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Why 'Stop the NYDA' is worse than the NYDA

On Sunday evening, I saw a tweet by Ramon Thomas saying "Watching @VusiSpeaker on #Interface, on SABC3, talking about the 'Stop the NYDA' campaign". I had heard of the campaign before so I tuned in expecting an interesting debate. Within 15 minutes, I realised that our dependence on funding isn't completely "entrepreneurial".

The background

The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) was established after a merger between Umsobomvu Youth Fund (UYF) and the National Youth Commission. Both organisations were facing closure because of their ineffectiveness in changing the state of youth business in South Africa. On Interface, the CEO of NYDA, Steven Ngubeni, commented that they had inherited legacy issues from both organisations when they merged. From this alone, you can tell how easy it is to attack this organisation.

I'll admit there is no love lost between me and the NYDA. In fact, in my opinion, we don't need another youth funding organisation making assumptions about what businesses really need, while entrepreneurs are actually out there changing the world.

Vusi Thembekwayo, a motivational speaker and entrepreneur, is heading up the 'Stop the NYDA' campaign. His heart is in the right-ish place. Where I find this campaign flawed is in its moaning nature which has little impact, apart from the odd 100 comments on an update, 1 000 Facebook page 'likes' later.

Five reasons why this campaign is a waste of time

Social media is useful as an enabler of movements, for self-coordination, and giving a voice to those who, pre-Web 2.0, would have gone unheard. We are, now more than ever, able to self-organise behind more causes and rally the masses for common interest.

In the case of 'Stop the NYDA' campaign, it is simply another platform for people to complain about the lack of service and the irrelevance of NYDA as an organisation, without encouraging action which could effect actual change.

  1. It's just another tired campaign

    Every now and then a campaign comes up which is supposed to incite a positive change in the status quo. Many of them fall flat, become tired and don't really go anywhere. They become just another place to moan and gripe about the current situation from the safety of one's laptop. They're calling for tales of woe rather than encouraging the community to find workable solutions.

    The fact that even they call it a campaign makes it clear that someone down line expects to get some or other credit or recognition, where it possibly isn't due.

    What I heard Thembekwayo say on Interface was that, as an institution, the NYDA needs to be reviewed. There is nothing new behind this call, we've heard it all before - where is the action?

  2. It's missing the point and an opportunity to create actual positive change

    As an entrepreneur, Thembekwayo, I think, understands that the R5000 average with which NYDA funds entrepreneurs does not make a sustainable business. I doubt that it's meant to - this is but one of many flaws of the sinking ship, known to us as NYDA.

    So what does make a sustainable business? Mentoring, coaching, skills development and proving new business models - most of which NYDA won't fund.
    Why doesn't the 'Stop the NYDA' campaign help enlighten young South African entrepreneurs freeing them from their current dependence on funding from institutions such as the NYDA?

    If 50% of the 1 176 people who 'like' the 'Stop The NYDA' Facebook page are entrepreneurs themselves, then they already have a community of over 500 people who can engage in peer-to-peer coaching and mentoring. That will go a long way towards building youth entrepreneurship.

  3. The campaign is not self-organising for change - it's doing it simply to complain

    Why is the campaign wasting entrepreneurial resources which could be better used to help young entrepreneurs with some of the solutions mentioned earlier?
    Rather than self-organising for another 'government agency bashing session', why not encourage those 1 176 people following the campaign to have meaningful dialogue and host seminars where solutions are found rather than rehashing history?

    It's about leading by example - create something effective - that will show NYDA what it should be doing.

  4. Armchair activism

    With all the platforms available to us today, it's easy to become an armchair activist. Surf the web long enough and you'll see how comfortable we've all become typing away about things that need to change in our immediate environment.

    While we're happy to talk about things online to raise awareness, it's all too easy to sit back and wait for change to happen.

    Youth businesses in South Africa, and across the continent for that matter, will not be altered by the many complaints that we post on a Facebook page. Should anyone be listening and want to change the NYDA model? How does the 'Stop the NYDA' (and other similar campaigns) propose they do it?

  5. The campaign's answers include creating a venture capital model

    One of the remedies Thembekwayo suggested was that NYDA should review its current model and operate as Venture Capitalists (VCs) do. Now, most VCs fund businesses in specific industries, where they fund fewer businesses than a typical government agency would.

