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FNB calls for youth 

Cohort programme offers mentorship, training, and support to young first-time entrepreneurs.

Rhe FNB Youth Start-up Accelerator (YSA) Programme has opened entries for a second cohort of aspiring entrepreneurs.

in partnership with Fetola, the one-year programme provides mentorship, training, and support to “young, committed, first-time entrepreneurs” to help grow and develop their business ideas. 

Aimed at unemployed youth and aspiring entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35, each year the programme teaches 100 young innovators the skills needed to develop their business ideas and get their enterprises off the ground.

The pilot cohort was initiated in 2022 and saw participants learn foundational business skills, take part in a group mentorship process, and receive investment readiness support and a small start-up grant. In the second phase of the programme, 50 entrepreneurs were selected to engage with mentors and in job shadowing, receive financial-management, costing, marketing, and brand-building training and support, to build the viability of their business ideas.

One of the members of the pilot cohort, Cindy Mkhwanazi,  who runs ChemKhowa, a business that makes cleaning products, describes YSA’s impact: “Being part of the programme has lifted my confidence. As a start-up I feared rejection. I couldn’t handle negative comments. 

“Going out to make sales was a huge challenge for me: if consumers didn’t buy, I would be extremely discouraged. The YSA programme taught us how to deal with challenges and to not be too hard on ourselves. 

“The workshops were a huge motivation. The programme has taught me a lot about entrepreneurship. I learnt how to scale my business to avoid failure and become more consistent in terms of production. I encourage everyone joining the programme this year to participate in all activities and workshops, and to be honest with yourself about your strengths and gaps in your knowledge.”

At the end of the first year, the number of revenue-generating second-phase businesses had more than doubled, from 20 to 44. Just as importantly, 93% of the cohort reported good or excellent self-confidence at the end, compared to 74% at the start of the programme.

Mosima Phakane, another pilot cohort participant, who runs Mosima Handcrafts, which makes jewellery from recycled materials. Mosima says: “I joined the programme at a time when I was dealing with depression after being excluded from university. Making jewellery was my way of escaping the feeling of failure and disappointment, but I never thought it was an idea worth investing in. 

“The YSA programme offered me the validation that I needed. Being part of the programme has contributed a lot to my mental health and has helped me revive the faith I had in my abilities. I have met a lot of future millionaires, young people who motivate and inspire me to keep working hard. 

“The programme rewards people who are willing to invest their time and dedication. They will give you all the tools you need, but it is up to you how well you use them to grow your business. I would encourage future participants to connect with as many people as they can and build their networks.”

South Africa’s youth unemployment rate, counting jobseekers between 15 and 24 years old, rose to 61% in the last quarter of 2022, according to StatsSA. In a macroeconomic environment marked by slow growth (expected to be a meagre 0.9% in 2023), there is little leeway for established businesses to absorb large numbers of unemployed young people, which makes entrepreneurship initiatives critical drivers of youth employment.

As Heather Lowe, SME Development Head at FNB, says: “In a persistently difficult macroeconomic environment, the most potentially impactful approach is to create an ecosystem that is supportive of young entrepreneurs. There is no shortage of talent or ideas among our youth. But South Africa still has a long way to go before we have an ecosystem that promotes entrepreneurship at a national scale. 

“The YSA programme aims to streamline the pathway from idea to execution and support entrepreneurship as well as entrepreneurs. This programme addresses some of the biggest barriers facing young entrepreneurs: a lack of key business skills, access to mentors and the opportunity to test out their business ideas.”

Busisiwe Bebeza, Fetola programme manage, says: “Youth unemployment is not just an economic crisis, it is a social and personal one. Persistent unemployment can be frustrating and demoralising. We want to demonstrate, through this programme, that finding a job is not the only way to achieve economic participation and success.

“Entrepreneurial activity is highest amongst people aged 25 to 35, indicating that this is a critical age group to target with interventions. We want to inspire our youth to dream of a better future, and to equip them with the skills that will help them build a better South Africa.”

Criteria for the 2023 Youth Start-up Accelerator Programme

If you:

  • Are between the ages of 18 and 35
  • Have a business that is at least 51% black-owned, younger than six months, and with an annual turnover not exceeding R1-million, OR you are an individual with a unique idea for a business
  • Are passionate, resilient, and driven

For more information visit:, click on apply

Preference will be given to applicants living in townships, rural or peri-urban areas.

Applications close on 2 June 2023.

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