The rise of younger tech leaders

SOUTH Africa’s unemployment rate reached 32.6% in the first three months of 2021, Statistics South Africa (Statssa) said.

It was revealed in Stats SA’S Quarter Labour Force Survey (QLFS) released by Statistician-general Risenga Maluleke on June 1.

The data shows that the number of employed persons remained almost unchanged at 15 million.

A majority of those unemployed are young people.

There’s a group of young people however, who are tackling unemployment head-on.

They are creating work for others by setting up companies that are changing the status quo.

One of them is Vutlharhi Donald Valoyi who founded Zulzi, an online grocery delivery start-up.

His app had more than 80 000 users before lockdown. Since the beginning of April, it has signed up 75 000 new users and employed 450 more shoppers and drivers.

On behalf of customers, Zulzi’s army of personal shoppers visits Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Dis-chem, Clicks, Spar, and alcohol retailers.

Another young entrepreneur who is enabling other young people to be employed is Victor Chaitezvi who established a logistics company which is an Uber for the trucking industry.

His company was recognised as one of the Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company in South Africa.

Recently, two companies by young entrepreneurs from the continent have reached unicorn status (a privately held start-up valued at over $1 billion).

One is Flutterwave by Iyinoluwa Aboyeji and Olugbenga Agboola and another one is Paystack by Shola Akinlade. Paystack has now been acquired by the leading fintech company, Stripe, in Silicon Valley.

Paystack is one of the few companies in the continent that is transforming the financial infrastructure of the continent. Paystack has around 60 000 customers, including small businesses, larger corporates, fintech, educational institutions, and online betting companies. During the pandemic online commerce has proven to be another area of opportunity for many businesses started by young entrepreneurs.

In absolute numbers, Africa may be smaller than other regions, but recent studies show that online commerce will grow about by 30% every year.

And even with wider global declines, online shoppers are growing twice as fast. The success experienced by young tech entrepreneurs in the sector has proven that it’s possible to create employment opportunities in this sector.

The experiences of these four young Africans show that there are other avenues to consider to deal with the unemployment challenge.

The tech start-up ecosystem has proven to be an avenue where chances of success are greater although very difficult.

The financial technology sector has proven to be a thriving sector where young tech entrepreneurs are succeeding.

Yoco is the shining example of a tech start-up founded by young tech entrepreneurs, led by Katlego Maphai, who are in the process of creating employment opportunities for others whether by enabling them to start their own businesses or by employing them directly.

The rise of young technology leaders in the continent is a positive development that will enable the African continent to move forward.

Senior African leaders have tried to change the state of the African continent with limited success.

The current group of young technology entrepreneurs is making an impact without making too much noise.

The challenge facing young African tech leaders, however, is access to funding.

Lack of funding limits the ability of African tech founders to keep their businesses within the continent.

In the case of Paystack, although the company is born in Africa it has now being acquired by a Us-based company and therefore technically it has become a US company.

For young tech entrepreneurs to build local companies that will remain in the continent they need financial support.

In the absence of such support, we are likely to see Africa becoming just an incubator of tech companies by local young tech entrepreneurs and

thereafter lose them due to acquisitions. Local young tech companies are showing what it takes to build businesses and services for the 4th Industrial revolution, they need all the support they can get to create local employment and economy.

It is often said that Elon Musk would not have succeeded had he built his company in the African continent.

There’s a need to change that narrative for many young tech entrepreneurs in the African tech ecosystem.

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