02/08/2017 03:59 SAST | Updated 02/08/2017 03:59 SAST

Here's Why SA Has More Tenderpreneurs Than Innovators

There's a huge need for innovative ideas to grow the socio-economy towards creating sustainable jobs.

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Searching for SA's Innovative Entrepreneurs

For almost three decades now in SA's democratic project, we've managed as a nation to make formidable strides in various sectors of the economy. However, little to nothing, our efforts are showing tiny ripples of effect on a global scale mainly due to leadership poverty among other ills found in our governing systems. For most of us, we characterize our country as one that is reeling from poverty, structural inequality and gross unemployment as the deep challenges, which to an extent, is unacceptable given the material and immaterial resources our country has.

However, as is our reality with the elected leaders, our governing bodies have emblazoned the national psyche with the excruciating picture of the 'triple challenges'. We can thus argue that our scourges as a nation are mainly corollaries of the same thing: unstable and continuously weakening the economy. For many among ourselves, we're most often than not engaged in round-table dialogues convened by the both public and private domains and these are slowly becoming not only tiring, more, proving to be wasteful because they seldom bear any fruits for mutual benefit.

Hence the need to create more apolitical platforms for meaningful engagement. Also, we can attest that, given our current education curriculum, our system isn't responding or worse still, tackling present-future challenges of our national interest, but perpetuating the poverty plan inherited from our forebears. Like most cadres have said, we've heard more than enough complaints as a nation already, there's a huge need for innovative ideas to grow the socio-economy towards creating sustainable jobs.

Rationally, we may argue that sustainable jobs are not created by money per se, but by people through their innovative entrepreneurship. Given our status quo on global ranking, we may argue that on the one hand, our nation is replete with excellent research that does not lead to innovation and sustainable livelihoods; however, on the inverse, it is replete with 'entrepreneurs' that bring no sustainable innovation to the table but exists merely for the sake of public domain profiling. As a result, we have more tenderpreneurs than innovators.

A general counter held up to our national current economic predicament is that if our economy could be more robust, the number and quality of jobs should nominally improve. This would address not only our unemployment challenge but also lead to prospects of improved job spaces. In South Africa, the traditional mission of learning institutions has for a long while been to educate for employment by others rather than educating to innovate and, through entrepreneurship, employ others. Unfortunately, this mission, has for decades, been working against the ideals and aspirations of the time. Generation X and Y are fortunate to have platforms for expression.

When faced with a test and opponent of their presumed worth, most of our learning institutions have historically tended to claim that their role ends with education and the imparting of knowledge. Anything beyond that would thus be seen as a bonus. Practically, universities of technology in South Africa, in terms of their primary mandate, are supposed to focus on what is readily applicable in the workplace, by producing graduates who are work ready. In this context, these institutions have been called upon to strengthen their provisioning of work integrated learning, through which students are given an opportunity to experience first-hand the workplace as part of embedding their classroom learning.

Higher learning institutions should redirect their educational offerings towards deliberately cultivating a culture and ethos of innovative entrepreneurship across faculties.

Lately, we've learnt about a commendable initiative by government partnering with the private sector on making an increase of work integrated learning placements which represents a positive welcoming step in improving the educational efficacy in the country. Practically, this should generally strengthen the employment prospects of South Africans. Inversely, we remain hopeful that the move will bring a paradigm shift with positive impact towards the general economy. As a result, the work readiness for average job-seekers versus the economic potential of production will work.

As we may be aware that the world over, economies have for a long time struggled to produce adequate jobs to absorb skilled laborers, we can be hopeful that tectonic changes happening the world over will be embraced with the hope that most people, regardless of their formal training, will be absorbed by such large corporations. Ultimately, we need to acknowledge that the mechanism initiated by the public sector will combat our national challenges if we embrace the work integrated learning outcomes as necessary channels towards the realization of our NDP 2030 Vision.

In preparation for a brighter future

For a short while, SA's round-tables have become abuzz with the fancy word: innovation. At foundation phase, this modern concept has become part of our daily educational system at institutions embracing modern economy, but for the sake of inclusive economies, the term refers to creating new things: products and services. Ultimately, just like our international alliances at BRICS, our education system needs to re-orientate our people to be agents and interpreters of change, thus literally making them adept at noticing the myriad job opportunities that emerge from such changes.

Mindful of the fact that our higher learning institutions have made insignificant changes in teaching and learning, research and innovation, thus leading to almost irrelevant graduates to the workplace, it's equally imperative for the proper implementation of the work integrated learning to ensure the utilization of fresh graduates to avoid another generation of brain-drain. In short, we believe our higher learning institutions should redirect their educational offerings towards deliberately cultivating a culture and ethos of innovative entrepreneurship across faculties.

Dare we say that this call is made against the backdrop of sufficient international studies and models that show a positive correlation between innovative entrepreneurship versus economic prosperity. Mindful of our national colour defects and class struggles, we'll need to substantially re-orientate our people on the faculties at higher learning institutions to tamper with consideration of the resources and also the emotional fatigue it will carry. Ultimately and most importantly, we need to start somewhere to achieve our NDP 2030 Vision.

To fast-track progress, we envision going beyond some of the already existing intervention systems, but would most likely incorporate aspects of these as building blocks towards strengthening what's already in place. Our view is that a sustainable version of the national future requires not just the so-called entrepreneurship skills and opportunism that most people are chanting, but an innovation base from which to launch entrepreneurship.

SA's wide challenges in education and the economy cannot be solved through a single bullet.

To date, as we interact with graduates from a different background, it's evident that our higher learning institutions are grappling with how to effectively capitalize on some of their resourceful people and networks. This, however, can be alleviated by the consideration, incorporation and implementation of innovative approaches such as: leveraging partnerships with academic entrepreneurs -- entrepreneurs who have an affinity to academe -- and the work of entrepreneurial academics -- academics in higher learning institutions who are not introvert to publicly engage with industry.

Convinced of the urgency to move from where we are now as a civil society, this proposition, however, shouldn't be confused for a presumption that SA's wide challenges in education and the economy can be solely solved through a single bullet. All stakeholders must be aboard to achieve this common and shared future.