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Raising young entrepreneurs for a changing climate

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Almost half a century since the June 16 1976 uprising, South African youth find themselves in a new fight against two existential threats — the unemployment crisis and the climate emergency. It begs the question: is there still hope for total economic participation, as Nelson Mandela put it? The short answer is yes, and Primestars has established a development model — launching in August, with over 10 000 youth participating — to keep hope alive. 

Stats SA recently released unemployment data declaring the unemployment rate at 32.6% and the expanded youth unemployment rate at an alarming 74.7%.

As if South Africa’s challenges are not enough, the climate crisis is the most threatening to young people and humanity as a whole. But the very same climate emergency has the potential to create job opportunities in the green economy to address the youth unemployment crisis. 

According to the Afrobarometer, more than half of South Africans said that they had never heard of climate change. Knowledge is the vaccine for what currently ails us. 

Primestars is a majority-black woman-owned youth development organisation, with over 15 years of experience, benefitting the most vulnerable communities across the country. As part of their contribution to curbing the national youth unemployment crisis, Primestars in collaboration with Sanlam, Omnia, Sasria, Safripol, Clicks, EOH, SEDA, PAMSA, SAPPI, Mpact, Mulilo, Gauteng Film Commission, MMI, Zutari, Buhle Waste and RPC Astrapak (among others), have researched and created a unique entrepreneurial development programme for South Africa’s youth. 

By adapting the lean start-up methodology, encouraging platform businesses and focusing on sharing and circular economies, the maker movement and internet of things, participating learners can find innovative local solutions to society’s most pressing social and environmental problems. 

The programme — titled Step Up 2 A Green Start Up — will inspire South African youth to accept environmental responsibility and choose a regenerative and distributive future by:   

  • Helping young people move from a fixed mind-set (job seeker) to a growth mind-set (job creator);
  • Seeing environmental challenges as new business opportunities;
  • Shifting from making disposable products to producing reusable goods;
  • Utilising technology to enable their green businesses;
  • Encouraging critical and creative thinking, communication and imaginative problem-solving skills;
  • Developing resilience to face difficulties. To fail, learn and try again;
  • Co-creating collaboratively within teams;
  • Prioritising people and planet over profit alone;
  • Promoting biosphere consciousness; 
  • And doing more and better with less while delivering value to customers and their communities.

Our unique and exciting multimedia platform combines education and entertainment into the following core elements of our programme:

  • The production and national screening of an educational film (in cinemas, schools and digitally) in which young entrepreneurs start a business that tackles social and environmental problems;
  • An ecopreneurs toolkit that is given to all participating learners;
  • A national green challenge competition and awards ceremony.

As young climate activist Greta Thurnberg aptly put it, “our house is on fire”. Let’s put out the flames and build something different in its place. There are two fires: one fire is climate change, burning up the world as we know it. The second is the fire in the belly of the new generation of young activists. Their voices give us energy. Their vision points toward our best future. Together, we have to feed that fire and help it grow. We invite you to join us in igniting young entrepreneurs for a changing climate by supporting Step Up 2 A Green Start Up. 

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