It is that time of the year in our educational system when our youths sit their final examinations. Most of them have never faced this sort of challenge in life. It will be coupled with momentous pressure from parents, family and teachers to excel. It will be a trying time for them.
Predictably, we will then be bombarded with statistics on the number of high school students who cannot be absorbed by the universities. This scenario will repeat itself when the Ministry of Education tells us that about half of those who leave university cannot be absorbed by the jobs market.
At this point, I want to stop and recognise the resilience displayed by our youths in the face of such seemingly insurmountable challenges. To these few, I want to say that you are already on the road to success. Keep courageously going forward.
But let’s return to the statistics. If indeed it is true that half of our graduates will not get jobs, what are we doing about it? Does the government have a job creation strategy to absorb the unfortunate yet equally worthy candidates?
In our experience, the Kazi Kwa Vijana program does not cater to this middle class and accessing start-up capital from the Youth Fund has been equally challenging.
I say to you young people that your future is in your hands. Do not wait for solutions from the government or expect jobs to land on your laps like manna from heaven. If you are not fortunate enough to get employed, and yet your life struggles have revealed that you have something to offer, then bank on your capabilities. That is the starting point.
I have been a businessman now for very many years. The truth is that it was no easier for me to take the leap into self-employment even if I had previously been employed, and it will not be easy for you. But being your own employer is an idea which merits great consideration, in light of the job market situation.
The wheel of entrepreneurship begins grinding when you come up with a creative idea which you are passionate about and which is also financially viable.
If you are already at this point, take that leap of faith. Ask yourself, ‘what is the worst that could happen?’ Then mitigate those risks. For example by borrowing less; starting out part-time or starting out small. If you do decide to go forward, I will share with you three key virtues which have worked for me in all my ventures. I trust that they will increase your likelihood for success in your business.
First, I will state that that success dutifully calls for responsibility. We must stop blaming our background, our failures, our current circumstances etc. For the most part, we need to recognise that we are responsible for where we are in our lives by virtue of our actions and decisions.
You may argue that fate or destiny had predetermined your current circumstances. Even so, it still doesn’t take away control of your life from your hands. The Almighty has given us all free will. If you feel disadvantaged, take responsibility for your life and purpose to change those setbacks to opportunities.
Secondly, success calls for full commitment. Unfortunately, great commitment comes with enormous sacrifice. I can’t tell you how many times I had to work longer than – and twice as hard as – everybody else to clinch that deal that would make the difference between survival and closing shop.
Interestingly, if you study successful entrepreneurs around the world, it will become very clear that they had to sacrifice something worthwhile to be able to achieve their goals. This is a concept which is often taught in business school and which you must be ready to take up. You cannot have your cake and eat it too; such is life.
Finally, and I believe most importantly, you must be passionate and interested in your area of choice. Passion has often been blamed for most of the world’s failures, but I can confirm to you that it is an equally crucial element of success.
Your passion and interest in your line of work is what keeps your creative juices flowing so that you are able to identify opportunities where others cannot. It is what keeps you working longer and waking up those early mornings when you want to sleep for ten extra minutes. It is what gives you the audacity or ‘chutzpah’ to take your dreams forward.
My hope today is that the youth will drink up this message with the gravity it deserves. Enough of waiting on others to create opportunities, take your life into your own hands.
To the young people who are taking their final exams, I wish you good fortune.