South Africa is a vibrant and youthful country, with more than 60% of its people aged below 35. However, more than half of the youth are unemployed, largely due to a difficult world economy and the legacies of our past. This is a challenge that demands a creative response from businesses, government, and the youth themselves.
The good news is that many young people are setting up businesses of their own to create a future for themselves. South Africa has around 550 000 youth entrepreneurs, per Stats SA, a number that we must grow over the years to come to uplift more people from poverty and unemployment.
At Facebook, we believe strongly in the development of young entrepreneurs and small businesses as a means for economic growth. That’s why we are partnering with the Department of Small Business Development and Livity Africa to host Youth Enterprise Day on 24 June, a one-day summit that aims to celebrate and catalyse youth entrepreneurship in South Africa.
As we organise this summit, we have been inspired by the stories of young entrepreneurs who are using digital tools to grow their businesses. The real power of these digital tools lies in the way that they give young entrepreneurs the ability to tell their brand stories and build communities without making massive investments in creative executions, technology or agencies.
Personalised marketing at scale
Youth entrepreneurs can do personalised marketing at scale, whether they are running a hair salon for people in their neighbourhood or selling their fashion designs to people on the other side of the world. Digital platforms such as Facebook and Instagram can help them increase sales and brand awareness while also building loyal communities and business leads.
Marketing for smaller business used to be expensive and difficult, but digital tools are lowering the barriers to entry. Facebook Pages, for example, are increasingly becoming a primary presence for small businesses around the world and in Africa because they are free, easy to use, and they work well on mobile.
And mobile is where the customers are today. Half of the people in Africa that are on the Internet are on Facebook and come back on mobile. This means that youth businesses can engage with customers on a device that people keep close to them at all times. Just like larger and more established businesses, they can run sophisticated, targeted measurable campaigns in a cost-effective manner to find customers and generate sales.
The fast-growing digital economy
South Africa’s fast-growing digital economy offers so many exciting entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth. There are currently over 15 million South Africans who access Facebook per month. More than 63% of people on Facebook in South Africa are connected to at least one small business in the country, with 52% connected to at least one international Small to Medium Business (SMB). This is an audience that small businesses have an opportunity to engage on an ongoing basis.
By giving young people the resources and support to build and grow their own businesses, we have a unique opportunity to invest in the future of economic growth in South Africa. Opening new ways for them to share and connect is just the start; our focus will be on showing how technology is giving more people opportunities to become entrepreneurs and to build products that can help engage and empower people.
Emilar Gandhi is head of public policy, SADC, Facebook.