    VCs wouldn't, for instance, fund someone who wants to buy a fish and chips franchise - which the NYDA is more likely to do. Government agencies, like banks, are risk averse and would rarely (or never) give capital for a business of which the growth and development is not certain. VCs thrive on high risk and high return startups that scale quickly and can be acquired for more than the initial investment.

    Most 'wanna-preneurs' assert that if there was more funding, they would be more likely to start businesses. In my view, entrepreneurs build organisations in the most unfavourable conditions and that is where they thrive. We still teach people about business plans when we should encourage young people to be better at experimenting with innovative business models.

Youth businesses are suffering while we're all waffling

Thembekwayo, you were a far better speaker than the NYDA CEO - but you already know this. The campaign is a good idea, but I would like to see it coordinate the masses to actually build businesses and not just complain that some government agency isn't doing its job. We are well within our rights to hold them accountable, but in the meantime youth businesses are suffering while we waffle away about what should be happening.
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About Mongezi Mtati

Mongezi Mtati founded WordStart to help companies generate buzz around their products and services among South African influencers. He is passionate about helping brands to connect the dots from social media, digital data and human interactions outside the web. Mtati is also digital analyst, a speaker and a contributor on some of South Africa's leading platforms.
Ramon Thomas
This is an excellent response to #StopNYDA because you highlight the absurdity of the cause. Small businesses do not all need cash, they need support and a network of experts to tap into. NYDA can make the evolution take place with better leadership. In Dec 2011 they launched a program where they offered FREE (Pty) Ltd companies registrations across the country. This one barrier, of raising the funds (about R2000) to have it registered privately falls away and allows a entrepreneur to receive all the advantages that come with operating under a register corporation.
Posted on 23 Jun 2012 06:46
Haroun Kola
So how do we go about creating an environment for youth entrepreneurs to flourish?
Posted on 23 Jun 2012 21:19
Thulani Nzima
Mtanti, your article is very well written, however it is too ambitious and with all due respect, its lacks emotions and humane. I am of the view that we are dealing with emotional youth here that have been let down by the ONLY government agency mandated to develop the youth, and it puzzles me as to why on earth do you infer that the youth should look beyond NYDA.It is common practice that the government and its agencies should be more lenient to its people than the private sector, hence, I don't blame Vusi for starting the 'campaign'. My Oxford Dictionary describe 'campaign' as follows: (1) a series of military operations intended to achieve a particular aim. (2) an organised course of action to achieve a goal..... These definitions surely describe the exact campaigning Vusi want to accomplish and not your suspected propogandas. Without speaking much about Vusi, I think you should check his credentials first before you indict him.I am a young person with a BCom Accounting passed with 6 distinctions, I couldn't find a job after an internship, however I used a portion of my stipend to buy branding machinery costing R10 830 discounted, in 2009. The machines are basic and not for large production.Here is my problem: I consulted NYDA for a loan after reading that they are mandated to develop and fund youth. I was excited when they were launched as I thought they would do justice to youth unlike commercial banks wanting collateral and security from 18 year olds. To my unpleasant shock, NYDA also want the same. I ask myself, where the hell are they expecting an 18 year old to get a collateral or security? Where the hell are they expecting an unemployed graduate like me to get collateral and or security if I am unemployed?It is youth like you who make things adverse for the unfortunate millions of youth who are now viewed as lazy and not proactive with your cheap and baseless utterances. You go ahead and call us complainers for all you care, the fact will remain that NYDA is proving to be useless and they must be critisized so they can change.NYDA was formed for the very demands that the youth are putting, I would agree with you had we heard of youth going to NYDA wanting money for lobolo BUT they want funding so that they can make life better form themselves and their families. These young people have seen that there is no employment out there and have taken the least travelled route to seek platforms that can help in curbing poverty and unemployment. They want NYDA to give them a push to the right direction, but NYDA is failing in doing that.We can't and we will not stop critisizing when things aren't going as they should just because there are better-off like you who think otherwise of us and what we do.
Posted on 24 Jun 2012 08:25
Thulani Nzima
I am sure you know how long it took to have the documents. I have people I recommended and it took more than 4 months just to get the certificates.Yes, one saved money but time is money and without reg documents an entrepreneur can't make deals.
Posted on 24 Jun 2012 08:33
