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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Makuvaza, MD

Unlocking Youth Entrepreneurship Talents


Great North Business Incubator (GNBI) is a section 21 Company or Not for Profit, founded and registered in 2013. It is a multi-sector business incubator. GNBI was conceived as an economic empowerment engine targeting historically marginalised youth who would want to start and grow their businesses in ITC, Agro-processing and Food technology, Textile, Footwear and Leather Technology, Waste management and Recycling, Mining technology, Carpentry and Wood technology, Construction Incubation, Plastic technology, Retail incubation, Metal Fabrication and Engineering technology, and Energy technology incubation.

Rational/ Justification of Intervention

South Africa’s youth unemployment rate is the third highest in the world, after Greece and Spain. The challenge is how to absorb a growing number of youth into the labour market, especially that most of them are unskilled- an estimated 47 percent of the unemployed have less than matric.

Despite the government’s efforts to tackle poverty, the lack of access to employment and decent jobs has impeded efforts to tackle poverty and inequality. In addition, labour market trends such as the growth of non-standard employment including self-employment and sub-contracting have intensified the precarious position of youth in the labour market. 

Business Incubation development programs help entrepreneurs to start and run profitable businesses through training, technical assistance and inclusive market development activities. While the dynamism and innovation that entrepreneurs bring to an economy is one reason to implement activities in this area, the inability of the formal sector to produce enough jobs for the growing youth population makes self-employment an important option for the youth as well.

Target group

The main target group for GNBI business incubation program:

·     Historically marginalised  unemployed youth in the rural areas, townships, informal settlements of South Africa

·     Women  in the poor rural areas, townships  (aged 18- 40)

·     Informal traders 

·     Small business owners in the surrounding communities, townships, villages and farms

·     University and TVET college  graduates who are unemployed 

·     Business owners in the municipalities

Challenges facing youth entrepreneurs/ what’s stopping our future entrepreneurs?

There really isn’t enough awareness of entrepreneurship among youth, or exposure to the entrepreneurial world. It is still a very weird concept for many youth in South Africa. Effort needs to go into de-stigmatizing and demystifying entrepreneurship in the youth social group . Only once entrepreneurship is accepted as a real option, can we focus on offering them the support they need. People are still more likely to tell youth graduates to go out there and get a good job, than go out and start their own businesses.

According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitoring (GEM) only 25 percent of South Africans between the ages of 18 and 34 believe they have the skills and knowledge to start a business. This is very low compared with around 40% in Brazil and 60 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. Apart from dismal scorecards for mathematics and science, many of our schools do little to nurture ambition and creative thinking. Sadly enough, it is especially the under-resourced schools in townships and rural areas that are encouraging youth to work for government and big business after school.

How can we help unleash South Africa’s full potential

It is time for businesses to step in and promote the possibility of entrepreneurship to the youth. The GNBI Incubation programmes offered in the disadvantaged townships, villages and rural areas will help unlock the potential among youth at the same time promote the spirit of entrepreneurship.

Is entrepreneurship the answer?

Job creation is seen as a pillar of economic development, and with unemployment levels rising and even more devastatingly, the extremely high youth unemployment rate, it is not surprising that job creation is considered one of the main priorities of the National Development Plan. 

Entrepreneurship is a hot topic, which is not surprising as it is seen as a possible solution to rising youth unemployment. Entrepreneurship Development Programmes (EDP) have been very successful in many countries. EDPs are defined as learning programmes that have their main objectives as enhancing and developing an entrepreneurial culture mind-set and training enterprise creators.

The GNBI incubation programme will provide an opportunity for the mostly disadvantaged youth and women in the rural communities, townships, and villages the opportunity to interact with the business world. Of equal importance the business incubation program we offer will raise awareness on entrepreneurship and job creation among the generation at risk (youth).

Where are we now?

 Similar to general enterprise and market development field, youth enterprise development has moved from a focus solely on the enterprise itself to a more holistic approach. While providing training or technical assistance to an entrepreneur is still important, business incubation complements these types of assistance with activities to strengthen an enterprise‘s overall ecosystem. For example, our programs  include initiatives to strengthen entrepreneurs’ networks, so that they can gain business or mentoring assistance as necessary or focus on strengthening the overall value chain specific to youth enterprises.

Trends and best practices

Not all entrepreneurs are created equal. Many youth start businesses out of necessity and are unlikely to grow their business beyond the micro-stage. A smaller subset is more entrepreneurial minded and given the right set of circumstances, have a greater chance to develop a successful small enterprise.

Practitioners and donors are distinguishing between these types of individuals and providing support to each other.

·     Successful youth entrepreneurs capitalize on their passion and market opportunities. GNBI Successful Incubation programs recognise this and help develop opportunities in areas that are naturally interesting to youth, or work to educate youth that more traditional activities, such as agriculture, can be both inspiring and remunerative.

·     Successful capacity building initiatives help entrepreneurs obtain the information they need and have the skills to manipulate it for business success.

·     Youth entrepreneurs require the skills to both run a profitable business and a financially stable household.

·     USAID and other donors have begun incorporating youth inclusion activities to value chain projects in a more robust way. By integrating a “youth lens” in value chain assessments, GNBI is able to identify constraints and opportunities specific to youth and beyond those that apply to value chain actors more broadly.

Why work with GNBI?

Our partners appreciate and rely on GNBI's strengths:

Experience:GNBI staff has more than twenty years of experience providing training, business consultancy, specialist advice, exchange, and projects for countries worldwide.

Delivery of Expertise:GNBI has access to some of the top minds in South Africa and the continent. Our far-reaching network of professionals includes university professors, international and regional consultants, national and local government offices, and nongovernmental organizations.

Adaptability:GNBI has developed an extensive array of courses and programs that can be adapted to suit the particular needs of our youth entrepreneurs and leaders.

Sustainability:GNBI provides follow-on components for our projects to maximize the scope and depth of the training provided.

Evaluation:GNBI projects include a thorough evaluation component which extends from participant input and feedback during the country side programs to impact evaluations as each project concludes.

Giving back to the community:GNBI projects give back to the historically marginalized communities in the developing countries and South Africa specifically.

GNBI's work with a wide range of delegates and partners has led to profound intercultural learning experiences.

Yes, Incubation and training starts here, Empower and perform! Join us for Sustainable development!”

Great North Business Incubator Contribution to systematic change

The GNBI incubation programmes challenge the current status quo of non-participation, lack of entrepreneurial drive and the graduation for work mentality among the youth. Moreover, the business incubation will increase awareness of enterprise development among the rural poor communities. This approach will then challenge the urban tourism development approach manifesting itself in all sectors of the economy and captains of industry.


 Great North Business Incubator thrives for an inclusive economy that rests on the future generation. The Youth, “A generation at risk” and “A ticking time bomb “in the Continent and country. The high rate of unemployment among this generation is recipe for disaster, the evil that has killed the most productive sector of economy and increases youth vulnerability to all forms of social ills, drug abuse, crime, HIV and deprivation. Enterprise development and business incubation aimed at the youth entrepreneur provide a long-term sustainable model to create meaningful jobs.

The sum of a whole is more than the efforts of individual parts”. Together we can do better to move South Africa and the youth generation forward. Join us, for sustainable development and job creation endeavours.

We call upon investors and well-wishers to donate or partner with us for a cause youth empowerment through business incubation the way to respond to ‘Thuma Mina“ by the President of South Africa.

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