ITEA and the Themba Trust provide business prospects for youngsters

Leseja Mokgata

Leseja Mokgata

With a team of only four women, Innovation Technology Enterprise Africa (ITEA) Investments has taken 100 young people with very few business prospects and turned them into aspiring business people.

ITEA chief executive officer Reinhuld Niebuhr says that the business is a unique combination of a franchise, a co-operative and a business network that will ensure success for the members, who are aged between 18 and 25.

"This is the result of a few years of fine-tuning ideas," Niebuhr says.

"I've been working in youth development for 10 years, and I found that charity doesn't work. Young people need to know they don't need money to be successful. Eighty percent of people in Africa are under 25 years old, and the only way to feed them is to provide learning opportunities."

The newly established company is working with the Themba Trust in northern Kwazulu-Natal and southern Mpumalanga to revive economic activity through unemployed youth in the surrounding rural areas.

Nomagugu Mndebele, 23, from Wakkerstroom, Mpumalanga, is a first-year student at the Themba Lethu training centre. She said she didn't see much success in her future before entering the programme.

"Ever since I graduated from high school, I've been sitting at home doing nothing," Mndebele says.

"I applied for bursaries at universities but I was rejected. Last year, after four years of sitting around, I saw an advert for a course run by the Themba Trust."

Successful students complete a two-year course. The first year covers personal development and business management. The second year teaches principles of community development and how to market a business internationally.

"We don't focus too much on theory," Niebuhr says. "The main problem we have found is that people in these remote communities compare themselves to people in more developed areas and get discouraged before they even explore launching their own enterprises.

"We run on the belief that you don't need to speak English or hold an expensive degree to be successful," says Niebuhr.