We must teach children how to be entrepreneurs


South Africa must teach innovation and entrepreneurship to schoolchildren; in the new world of work, problem solvers, collaborators and flexible creative thinkers will be most in demand.

We need more creative thinkers says CIPC Commissioner Rory Voller. (Image: GCIS)

The world does not need more lawyers; it needs dreamers who will do extraordinary things. The world of work is being re-imagined, and South Africa needs to teach its youth to be more innovative, more entrepreneurial to make create a sustainable and growing economy.

Advocate Rory Voller is sitting in a boardroom at the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) head office in Pretoria. As commissioner he is responsible for setting the agenda for the institution. He believes strongly that we need to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in children.

“Young people need to be shown; they need to understand the possibilities. Like I say to kids, don’t only think about being a lawyer, and don’t only think about being a doctor. The world is moving; there is something called the fourth industrial revolution, which is about new technology and being a disruptor. There are too many lawyers out there — I know. I am one.”

The commissioner believes that schoolchildren need to be taught how to create the kind of companies that will provide long-lasting employment in an environment that will be totally different from the one in which their parents make a living.

He wants children to leave high school innovation-ready. He believes, and advocates, that children should receive lessons in critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills, and that they should be inspired to become entrepreneurial. When he says this he means they must be able to think critically and creatively. They need to be financially responsible and to understand the value of teamwork.

“We can’t do what we need to do on our own.” (Image: GCIS)


Collaboration is something in which the commissioner believes strongly. He is sitting in a boardroom at the national office of the Department of Trade and Industry’s Invest SA One Stop Shop. A few weeks prior the new space was overrun by schoolchildren, guests of the CIPC for a World Intellectual Property Day event. Each year, 26 April is set aside to celebrate the role of intellectual property in stimulating innovation and creativity.

Over the next year, working with the Department of Science and Technology, the Innovation Hub and the National Intellectual Property Management Office (Nipmo), the CIPC is rolling out a programme to entrench the idea of innovation in children.

“We do a lot of work in the university space because that is where a lot of research and development takes place but we need to start encouraging it earlier. The way that I think we do it, and we are playing catch up, there is an organisation called the World Intellectual Property Organization (Wipo) which has developed a programme on the full spectrum of innovation for schoolchildren, on innovation in general. We are looking at their curriculum.

“We work closely with Science and Technology. We work closely with Nipmo and the Innovation Hub. We are rolling out a programme in partnership with Science and Technology working with schoolchildren. We’re starting out this whole issue of entrenching innovation among kids,” Voller says.

It is about education and changing culture, he says. Thinking back to the children he spoke to at the World Intellectual Property Day event, he says many did not know that the Kreepy Krauly and Pratley Putty were South African inventions. “Some did not know that the first heart transplant was performed in South Africa. Some were surprised to hear that South Africa has produced an entrepreneur such as Elon Musk, a man busy disrupting multiple industries.”

New skills for a new world

There will always be a need for doctors and lawyers, but the people who will best adapt to the new reality of work will need to be problem solvers, collaborators and flexible creative thinkers. As Philip Mendes of Wipo says, to be successful in the knowledge economy you need more than just accounting, finance and management tools. “Just as the education system will equip them by teaching them accounting, finance and management tools etc, so also the education system needs to teach them about intellectual property tools as well.”

A grounding built on an entrepreneurial education will benefit students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Entrepreneurship education is not just about starting and running a company; it teaches students to think ambitiously and creatively. Children learn to think outside the box and it nurtures unconventional skills and abilities. It helps youth to tap into unrealised talents.

Innovation and entrepreneurship have high failure rates, and eight out of every 10 new businesses fail within the first 18 months. For this reason South Africa has among the lowest entrepreneurial rates in the world. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor South African Report 2015/16, 40.9 % of South Africans can identify a good opportunity, but only one in 10 act on it.

Entrepreneurship education in schools will encourage South African youth to take risks and make mistakes — lessons that are vital to breeding ingenuity. Studying entrepreneurship will force children to think outside the box, to learn that failure is okay and to persist; these are lessons that will inspire them to become creative, inventive and innovative.

As Albert Einstein once said: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material