Thursday, 30 June 2016
If you're entering your last couple of years of school or are already in Matric, chances are you'll have given some thought to what you want to do after school, in terms of a career or studying further.
Some people are lucky in that they have had lifelong career ambitions; they know exactly what they want to become and what to study to achieve this. However, most of us enter our final years of school not quite knowing what career we want.
How are you feeling about your own future? Here are some things to consider when planning your education.
Get career advice
The smartest thing to do is to match your studies to your career ambitions. Of course, to do this you need to decide what career you want to follow.
One of the best ways of doing this is to attend any career functions that your school organises. They usually bring in different career professionals to talk about what they do and advise you on what to study.
Your other option is to go for some kind of career guidance counselling. There are plenty of people who specialise in exactly this, so it's simply a matter of making an appointment. You'll typically fill in some aptitude questionnaires and have a short interview, after which you'll be given a report on the kind of careers that would suit you best.
If you still have no idea what career you wish to follow, getting a tertiary education is still important, as it creates a solid basis on which to build any career, and any further studies you may want to pursue. Try to choose a course that will leave you with options, like a general degree in communications, for example. The idea is to keep as many career doors open as possible.
Do your research
Whether you know exactly what career you want or only have a vague idea, you need research the courses that you could study in order to prepare yourself.
Some careers have well-defined educational paths, so one simply follows the curriculum as it is set out. These are usually the professional careers, like those in engineering or the legal world. If you decide on a career like this, your educational path will be clearly set out for you.
If you want to pursue a career that doesn't have such a clearly defined study curriculum, it's a case of choosing a course that will teach you the theory and nitty-gritty of the career arena that you want to enter. So, for example, if you want to become a media entrepreneur, you can choose courses from a wide range that will give you a solid basis. This could include topics like communication, media studies and politics, depending on your particular field of interest.
Speak to people who are already pursuing the careers you are interested in - find out what they studied, or what they would recommend that you study. Research courses online, to find out which ones will best further your career ambitions.
Plan an educational path
Now that you have an idea of what type of studies to pursue, you can start to plan your actual courses. You may want to start with a short introductory course to get the feel for the subject, in case you're still not entirely sure what you want to do with your life.
Once you've orientated yourself to the study direction you want, you should plan what your main qualification will be, to begin with. Do you want to study for a university degree, or will you only need a college certificate? Can you do some sort of mentorship that will lead to you studying for a tertiary qualification?
In other words, you need to get a clear idea of what qualifications or certifications you will need in your chosen career. Build up a view of all the possible education options that relate to this career, and create an educational plan for yourself. You don't have to do it all at once - you may find that it will be best to get a basic qualification, then get some work experience before studying further.
Remember, you can control your career through your educational choices. Put a plan in place for how you will get the qualifications you need and you'll find that your career path will be all that much smoother.
Do you have a plan for your education? Share it with us here, or tweet us on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA
Thursday, 23 June 2016
While debt is so difficult to avoid, we're usually advised to try and steer clear of it, and to eliminate it as soon as possible if we absolutely have to borrow money. So the idea that there is such a thing as good debt may come as a surprise to you.
Knowing the difference between good and bad debt in the context of an overall financial strategy is an important part of reaching financial stability or generating wealth.
What is bad debt?
Bad debt comes in a few forms. The most basic form of bad debt is money you borrow that you can't afford to pay back. We usually incur these debts when we make impulse purchases or buy something that we know we shouldn't, but can't resist.
Another common form of bad debt, which emerges particularly when times are tough, is the buying of consumable items like food or disposable products using a credit card. The problem here is that you're paying a high interest rate for non-durable goods, and unless you pay back the debt within the allotted time, your cost of living will shoot up, as you are paying so much more for the everyday basics.
One of the most popular forms of debt is, unfortunately, also bad debt - our credit account at our favourite clothing store. This is another example of borrowing money at interest to buy things that don't hold their value and end up disposable.
So what is good debt?
Types of good debt
Good debt is money that you borrow in order to generate wealth - to make more money. It is the type of debt that builds wealth over the long run, leaving you better off than you were. It is effectively an investment.
The most important aspect of a good debt, therefore, is that it must generate some sort of value. This can be tangible, in the case of a profit made, or less measurable, like the benefits of an education.
There are several types of debt that we generate wealth or serve as an investment.
The first and arguably the most beneficial form of good debt is educational debt, in the form of money you borrow to pay for an education. The reason why this is a good debt is that the education will most likely allow you to generate more income than the value of the loan. In other words, you'll make a profit, if we measure it only in financial terms. Of course, education has plenty of other benefits, which further increase its value and make it a good debt.
A house bond is another form of good debt. It is a straightforward investment in something that increases in value over time: property. The vast majority of home owners sell their properties for more than what they paid, making this form of debt a solid investment. The other benefit of having a house bond is that it allows you to borrow further money against it, which increases your financial flexibility - as long as the other debt you incur is also good debt, of course.
Yet another type of good debt that can improve your financial status is refinancing. If you are paying off a number of different debts at relatively high interest rates, it will become a lot cheaper if you are able to borrow a single sum at a lower interest rate, with which you can pay off the rest and only have a single source of debt.
