It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

Famous words from Charles Dickens could also be used to describe why entrepreneurship could be just the career journey for many young people.

Consider the Voice of Research from the GEM Report (Global entrepreneurial Monitor)

Considering the depressed state of the formal job market in Africa, it’s a good thing that more and more youth in Sub-Saharan Africa are looking to entrepreneurship to secure their future. Young people on the continent are more upbeat about their ability to become entrepreneurs than their peers in any other region, according to a recent global study.

As many as 60% of 18 to 34-year-olds on the continent who took part in a joint study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) and Youth Business International (YBI) were optimistic about the availability of good business opportunities and believed they had the skills and knowledge to start a business.

This compares to just over 17% of young people in the European Union, almost 17% in Asia Pacific and South Asia, and around 30% in North America. The only other region that came close to Sub-Saharan Africa’s optimism was Latin America and the Caribbean, where 40% of the youth believed they had the opportunities, skills and knowledge to start a small business, according to the January 2015 report.

Consider the Most Recent Issue of Time Magazine

In the April/May double issue of Time magazine, the entire magazine is dedicated to the top 100 most influential people in the world. These come from all nations and from those within the sporting, social, arts and business arenas.

Well-known names like Elon Musk; Donald Trump; Roger Federer; Rihanna; Prince Harry and Trevor Noah share focus with lesser well- known names. All of them, however, are seen as highly influential people. It is fascinating to realise that 32% of these are between the ages of 14 and 35.

Roughly a third of the top 100 most influential people are 35 years or younger. That is good news for young people!


5 reasons why young people make great entrepreneurs


  1. High levels of energy and resilience-On average young people have much larger energy tanks than more maturer groups. Youth brings an ability to rebound that many people lose with age unless they remain young at heart. This resilience allows them to bounce back after defeat and try again, relatively unscathed.


  1. More to gain. Aspiring entrepreneurs from older groups generally can be confronted by what they stand to lose when considering leaving fulltime employment. Security and benefits may be at such a level that they are hindered in making the choice through what they may lose.  Young aspiring entrepreneurs, on the other hand, may focus more on what they may gain than on what they may lose. Whilst security and benefits are still a consideration, these may be minimised when compared to possible gains. Most young people fresh out of college don’t have children and spouses to support, so they can put real focus on launching their business.


  1. Fresh view/outlook. Young people, in general, are far more willing to try something new. As we age, we often look back at our younger years and can’t believe the crazy things we tried. But it’s never too late for some to be young, be crazy, and launch a company.


  1. Cheerleading from the grandstand It’s a known fact that high unemployment levels are most sharply felt by young people. A large variety of stakeholders, from Government and Private Business, are overtly cheerleading for young people to be a big part of the entrepreneurial answer to unemployment. Examples are seen in the prominence of Business incubation in the state of the nation address; to commitments by Western Cape Government to reduce red tape and by business as it supports and facilitates private incubation models.


  1. Social change-on the ground Everywhere that social challenges and problems are evident, young people are at the coal face. They may be in touch with the why in such a way that they help to shape the what of sustainable solutions.


No doubt about it, while the challenges seem many and diversified, Dickens’s words still ring true for 2020/1. Surely, this is a time of amazing opportunity.

Author: Steve Reid, Centre for Entrepreneurship director at False Bay College.

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