs – and income generation – will lie.

That was the warning sounded by Unathi Njokweni-Magida, Engen’s head of Transformation and Stakeholder Engagement, as the company prepares to host the 2017 finals of its acclaimed Pitch & Polish initiative.

 A passionate Njokweni-Magida said the programme, of which Engen has been the title sponsor for the past six years, has already helped approximately 10 000 South Africans realise their entrepreneurial ambitions.

 “Many of these people have been running small businesses for years, with no idea of how to grow them further. Others have great ideas but lack the confidence and the business savvy necessary to present them to the banks or possible investors and persuade someone to back them financially.

 “This is where Pitch & Polish steps in, running nine workshops across the country annually to teach them what they need to know,” she explains.

 Although Engen awards life-changing prizes to the entrepreneurs placed in the top three each year, thousands of other participants also benefit from the expert presentations.

 “It’s an amazing learning experience for everyone who attends, and their many success stories are proof they leave with a new mindset, a new vision for their businesses, and the advice necessary to help turn their plans into reality,” says Njokweni-Magida.

 While Engen Pitch & Polish is a B.E.E. initiative in the company’s Enterprise Development portfolio, she is adamant its involvement is no political marketing ploy, but Engen’s contribution to making a difference to the communities where it does its business. 

 “Poverty and unemployment is rife in South Africa. With unemployment at 37%, the government and private sector cannot provide much needed employment solutions. Corporates must step up and do the right thing.”

 While Engen isn’t naïve about how the company also benefits in this “ecosystem of progress”, it is the stories of businesses that started with two staff members and now employ 300 that really drive their continued involvement, adds Njokweni-Magida.

 “We focus not only on training during our workshops, but also provide participants with materials and networks that they can use once they leave us. They also get the kind of exposure they’d never normally get and we’ve even seen some of the Engen Pitch & Polish beneficiaries invited to international events as a result.”

 Pitch & Polish, she stressed, is Engen’s contribution to helping alleviate poverty and creating much-needed jobs.

 “If we can do that, then we are able to assist communities to function properly. If we don’t, then our rising poverty statistics will tell the story of how we failed to rise to the challenge,” cautions Njokweni-Magida.

 The semi-finals of Engen Pitch & Polish 2017 are scheduled for November 23, and the finals for November 30, both in Johannesburg.

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