Nombuso Shandu working at a sewing machine
Nombuso Shandu at work in the small business she set up after graduating from the COSY entrepreneurship training programme.

Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth.

Creating Opportunity for South Africa’s Youth (COSY)

Working in partnership with Livity Africa, Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), LifeCo UnLtd Project and funded by the EU, Creating Opportunity for South Africa’s Youth (COSY) is supporting sustainable futures for thousands of young people in some of South Africa’s most disadvantaged communities. 

COSY directly addresses the needs of young people, especially women, helping them to take ownership of their own futures in a fast-growing, fast-changing world. A key focus of the programme is to develop young people’s resilience, as well as training them in the skills and aptitude to engage in a digital future. 

COSY was co-developed with the participants and takes an interactive approach. It runs practical workshops on topics such as how to run a social media campaign and how to develop a digital strategy. The programme is geared to both nurture the potential and increase the opportunities for a youth population which in Africa alone is set to reach 105 million by 2030. The Curriculum draws on the Active Citizens’ methodology, developed and implemented by the British Council since 2009. 

Refining the model

The COSY programme is currently training 160 young people in entrepreneurial thinking and practice, and is on track to reach 10,000 through events related to entrepreneurship and employability by the end of the three years. So far the COSY project has trained 126 young people and awarded 12 graduates with start-up capital and mentorship. Additionally, in order to strengthen the support environment for young people at community level, COSY has awarded grants to 20 civil society organisations and trained 40 community leaders. 

The COSY model was honed and refined over time, informed by other successful British Council led partnerships across the African sub-continent and beyond. For example, the Digify Bytes training programme, a partnership with Google and Livity, piloted in South Africa. In one year the programme trained 25,000 young people in cutting-edge digital marketing skills, preparing them for the 21st Century workplace. The Ghana Skills Hub provided a physical and virtual space offering short-term skills development courses, business incubation and networking opportunities, and demonstrated the power of intensive projects able to provide one-to-one support and mentoring. 

Nombuso’s story

Nombuso Shandu with the laptop and tog bags she creates
Nombuso with the seshoeshoe (Sesotho traditional cloth) laptop and tog bags she makes and sells.

Nombuso Shandu is a self-employed 24-year-old from KwaZulu Natal, a rural province of South Africa. Nombuso has three siblings, lives with her aunt in a home with no running water, and her family rely on government support. After obtaining her Matric certificate (grade 12), Nombuso believed securing employment would be easy. Unfortunately, like many youths in her community, she struggled to find work. Nombuso came across the COSY project in 2018 and applied for the entrepreneurship training programme.

Since graduating from the programme, Nombuso runs a sewing business from her aunt’s living room.

‘My passion for sewing was inspired by my high-spirited aunt living with a disability. I hope to grow my business and employ passionate and talented young people living with disabilities.’

COSY gave Nombuso the confidence to articulate her business offering and value proposition. She has secured a contract to supply school uniforms to a local primary school, and she also makes fashionable seshoeshoe (Sesotho traditional cloth) laptop and tog bags. Through the COSY project, the British Council helped Nombuso to purchase two industrial sewing machines and a laptop, enabling her to keep up with orders. 

Find out more about the COSY programme on our South Africa website.