South African youth are most concerned about unemployment and corruption, and less optimistic than their peers on the rest of the continent about their future prospects, a recent survey has found.

The survey, conducted among 4 200 young African men and women aged 18-24 in 14 African nations, found that 50% of SA respondents to a recent survey felt negative about the future of the country.

Meanwhile, unemployment was considered the top issue facing the nation (23% of respondents) followed by corruption (14%). However, despite concerns about job creation, SA was the least entrepreneurial among the countries surveyed, with less than half (47%) of young people in the country intending to start a business in the next five years.

The Pan-African Youth Survey, which polls young people from Congo-Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe, is run by South Africa’s Ichikowitz Family Foundation. The survey was conducted by PSB Research.

Struggling entrepreneurs

Its findings on entrepreneurial intent mirror those of the most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, which surveyed over 3 000 people across the globe. The latter found that South Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem was one of the most challenging among the economies studied in 2019, and had shown little sign of improving in several years.

The report also found that few early-stage startups in South Africa survive, and the country was ranked 49th out of 54 economies on GEM’s National Entrepreneurship Context Index. SA was ranked above only Croatia, Guatemala, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and Iran.

In addition to start-up challenges, the Pan-African Youth Survey found that over the next five years, SA youth were concerned over access to basic services (30%) and the creation of new, well-paid jobs (31%), which they wanted tackled at a policy level.

They also expressed concern over illegal poaching, with SA being the second-most in favour of ecological preservation.

Wake-up call

The researchers said in a statement that the results of the survey are a “wake-up call”.

“As the Covid-19 pandemic has grasped our society, we bear witness to an unsurprising South African resiliency and determination to together weather its storm. With accountable leadership, proper investment in job creation and by providing the opportunity for our entrepreneurial prowess to flourish on the home front, we can embolden the ambitions of our young people from all walks of life, and motivate our next generation to be the future flag bearers for a democracy presently under challenge,” said Ichikowitz chairperson Ivor Ichikowitz.

He added: “The youth’s key concerns of unemployment and corruption, together with disappointing levels of entrepreneurship, is a wake up call for government and the private sector to expedite efforts to generate more job opportunities.

“As the country is struggling to revive the economy during the Covid-19 crisis, the task ahead is very daunting and will require decisive leadership from all sectors of our society. We have much work to do.”