Mongezi Mtati
Thanks for the comment/
Posted on 25 Jun 2012 09:27
Mongezi Mtati
In my view, we should coordinate the kind of action that enables entrepreneurs to develop and build businesses.
Posted on 25 Jun 2012 09:31
Mongezi Mtati
Thulani, thanks for your comment.Complaining about lack of service is understandable, and as I said the NYDA is as risk averse as banks are. It is a broken organization, like most government agencies.Being an entrepreneur myself, I do not associate with the NYDA, and this campaign is right to criticize them. After all the coordinated action, then what?Entrepreneurs, like yourself, need all the help they can, whether such help is always funding is questionable. I know many entrepreneurs who are running successful businesses without the help of NYDA, they started withe the little they had.To your point about Vusi and his credentials, that is not what I'm questioning, only the campaign and what entrepreneurs really need. Those cases differ from business to business.Oh, it's Mtati.
Posted on 25 Jun 2012 09:54
Mongezi Mtati
Thulani, thanks for your comment.Complaining about lack of service is understandable, and as I said the NYDA is as risk averse as banks are. It is a broken organization, like most government agencies.Being an entrepreneur myself, I do not associate with the NYDA, and this campaign is right to criticize them. After all the coordinated action, then what?Entrepreneurs, like yourself, need all the help they can get, whether such help is always funding; is questionable. I know many entrepreneurs who are running successful businesses without the help of NYDA, they started with the little they had and that little wasn't as much you invested to get your equipment.To your point about Vusi and his credentials, that is not what I'm questioning, only the campaign and what entrepreneurs really need. Those cases differ from business to business.
Posted on 25 Jun 2012 10:02
Arthur Charlez
I have always believed that they are creating a culture of dependence for entrepreneurs. Some youngsters start a business JUST so they can get funding from agencies like that. I applied to become a mentor to Umsobomvu in 2008, got an email from NYDA asking if I'm still interested in 2012 and haven't heard from anybody there after I responded to that last email. So not only are they unfocused as far as priorities go, they don't even capitalise on opportunities they can get for free (I never once thought of getting paid to mentor anybody that is aligned to NYDA)Yes the organisation is indeed broken.
Posted on 14 Jul 2012 13:33
Vusi Thembekwayo
Great comments gents. Check my reply
Posted on 15 Aug 2012 19:56
Vusi Thembekwayo
Response In discussing important issues that are or at least ought to be part of the national agenda and discourse it is really important that we take the time to verse ourselves in the subject matter. Equally important is that we neither personalise the substance of the debate nor attack other natural persons (I always knew those hours spent slaving away at my Commercial Law textbook would yield some results) in constructing our argument. Dear Mongezi, Apologies for taking this long to respond to you, but I was running a business. There are a few points where you and I agree. Entrepreneurship has not until recently become synonymous with funding. Funding, fund raising and capital structures were for many years the sole preserve of high paid bankers who were more concerned with leveraging highly cash generative, asset rich businesses for their individual “carry” than developing entrepreneurs. Many entrepreneurs started their business on shoestring budgets, some out of their pensions and even bootstrapping. I should know. I started our business (www.mtv8.co.za) with R35 seed-capital. Yes, just 35bucks. But you and I cant be so disingenuous as to assert that this ought to be the path of every entrepreneur. Quite the contrary, it is incumbent on you and I to ensure that future “starters” have a better framework of support and guidance to build their businesses. Think about the advent of “tenderpreneurship”. It is nothing more than the manifestation of creativity and entrepreneurship spoilt by the “easy-money” fixation. Here is the heart of the debate: in a country where the social construct is such that most young black youth leave school unprepared and under-equipped, you and I (the lucky few that have escaped this trap) must ensure that we speak truth to power. It is neither sustainable nor is it viable to hold the view that where the state and its organs are failing or falling short, we must pick up the slack. That sounds noble, but it creates a situation in which those elected to serve don't, and we accept it. Let’s look at the content of your argument 1. Imagine this: Steve Jobs hosts a launch for a new phone and at the launch proclaims that he couldn’t reach consensus with the board on the colours of the phone, therefore they will no longer be releasing it. Imagine the mayhem that would cause and how the Apple brand would suffer. For Steven (CEO of NYDA) to assert that the resulting inefficiencies are not of his making 3years into the job speaks to one thing: that he is either not the man for the job, or he is not a true CEO empowered with the necessary power to discharge his duties. I have had the privilege of serving on boards where the company was about the tank (and I was part of the turn-around team) and where the company was thriving. In both cases the CEOs got no respite