Creating a vision to inspire the youth to help themselves


Social entrepreneurship is the trend not popular among the youth, particularly in rural and urban locations. Wikipedia defines social entrepreneurship as the attempt to draw upon business techniques and private sector approaches to find solutions to social, cultural or environmental problems. Ashoka Innovators defines a social entrepreneur as an individual with innovative solutions to society's most pressing social problems—and who is ambitious and persistent; tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change.

One such individual is Neftaly Malatjie, founder and CEO of the Southern Africa Youth Project (previously known as Diepsloot Youth Projects).

Hailing from the impoverished township Diepsloot in Johannesburg, Malatjie, in 2005 at the age of 14, identified a need for an organisation that could facilitate the youth in urban communities and rural areas to help themselves.

Today Malatjie is a successful social entrepreneur who continues to make an impact by leading an organisation that provides a wide range of services to 6 000 Youth in South Africa and other Southern Africa countries.

Can tell us a bit about your formative years?

I was born at Mulati Village outside Tzaneen and attended Mlunghisi Primary SchoolI later moved to Diepsloot, where I attended Rabasotho Combined School. I have done a Diploma in Business Management and multiple short courses in different fields, ranging from IT, management, marketing, community development, arts and finances.

How did you come up with the Southern Africa Youth Project (SAYP) concept?

I realised that many young people in rural areas and townships are facing difficulties to enter into higher education due to the lack of finance. They are unemployed and hopeless about their own future. They engage in strikes because there is a huge dependency on Government and beliefs in political speeches. I have established the project to change the way the youth think about themselves.

What challenges did you come across in the beginning and how did you overcome them?

On the top of the list was the lack of access to funding. I was writing too many proposals that failed, as they did not meet the requirements. I have tested over 20 ideas, which have also failed. I have wasted lots of money investing in projects that did not have any impact. I had to sacrifice so much of my time trying to prove a point—that what I was doing would work, and no one believed in me.

How did you eventually generate funding for the project?

We wrote proposals to donors and funders. We engaged in online marketing through social media and our website and we invited potential partners to visit our site to see the work we did. Invitations and referrals from networks and friends also helped us to attract funding.

Can you tell us about all the services provided at the Southern Africa Youth Project?

We provide life skills training via leadership development, goal setting and preparation for the working world (to change the way they think about themselves). As for skills development and educational intervention, we provide educational support intervention to leaners in high school (Mathematics, Science, English, Accounting). Our information technology skills development programmes include computer training, system development, technical support, website design, data capturing and Microsoft Office programmes. Community development skills initiatives include among others early childhood development, leadership and team building, while the entrepreneurship programmes aim to ensure that the youth leave our programmes with intensive skills to management and accelerate their businesses, covering the following topics: idea generation, deciding on the type of business, market/competition, the basics of starting a business, creating a business plan, getting funding, hiring employees, training employees, marketing a business, running the business and growing the business. We also aim to place at least 80% of the youth we have trained into jobs, learnerships and internships

Is the SAYP a follow-up project of the Diepsloot Youth Project?

We have changed from Diepsloot Youth Project to Southern Africa Youth Project as we now operate in two townships and two rural areas. We are no longer a Diepsloot centre. We are now working in multiple areas.

What does leadership mean to you and what kind of leadership do you provide as CEO of the SAYP?

Leadership to me is to provide stability thorough training and support to management and the team. It is to share my vision for the organisation and allowing my team to visualise my vision, so they can come up with solutions on how we can reach the goals.

What kind of challenges do you face as CEO of the SAYP?

Working with a team that operates like a geyser is a big challenge. Today the water is hot; later it is warm; the following day, it is cold. Staff can sometime demotivate leaders as they change in attitude everyday. There is a huge need to intervene more. We have I find young people on a waiting list to participate in our programmes, but due to limited resources, it becomes difficult to take them all.

You have earned a lot of accolades at such a very young age; what would you attribute all of that to?

Technology has been my biggest friend. In my spare time, I always read articles online on innovation and I experiment by trying them in my organisation.

In consideration to the frustrations that generates violent protests by youth in most instances across the country, how can the youth situation be transformed rapidly in South Africa?

At the Southern Africa Youth Project we say we change the way young people think about themselves. Politicians must stop promising young people luxury. They must promote the fact that young people must do things on their own and not rely on Government to provide everything for them. There is so much dependence from South African youth, and they are relying on Government. Foreign nationals are coming to take over opportunities in the country whilst our youth is striking.

How do you see your role as leader and CEO of Southern African Youth Projects?

As the founder, the vision is very important before anything can happen. Direct strategy is also key. The way I lead the executive team (financial manager, programmes manager, head of marketing, human resource and administration manager) is also of utter importance. Fundraising and proposal writing is also part of my job. Above all these I also have to review content of the organisation from the different offices. I also monitor operations, see to quality assurance and donor relations.

Is the project effective enough; does all the youth who go through your project go on and be able to help themselves thereafter?

Yes! We train over 100% and we place 80% of our intakes. The majority of the young people who participate in our programmes do not sit at home. When they don’t find opportunities, they attend more programmes in other organisations and institutions. Some join established businesses in this regard. Of the 80%, 35% identify opportunities by themselves.

How has the journey been like personally and professionally, ever since you started your organisation?

I have grown mentally. We have now become parents and role models to every child who enrols in our programmes. I have learned a lot—now I am a professor of what I do. I have made mistakes and have learnt from them. I have learnt from every child who came into the organisation.

What does success mean to you?

Success to me means you are able to stop an accident that is going to happen in five years to come. If my organisation was to close in five years, I know what it will be, and what I am going to do to save it even beyond those years.

What more does Government and private sector need to do to help projects such as yours?

Government should allocate a budget to such organisations so that we can help them in changing the way the youth think about themselves.

The Southern Africa Youth Project contributes to the national goal—which is to reach out in poor communities and provide a wide range of services which are measurable. Not just is it measurable in numbers, but also in success stories. The beneficiaries who are part of the organisation are the witnesses. We try to partner with all departments—from the Presidency to local municipalities. The Southern Africa Youth Project can also help them to place more young people into jobs.

What is your wish for the youth of Diepsloot?

My wish is that the children they are giving birth to should not make the mistakes that they have made.

What would be your biggest dream come true?

That would be to eventually own rental properties that are able to give back to my organisation.

How can today’s youth overcome the barriers of a disadvantaged background?

They must read books. They must stop wasting time on Facebook and Whatsapp.

They must start saving on their salaries to build property so that they can move out of the shacks. They must start their own businesses and trade within townships. They must stop being dependent on other people for them to live.

In which areas of business do you think the youth can make the biggest impact?

The biggest opportunities for the youth lie in property development and construction, hospitality (guest houses and tour guides), the creation of community-based clinics which charges a fee, property maintenance (plumbing, electrical works, roofing and plastering) and agriculture (especially in Gauteng as they have more water).

In terms of business: do you think the South African business community is doing enough to promote transformation of the youth?

No, they are not as they offer classroom training, in which case, when the entrepreneurs go back to their offices, they cannot relate. They offer the same size fits all training which does not work for entrepreneurs.

What can private sector do to boost SA’s youth profile?

Private sector can make a difference by investing real money. Advice is simply not enough.

What is your opinion of Government’s approach towards youth development?

Government must stop being an implementer. It must promote policy. Government wants youth development to happen, however they are investing too little— and it is not enough.

Any final words?

The Southern Africa Youth Project relies on Government, the corporate sector and individual support. I urge all role players to actively get involved and support organisations such as ours. It’s time for Government and the private sector to put their money where their moths are.

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Issue 83


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