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Supporting youth to become job creators

- Wits University

The next generation is essential to Africa's future and to global shared interests in creating a safer, healthier, and more prosperous world.

With the world’s youngest and fastest-growing populations, African countries are changing rapidly. The economic growth and international relevance of the continent show that there is opportunity for youth to contribute to their society. If empowered Africa’s growing youthful population could support increased productivity and stronger, more inclusive economic growth across the continent.

However, majority of youth in Africa do not have stable economic opportunities. In South Africa, the Covid-19 pandemic brought to bare the realities of youth unemployment in the country as reported by Statistics South Africa.

  • Youth account for 60% of total unemployment
  • 3% of youth aged 15-43, and over 63% aged 15-24 are unemployed
  • 40% of graduates aged 15-24, and 15% of graduates aged 25-34 are unemployed
  • 4% of youth aged 15-24 are not in employment, education or training

To empower youth potential, British Council designed a project to foster the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within Higher Education Institutions and facilitate the development of skills required to build industries, companies and products. The Innovation for African Universities (IAU) project is designed to support the development of Africa – UK Higher Education partnerships to build institutional capacity for Higher Education engagement in entrepreneurship ecosystem in selected African countries.

Professor Lynn Morris, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, Wits University and Scott McDonald, CEO, British Council

As part of this project the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) in Johannesburg, South Africa launched and established the Wits Entrepreneurship Clinic. Under this initiative the Wits Entrepreneurship Clinic aims to build the capacity of students and graduates through experiential learning and mentorships to become volunteer clinicians who provide professional and quality business advice and support to entrepreneurs within the University and surrounding communities.

“Universities have a pivotal role to play in fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship for the good of the world. This is why British Council developed the Innovation for African Universities project, to catalyse innovation and entrepreneurship because young entrepreneurs have a crucial role to play in solving the employment crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa as employees and job creators. As an organisation, we believe now is the time to focus on building engagement and being deliberate about actions to create safe and prosperous environments for young people to thrive,” says Scott McDonald, Chief Executive Officer, British Council.

"Wits University is making a significant impact by fostering entrepreneurship and addressing critical challenges such as poverty and unemployment, not only in our country but also beyond. We recognize the pressing need for young entrepreneurs to emerge as job creators and catalysts for economic development in Africa. Through our Wits Entrepreneurship Clinic, supported by the new Wits Innovation Centre (WIC), we are tapping into the immense creativity and ingenuity of our diverse community of innovators and entrepreneurs. By empowering these future leaders, we are equipping them to discover transformative solutions for complex real-world problems." says Professor Lynn Morris, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, Wits University.

Student entrepreneurs from the Wits Entrepreneurship Clinic

In the first phase of this project, Wits University worked in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, together with ecosystem players – the Wits Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct and the Africa Circular Economy Network.

Since its launch in July 2022, the Wits Entrepreneurship Clinic (WEC) has so far trained over 60 clinicians who have provided professional and quality business advisory services to the entrepreneurship community to accelerate viable entrepreneurial opportunities. Additionally, a 12-module training programme for clinicians has been developed and piloted alongside the delivery of intensive masterclasses focussing on digital entrepreneurship, as well as the circular economy. The long-term vision for the clinic is to develop a culture of and appreciation for entrepreneurship as not only a viable alternative to employment but also as a mechanism to address many of the grand challenges confronting South African society.

About the British Council

The Innovation for African Universities (IAU) project, part of the British Council’s Going Global Partnerships programme, seeks to foster the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within universities and facilitate the development of skills required to build industries, companies, products and services in Africa. The IAU programme is implemented by the Centre of Excellence (CoE), a partnership between the City, University of London, Nairobi, and ChangeSchool UK. The Programme comprises 24 UK universities, Sub-Saharan African universities, and entrepreneurial ecosystem organizations. The Programme is running in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.

About #WitsInnovation

The Wits Entrepreneurship Clinic (WEC) is one of the first initiatives aligned with Wits’ new Strategic Plan for Innovation that is being implemented by the newly established Wits Innovation Centre (WIC). Celebrating 100 years of excellence, Wits University is actively growing the next generation of researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs who can turn knowledge into impactful solutions to solve real-world problems. This is where brilliant minds come together to create, share and collaborate across disciplines and boundaries. We are committed to using our knowledge for the advancement of our community, city, country, continent, and the globe.