Andrew Fenwick: SA’s saviour – Entrepreneurship. Knows no age, education.

South Africa’s unemployment rate was 25.5 percent in the third quarter of 2015, a slight increase on the second quarter figures. And with the impending jobs cuts in the mining sector, and the knock on effects of this, the figure is likely to get worse. But what good is a statistic without the cold hard fact, currently the conservative figure shows 5.4 million people are unemployed. But what’s the solution? A recent article on Biznews looked at the benefit of small business in Germany, which showed that 80.4 percent of the country’s economic output is from companies employing ten or less people. Entrepreneur Andrew Fenwick recalls a personal experience where his 10-year-old daughter’s school encouraged children to supply items to a local market. He said it is initiatives like this that help stimulate jobs and growth, as the answer doesn’t lie with Big Business. He also supports the calls for an Economic Codesa, saying collaborate thinking may open the door to more solutions. – Stuart Lowman

By Andrew Fenwick*

I was really proud of my 10 year old daughter when she made some items for the local market that was held recently. She thought of what might sell, told others about it and sold everything she handmade on the night. The fact that it was at our church, so many knew her and supported her, just helped. This really got Jessica fired up, thanks for the support St Margarets family.

Andrew Fenwick
Andrew Fenwick

It is great that many schools encourage this entrepreneurial side, by having market days etc. The whole movement is a hugely important one. It is also really encouraging that there are so many programmes on TV that discuss business and help and guide smaller businesses.

South Africa is headed into an economy that will need thousands of small businesses, to stimulate jobs and growth. Will jobs come from big business or the government in the next few years, I think not. Some of the strongest economies of the world rely hugely on this entrepreneurial spirit and encourage millions of small businesses.

The absolute roller-coaster ride that South Africa has gone through over the last few weeks, is just making entrepreneurship that much more important.

My definition of an entrepreneur: Someone of any age or education that sees an opportunity where there is a need for a good or service, that takes advantage of that opportunity and supplies goods or services, at a price that the market can accommodate.

There is a huge informal sector in our economy at present, that is steadily growing. It is no big surprise that many of the people that best take advantage of this informal sector are people who come from many countries that also have huge informal sectors. In fact, many have had this for centuries, so they have adapted and refined how they do business. Next year, 2016, is going to be tough on millions of people because of drought and many jobs lost in some sectors.

I visited Zimbabwe earlier this year and was astounded to hear that their unemployment rate was at around 80%. What this meant was that millions of people are living hand to mouth and making a living anyway they can. I suppose it also serves as an example of what happens when a government seems to have tried their best at pushing foreign investment away.

We, as a country need to decide that one of the best things we can do is equip people to go down this entrepreneurial path in the most effective way. There are skills to learn, to be successful. Many will have to flip from job seekers to job givers, how well will they fare? There is a hugely burgeoning informal sector in this country, a lot of buying and selling going on. All sorts of informal services are being rendered. This is having an impact on the formal sector, together with the other pressures of a weaker currency, more competition from other retailers coming into the country. The drought that the country is experiencing is also putting huge pressure on our people. Again, jobs will be shed and some food prices will hugely increase.

I heard recently of calls for an Economic Codesa in our current crisis of unemployment and levels of poverty. I think this would be a great idea, I would love to attend. Many of us are in a survivalist mode, but our country is really in this mode, what can we do for it? We will find many solutions if we put our heads together and make the right changes. We will make sure that people are exposed to the training they need and remove the barriers that have arisen in recent years, to set up their own businesses.

Thanks again to those millions of people that stop to look at whether they are supporting local, by looking at the label, you have made lots of little differences.

South Africa has many more miracles ahead, the recent week’s activities showed us that things can change quickly for the better. Have a great break and a Merry Christmas, travel safe. May 2016 be the change we need in South Africa.

  • After studying Mechanical Engineering, Andrew Fenwick joined a car manufacturer for 5 years, as  Production Engineer (1994-99). He completed an Advanced Business Programme (part-time) before working in the UK to gain more manufacturing experience. He returned to SA after two years to join his father’s business, Saddler Belts & Leathercraft (Pty) Ltd, which has been in operation since 1990. He has worked in various roles, from delivery driver to production. He was eventually appointed general manager and, two years ago, managing director. Follow him on twitter@andrewfdurbs.
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