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Actively finding strategic partnerships with government, businesses, civil society and academia; access to funding; mentorship; creating networks that enable access to markets and identifying ways to support entrepreneurs in communities are some of the priority areas identified that Rotarians across the country, continent and globe have committed to supporting. This comes after a stimulating day of dialogue and debate at the Rotary International Economic Development Conference hosted at Kelvin Grove in Rondesboch, Cape Town over the weekend.
Just over 250 delegates from 26 different countries attended the full day economic development conference hosted by Southern African Rotary Clubs to find solutions on how best to support the all-important growing entrepreneurial sector in the country and continent with a view to further expanding into global markets too.
A clear message for the day was that young entrepreneurs are the future of our country and solutions need to be found to support them. South Africa’s youth unemployment rate is approximately 24%. Clem Sunter, leading international strategist and entrepreneurial author indicated that the only way to improve the situation is through entrepreneurship. This level of unemployment is the same as when the United States’ suffered during the great depression; today the USA’s unemployment rate is 4.9% and the country is a lot more entrepreneurial than Europe or South Africa, says Sunter.
“We need to find a way to instil a culture of entrepreneurial thinking with the youth,” adds Adrienne Marias CEO of TSiBA Education. “We don’t have a culture of celebrating entrepreneurs; we need to change people’s mind-sets and profile the incredible work of our young entrepreneurs.
“These entrepreneurs have an incredible energy about them. We need to celebrate entrepreneurs as the coolest people on the block; it is this passion and ‘cool’ energy that gets things started.”
Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel applauded Rotary for taking the initiative to host such a conference. Patel says, “The language of economic development is empowering local communities. This is however only possible through partnerships and fresh ideas.”
The Department has made R4.5 billion available for viable youth economic development. Skills development in this regard is crucial and the government cannot do this alone. Patel called on all Rotarians to guide and be mentors to the entrepreneurs of our country, and also to help them access networks and markets that the entrepreneurs would not necessarily have had exposure to. The Minister has welcomed ideas on how all the role players can partner and work together.
Geraldine Nicol, District Governor of Rotary District 9350 (South Africa, Namibia and Angola) added, “We have identified key legacy projects that we as Rotarians will be supporting. We have the talent and networks available to create support for entrepreneurs to help them to succeed in this challenging economy. It is our responsibility to help them to grow, prosper and make a meaningful contribution to the communities in which they live with benefits for the country and continent too.
“I am thrilled by the outcomes of the day, and the support shown by all the role players and am looking forward to prioritising economic development on the Rotary action plan,” concludes Nicol.
For more information about the Economic Development Conference 2016 visit www.rotarycapetown2016.com or contact RotaryEconomicDevelopment@Rotary9350.co.za or +27 82 857 7044.