Inspiring entrepreneurs to shape the future

A NEW program which sends young South African entrepreneurs to Israel aims to help address the alarming problem of unemployment among the country’s youth.

Founded last year as a joint initiative of the South Africa–Israel Forum (SAIF) and Investec, YoungTreps challenges young entrepreneurs to start thinking globally by exposing them to top innovators and business people abroad.

This year alone, in partnership with corporates, government agencies and private philanthropists, the program will see 100 young entrepreneurs travel to Israel.

The Sydney Jewish community will have the opportunity to learn more about the initiative at next month’s Limmud-Oz, with SAIF executive director Dan Brotman, Investec Head of Corporate Social Investments Setlogane Manchidi and YoungTreps alumnus Phakiso Tsotetsi presenting a panel session.

Speaking to The AJN ahead of their visit, Brotman said the aim of YoungTreps is to get participants to “dream bigger and dream global”.

“We’re trying to develop the future leaders of this country. Our participants all have to be under the age of 40 – these are South Africa’s future business leaders,” he said.

“For each trip that we open up applications for, we get at least 150 applicants – the majority of them are actually black South Africans – and they all want to come to Israel because they know that Israel has a reputation of being a very entrepreneurial country.”

He said for many of the participants, it’s their first time out of South Africa.

“For me as a Jewish person, it’s just fascinating spending a week with non-Jewish South Africans and seeing Israel through their eyes,” he said.

He added that part of the reason the trio is coming to Australia is to encourage young business people locally to get involved.

Manchidi said the idea of YoungTreps is to “facilitate opportunities that enable people to become active economic participants in society”.

“What we are wanting to do through the initiative is to drive exposure to the world of possibility but also equally important is to drive exposure to social entrepreneurship – the ability to look at social challenges and see in them opportunities,” he said.

He added: “If you look at what Israel inherited not so long ago, it was practically a desert.

“One of the first things that you see in the entrepreneurial flair and spirit that makes up Israel is the ability to really become resourceful. And that’s what you want South African entrepreneurs to be. To be resilient, resourceful, but also to turn challenges on their head and see opportunity in them.”

Tsotetsi participated in the program in September 2014.

He said he was impressed with the “entrepreneurial flair that young people in Israel have” and the level of innovation that takes place in Israel.

“The manner of approach that Israelis have towards entrepreneurship, [they] always question a lot of things,” he said. “[There was] also the opportunity for us to learn best practices within business.”

Tsotetsi is co-founder of another initiative, The Hookup Dinner, a major monthly South African networking event for entrepreneurs. He launched the first event outside of South Africa in Tel Aviv during his trip. “It was phenomenal, we had an attendance of about 150 people,” he said.

He will launch the Hookup Dinner in Sydney at Investec’s office here after Limmud-Oz.

Tsotetsi will also present his own session at Limmud-Oz, “The Power of a Bean Bag”, where he will talk about how The Hookup Dinner evolved.

Brotman, an LGBTI activist, will also appear on a panel about whether the Jewish community is inclusive enough for its LGBTI members.


SAIF executive director Dan Brotman will be speaking at next month’s Limmud-Oz.

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