The 2019 Step Up 2 A Start Up and Smartbucks National Youth Awards were hosted in November last year in Gauteng’s Muldersdrift, where the winners of the competition were announced. The youth were drawn for their innovations to sectors as diverse as affordable housing development to mental health.

Nonjabulo Zikhali and Nolwazi Sindane of Hoerskool Secunda. Image credit: Eamonn Ryan

Nonjabulo Zikhali and Nolwazi Sindane of Hoërskool Secunda. Image credit: Eamonn Ryan

These winners started out as part of 12 000 individuals watching two movies. They were thereafter whittled down to nine teams of learners who participated in a boot camp, survived a gruelling Dragon’s Den testing and finally reaped the rewards of their hard work.

The overall winners of Step Up 2 a Start Up were:

  • Hoërskool Secunda

The team:

  • Nonjabulo Zikhali
  • Nolwazi Sindane

Second place:

  • Fundulwazi Secondary School in Sebokeng

The team:

  • Kagiso Letsiki
  • Silindokuhle Miya

Third place:

  • Leap Science and Maths in Langa in Western Cape

The team:

  • Xolile Magi
  • Zandile Stamper
  • Fezile Silwanyana

The winning team developed an app called Safespace which connects users suffering with mental health issues with qualified psychologists and social workers, enabling them to source help.

Business leaders and public sector stakeholders celebrated the achievements of teams of young South Africans who are determined to make a difference in their communities through technologically aligned businesses which are anchored by sound financial decisions. The Awards evening was the culmination of a five-month entrepreneurship development programme and competition targeted at 12 000 secondary school learners.

Innovations by the final nine teams include one app enabling people to easily locate an artisan, and another – the winner as it turned out – was an app for people with mental health problems to quickly find professional help.

“There are too many youth wanting to go to university and study degrees that are not applicable in the workplace. We need more youth to opt for trades or vocational training, and need to look more closely at the German model of apprenticeships to boost our manufacturing sector.”

The National Youth Awards have proven to be a leading youth entrepreneurship and financial literacy initiative impacting the lives of young people. The theme for the 2019 Step Up 2 A Start Up and Smartbucks programmes was `Think Tech. Do Business’, encouraging learners to embrace technology as a platform for small business creation. The educational journey began in August when thousands of Grade 9-11 learners attended screenings at Ster Kinekor cinemas nationwide of two films to learn about tech entrepreneurship and financial literacy. The aim was to help learners understand that mastering one’s personal finance is a foundational step towards handling a successful business.

The winning team

A thrilled winning team of Nonjabulo Zikhali and Nolwazi Sindane from Hoërskool Secunda describe their winning app: “It allows people to talk about mental health, open up and remove the stigma of mental health. We came up with the idea because we had a best friend struggling with depression, and we found we didn’t know how to deal with it, act around her or help her. She didn’t feel comfortable having personal interactions with the psychologist. We thought, what if there were some online thing that does that?

“He or she can download the app from Google App stores, and with the app you can enter your personal details via a function we are still developing called a chat box for the user to register on our app. We are going to have social workers or university students who in turn need to do community work for their degrees. They can register to help, say, one hour a week and can select from the registered people who they want to help,” says Zikhali.

As to the future, “We’re not going to try do it, we are going to do it,” they chorus.