Green shoots of hope for South Africa’s youth

If South Africa is to become a land of opportunity, we must think of solutions to reduce the youth unemployment crisis. This is a widely held view, and it’s one shared by Poovi Pillay, Executive Head of the Nedbank Foundation.

‘With unemployment sitting at 63.9% for the 15 to 24 age group and our economy stalled, it’s easy to become despondent,’ he says. ‘But that’s just not good enough – Nedbank is firmly of the belief that by concerted, well-directed action, we can make a real difference. The green economy is taking off and with it, plenty of opportunities for youthful entrepreneurs.’


Green economy

Innovative agri projects enable young entrepreneurs to create their own job opportunities.


What is the green economy?

The United Nations defines the green economy as ‘low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive’. The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, on its Green Economy webpage, says that South Africa is committed to ‘a sustainable development path based on addressing the interdependence between economic growth, social protection and natural ecosystem’. It defines the green economy as a ‘system of economic activities related to the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services that result in improved human wellbeing over the long term, while not exposing future generations to significant environmental risks or ecological scarcities’.

Green economy primed to overtake fossil-fuel economy

Already, the green economy is beginning to outstrip the fossil-fuel economy. In fact, FTSE Russell, a renowned provider of stock-market data, estimates that the green economy accounts for 6% of the global stock market, and thus millions of jobs.

‘It’s clear that the green economy will create huge numbers of new jobs, and our young people have to be prepared to take advantage of this great opportunity,’ Pillay notes. ‘For that reason, Nedbank has identified the green economy as its anchor corporate social investment initiative. We are looking beyond funding to creating a web of partnerships to prepare society – and the youth in particular – to take part.’

A 4-pillar strategy to support the green economy

Nedbank’s green strategy rests on 4 pillars – agriculture, water, energy and waste. A key principle of this strategy is to develop an integrated approach by building a circular economy from the ground up. We focus particularly on rural and semi-urban communities where poverty and unemployment are catastrophically high.

Agriculture is a key focus for Nedbank because it is one of the few sectors creating jobs in South Africa. Other sectors with potential for job creation include energy and waste. McKinsey estimates that the cost of getting to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will require an extra $3.5 trillion a year, while the Global Wind Energy Council estimates that just the shift to clean energy could deliver 250,000 jobs to the South African economy, while the waste sector could create an additional 45,000 direct jobs and 82,000 indirect jobs.


South Africa’s youth face strong headwinds, but there is significant opportunity too


Because entrepreneurship is key to realising the opportunities inherent in the green economy, Nedbank’s agricultural projects are focused specifically on encouraging entrepreneurship among the youth. Through the GetOn Foundation Trust, Nedbank is funding 30 potential entrepreneurs to acquire a range of skills they’ll need to start their own businesses.

Two other projects focus on opening South Africa’s iconic wine industry to young entrepreneurs. Nedbank is assisting the Pinotage Youth Development Academy and the Cape Winemakers’ Guild to build a pipeline of appropriately skilled young people to take their place in this fast-moving, export-driven industry with significant job-creation potential.

Waste management is essential to creating a circular economy, and Nedbank is supporting Mbombela-based Real Shift. This innovative, energetic non-profit company partners with municipalities to separate waste for recycling. They have already created 11 sustainable jobs – a practical example of the way in which waste can be an engine of growth and individual empowerment.

Renewable energy and greener electricity generation are important pillars of our green economy strategy, made even more urgent by the return of catastrophic load-shedding in 2022 and 2023. Not only does a reliable electricity supply allow more businesses to maintain production and create employment, but growth in the solar photovoltaic (PV) sector itself can also deliver thousands of job opportunities in sales, installation and maintenance. Nedbank is actively supporting home and business owners who want to develop self-generation capabilities using solar PV systems. We have several financing options for solar PV conversions, and we’ve partnered with Hohm Energy to give you access to expert advice on planning the size of the system you need, professional installation and system maintenance.

Do you have the drive to succeed in the green economy?

‘South Africa’s youth face strong headwinds, but there is significant opportunity too, for those who have the drive and skills to take advantage of it,’ Pillay says. ‘Nedbank is committed to playing a transformative role by creating a platform for our young people to seize the opportunities that the green economy offers, and in doing so, turn the country around.’

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