Joseph Makuvaza has founded Great North Business Incubator, an economic empowerment engine targeting historically marginalised youth who want to start or grow their businesses.

JOSEPH Makuvaza was saddened by the growing number of young people working at food outlets or sitting at home without jobs.

He knew he had to step in and provide a solution – and the Great North Business Incubator to help kickstart young people’s dreams was born.

The Centurion resident said there was a huge amount of talent needing to be unlocked. “It was time for businesses to step in and promote entrepreneurship among the youth.

“We specifically based the programme in disadvantaged townships, villages and rural areas to help unlock the potential among the youth, and at the same time promote the spirit of entrepreneurship,” Makuvaza said.

The youth incubator programme is meant to become an economic empowerment engine targeting young people, who want to start and grow businesses in ITC, agro-processing, food technology, textile, footwear, and leather technology.

Other fields are waste management and recycling, mining technology, wood technology, plastic technology, retail incubation, metal fabrication and engineering technology, wood technology, and energy technology.

The programme ranges from six to 36 months, during which time start-ups are offered intensive mentoring but also actual skills in their respective markets, with training via technical assistance and inclusive market development activities.

It targets historically marginalised, unemployed youths in rural areas, townships, informal settlements; women in the poor rural areas, townships, informal traders; small business owners, university and Technical Vocational Education and Training college graduates who are unemployed; and post-graduates and undergraduate students.

“We want to empower young people with skills by harnessing their ideas to become realities, instead of being at home or working at food outlets.

“Look, I know how easy it is to stand in queues waiting for services that are not sustainable, but it’s still something we want to ensure must not happen in the coming years.”

Colleges and universities had awoken to the idea of teaching entrepreneurial skills to students, but there wasn’t enough awareness of entrepreneurship or exposure to the entrepreneurial world, Makuvaza said.

The challenge remained to find ways to absorb young people into the labour market.

“We have 50 success stories of young entrepreneurs.”

The first six months are offered freely to start-ups, after which they are required to pay a certain amount. Those with entrepreneurial skills did not find it difficult to finish the programme in under six months, he said. The Great North Business Incubator will hit Hammanskraal soon.