for the difficulties they faced. The reason they are appointed and rewarded so handsomely – and Steven is no exception – is precisely because they must possess the skill and flair must be deliver results with their contexts and constraints. Academics at local business schools believe that a good manager is responsible for all his team outputs 6-months after his appointed. The argument that Steven inherited inefficiencies doesn't hold. 2. I am not sure how you infer from our raising a grievance that we are “moaning”. If this were the case we would not have sought and confirmed a meeting both the CEO and the CFO of the NYDA. And even where they have cancelled, gone completely silent and even ignored us, we have persisted. If we were moaning we would have accepted the tens of media interviews that wanted us to speak when we have nothing “new” to say. If we were moaning, Steven would not have confirmed to me and the nation that we are raising valid issues. Speaking truth to power is not moaning. 3. I find it cowardly – almost mischievous – for you to ask “where is the action” when this campaign is the action. Would you rather we took to the popular South African pass time and marched? Or maybe we should put more money in the coffers of Southern Sun and host a conference? What is required is discourse and this campaign has achieved that. 4. I don't agree that we are missing an opportunity to impact positive change. This argument doesn't understand and follow the principles of causality: we must question the status-quo so that we can -> discuss and agree on a “future-state” – the form and substance of what we want; this will allow us to -> draft alternatives around how best to get there and the tools required to ensure that we get there so that we -> action. This is not missing an opportunity, quite the contrary… it’s designing it.5. You make a valid point around, “create something effective - that will show NYDA what it should be doing” but you dilute it by saying we ought not to recount the past. That is as valid as an Afri-Forum saying apartheid is over so lets move on and pretend it never happened. We must ask that the NYDA account for itself, present and past forms. 6. Entrepreneurship doesn't need more funding to thrive. But this is not solely about entrepreneurship. The NYDA have a mandate and they are measured on eight key deliverables. I would advise that you read our position statement to find out what those are and how the measures this far. When we ask they account, it is on all these counts, not just the entrepreneurship pillar and whilst I understand this is something you are passionate, I would advise that you study our position statement to better inform yourself.In the 2010 – 2011 year, the NYDA gave bursaries to only 20 youth. In a country where young people cant write CVs, can we be expected to draft business plans? Key to the NYDA mandate is the development and emancipation of youth. 20 bursaries plus young people volunteering at the FIFA World Cup as ushers is what they have to show for themselves. If you can tell me what explicit skill that carries economic value is gained by volunteering at the FIFA World Cup then I may be persuaded. If you look at the their voucher program (part of their National Youth Service platform): how many youth have they assisted? How many were Umsobomvu assisting before the NYDA? How many needed the help vs how many need the help now? Where is the research – which is part of their mandate – that speaks to the needs on young people in SA? Why does the DA have to raise the issue of the youth wage subsidy whilst it is the NYDA’s job to advocate and lobby for youth? This is what the campaign is about. Asking the NYDA and all youth to question what is being done and it serves this country. An aside: I am quite amused at Ramon Thomas rather feeble defense for the NYDA, that being that they assisted him therefore they must be working. Part of the challenge we face as a generation is this heightened sense of individualism where people believe that because they are better of or can access services then either everyone else can too or nobody else matters. I run several successful businesses. Just this year we launched our incubator – fully funded by each of the partners – and have plans to go to market with a VC fairly soon. I live in a rather plush estate (in-fact Steven lives in the same estate as me) drive a comfortable car, have the offshore property and manage the compulsory 2-overseas leisure trips per year but this not absolve me of my responsibility to speak out where I see injustice. What is fated to most youth in SA is just that, an injustice.There is nothing altruistic about Ramon’s argument (they helped me and I am not even black, therefore they must be working) but rather it stinks of the kind of individualism that saw some nouve riche eat sushi of a nude models body. You can’t deduce the realities of all youth from a single personal experience. Moreover this is the same individual who hijacked my and other prominent speakers profiles, purported to represent us (on the web) and then gave his contact details for bookings – which he no doubt kept for himself. This is a documented case and you can contact PSASA for the details. This to me speaks clearly of a person ethical framework. I adjoin that incident with the demeanor he has displayed during this discussion and remain convinced about my conviction. But my convictions are my personal business.
Posted on 15 Aug 2012 20:08