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They call us the “doomed and gloomed” generation. They say we don’t have a cause or a struggle. And, while they like to say in their rhetoric that our generation makes up 60 percent of the population and that we must lead the country forward, they don’t often follow up with interventions that will ensure that our country develops its youth to be

educated and skilled participants in our economy. Sure, the stats may say that we don’t have enough skills to take on the job market. But we have an opportunity to change this. We can make an impact, and one that is sustainable. Every day I wake up feeling inspired by the possibilities ahead and excited that I have an opportunity to inspire a nation of thinkers and doers through the work I do. The company I started, DNA Brand Architects, is living proof that an enterprise owned and run by youth can compete and win awards by leveraging the talent and energy of young people. The passion that fuels me comes from the certainty I have that the commitment and energy we plough into our future now will yield the results we yearn to see. In the past 12 months I have been fortunate to stand on business platforms that have acknowledged me not just as a youth leader but as a leader, irrespective of my youth. It is clear that businesses want to engage with young minds and young businesses because they think we can add real value. The opportunities are there, we just need to balance living on Instagram and taking selfies with good old-fashioned hard work.

 

The many political disruptions and discourses that have taken place over the past few months in our country have shown that our youth are serious about their future, igniting change and holding those in power accountable. There is also a clear understanding that we hold ourselves accountable. We are not waiting for hand-outs. As a country, we need to stimulate youth-owned businesses to drive transformation, innovation and generate much-needed jobs. We know that if we want to live in a world where there is tangible change, it has to start with us, the youth of South Africa. We must showcase to our community the possibilities that lie in business and in job creation. Because that’s what real influence is about – using your positions and the platforms available to you to drive change. It is a responsibility and a privilege. In my world, that means using my influence as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper Alumnus and a board member of the South African State Theatre, among other things, to challenge the notion that young people are apathetic or unmotivated. Through these platforms I have been able to work with big business and some of the country’s best minds to come up with sustainable, “wow” solutions to sometimes tough, dull and even mundane industry matters. The voice of the youth is welcomed. We should never forget that. Business wants to hear from us; governments want to hear from us; the world wants to hear from us. The Young Independents influencer category is important because it recognises the work young people are doing to change our worldview, shape our future and pave the way for those who follow.

To be a person of influence means that you have a responsibility to take the opportunities you are given not only to better your own life but also the lives of those around you. It is an honour for me to be a part of a community of people who strive to contribute meaningfully to the South African narrative.

I believe that the changes we make now will live on and permeate broader spheres of our continent and the world. South Africa’s youth are relentless. We saw it in the eyes of the young people who led us to this democracy we now enjoy. We should continue to build on the ideals of a South Africa that inspires us to thrive, a South Africa that we will be proud of for many generations to come.

I do not believe we are a “doomed and gloomed” generation. Neither do the incredible young people I engage with daily. We are far from it! We need to start creating spaces where dialogue will lead to action. Because it is only when we action what we preach that we will be able to change our milieu.