To be sustainable, transformation efforts must focus on the needs of the youth

By Athabile Jojo, CEO of Diversity Empowerment

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In his June 2019 State of the Nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa rightly identified the high unemployment rate among South African youth as a crisis. Calling for the private sector to work with government to create pathways into work, he said that we as a nation urgently need to bring youth from poorer households into the mainstream of the economy.

This is a message that resonates with us as an advocate of new and inclusive operating models that enable us to grow our country in a way that reduces poverty and inequality. Despite the progress we have made in basic service provision, our country remains an unequal place and levels of despair are growing among those excluded from the economy.

Though the architects of our democratic settlement envisioned that tools such as black economic empowerment and employment equity would level the playing fields and uplift the disadvantaged, we still have a long way to go. In the next phase of our country’s evolution, we need to shift the focus of empowerment from compliance towards sustainability, bottom-line impact and creating opportunities for the youth to thrive.

Beyond compliance


The goal should be to improve corporate sentiment around empowerment – when many companies see it as a box-ticking exercise — while creating sustainable opportunities for empowerment beneficiaries – especially young, unemployed people who are seeking opportunities to develop their skills and become economically active.

Although the codes of good practice provide a valuable starting point for empowerment, it is time to look at ways organisations can harness the full opportunities of transforming their businesses. Companies must build on their existing transformation efforts in a manner that drives higher bottom-line impact, while also accelerating the positive impact of their efforts for their intended beneficiaries.

We believe the focus should be on creating ecosystems of businesses, social enterprises and communities that work together to drive benefits for all parties. Using the codes of good practice as guidance, organisations across the ecosystem can cooperate to adopt transformation strategies that create opportunities for the youth and contribute towards building South Africa’s skills base.

Tapping into opportunities

Companies should look at youth skills development and training programmes as opportunities to build skills for their own workforces, develop empowered enterprises and suppliers, and tap into opportunities for socio-economic development. They should seek to connect with unemployed youth, previously disadvantaged people, youth living with disability, and other groups to help them develop their skills, embark on careers within the company’s organisation, and join the mainstream economy.

Transformation and diversity are critical success factors in South Africa today, and our clients are sincere about living up to these imperatives. Yet businesses do not necessarily have the time, expertise or resources to implement sustainable transformation plans effectively. Through our years of experience, we are able to provide organisations with solutions across all pillars of the B-BBEE Codes, while creating significant economic opportunities for all in our ecosystem.

As Ntsikelelo Mzibomvu says in the new book, Reimagining Myself – A Journey of Personal Transformation and Entrepreneurial Thinking: “There’s a need for transformation in every area of our society, our socio-economic dynamics do not reflect the potential and capacity of the people that live in this country. We are robbing ourselves of so much simply because we still hold on to old outdated beliefs.”

About Diversity Empowerment

Diversity Empowerment, through the guidance of the codes of good practice, encourages and inspires business to proactively and altruistically adopt and champion transformation strategies aimed at delivering sustainable Youth and Skills Development Projects. Our approach includes incubation of industry-specific SMEs for the training of unemployed youth according to client requirements. Empowerment first to achieve a sustainable bottom-line. Athabile Jojo is also an impact partner in the ReimagineSA ecosystem.

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