Learning the good debt lesson
Now that you understand the difference between good debt and bad debt, and how good debt can be used to create wealth, you'll be able to make smarter financial decisions.
Start by reviewing your current debt - are you paying off a lot of different debts? Are some of the interest rates really high, compared to others or to the prime interest rate? If so, it might be worthwhile approaching a financial institution for a consolidating loan at a better interest rate, to end up with a single loan that will cost you less.
Next, look at your future plans and how you intend to fund them. Look at the all of the things that you will need to go into debt to achieve, and check whether they will cause good debt or bad debt. If the latter, try to find a different way to reach your goal.
And don't forget to look for opportunities. For instance, you might not have yet considered buying property, because you're scared of the debt. Now that you know this is good debt, you can take it on with more confidence, knowing that it will actually make you money.
Thursday, 16 June 2016
As part of celebrating Youth month, it's opportune to pause and recognise young South Africans who are making their mark on the world. While they're excellent role models for all of us, we've chosen most of them, especially for their entrepreneurial characteristics. Starting businesses is one of the most important things that we need to do in this country, both to stimulate economic growth and to create jobs.
So let's look at a few South Africans who have shown special entrepreneurial flair and achieved international success. Then as a bonus, there's an inspirational sports story.
Vinny Lingham - Gyft
Vinny Lingham worked for a few companies in Johannesburg before getting the idea of starting his own business to provide digital gift cards for corporates and other organisations. He named his company Gyft.
Gyft grew to be so successful that it made a serious impression internationally, leading to Lingham selling it to the largest credit card processing company in the USA, First Data, apparently making him a millionaire in the process.
As usual, his wasn't an overnight success. He had previously founded and run a website building company, Yola, and a search engine optimisation company, Clicks2Customers.
Khanyi Dhlomo - Ndalo Media
Khanyi Dhlomo began a career in the media industry when she was 20 years old and since then has built a media company that has seen her recognised by Forbes magazine as one of Africa's most successful women.
She was an early developer, becoming editor of True Love magazine at the age of only 22. After several successful years in this position, she spent some time overseas, working and studying. She returned to South Africa armed with an MBA and some strong ideas. She founded Ndalo Media, which now publishes the enormously successful magazines, Destiny and Destiny Man.
Bheki Kunene - Mind Trix Media
Bheki Kunene's story can certainly serve as an inspiration for all of us, which you'll soon see when you read what he has had to overcome. All of us appreciate the trials and tribulations we will have to go through when we start a business, but Kunene has had more than his fair share of adversity.
Shortly after founding Mind Trix Media, Kunene was falsely accused of murder and had to spend a week in police custody before being released - with an apology, at least. Undeterred he continued to build his business, before another disaster struck, in the form a fast-moving car that fractured his skull.
With characteristic determination, Kunene has bounced back from this setback as well, and his company has flourished. It now deals with large corporations all over the globe, from Africa to Europe and Asia.
Gift Ngoepe - Pittsburgh Pirates
Gift's story is a true fairy tale. Born and raised in a sports clubhouse in Randburg, Johannesburg, he is now poised to enter the very highest level of baseball in the USA - the Major League, what the Americans call "The Show".
To South Africans raised on a diet of soccer, cricket, and rugby, this might not seem like a big deal, but consider this: last year over 72-million people physically attended baseball games in the US. On any given Saturday, more than 2-million people watch Major League baseball on TV.
Baseball was the sport played at his clubhouse, so Gift began playing when he was very young. He was chosen to play for South Africa at the World Championships and earned a place at an academy in Italy. Here he was noticed by a representative of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a Major League team. He signed a professional contract and has spent the last few years playing in lower leagues.
The exciting news is that Gift has now made his way close to the top and has been selected to the Major League squad. If he is selected for the team itself he will become the first black African to play Major League baseball in the USA.
Which successful young South Africans inspire you? Tell us here, or tweet us on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA
Thursday, 9 June 2016
So why is there all this attention on youth at this time of year?
Obviously, it’s all centred around Youth Day itself, on 16 June. This commemorates the 1976 Students’ Uprising, most visibly associated with the famous picture of Hector Pieterson.
So there is a good deal of gravity to the focus, and an emphasis on the freedoms that have since been won for the youth of the country, as well as on the lessons that have been learned and the values that we all want our society to be based on, now and in the future.
The importance of Youth Day
The students who risked their lives in the Students’ Uprising were protesting against being forced to receive their education in Afrikaans. Of course, this issue was just one aspect of a broader system of oppression, which is ultimately why they were marching in Soweto on that day in 1976.
The peaceful protest turned violent, resulting in death and injury, and sparking much wider and intensified action. Youth Day, by commemorating these events, reminds us of the price that a previous generation of people our age – and even younger – paid for the freedoms we enjoy today.
How can we mark Youth Month?
Probably the most important thing we can do to mark Youth Month is to remember the events of 1976 and acknowledge the brave and principled stand that the youth took.
We should also learn lessons from them – for instance, that although we have rights, we should not take them for granted; they were hard-earned.
It doesn’t have to be all about sombre reflection, though. We should also celebrate our freedom – and the mere fact that we are young. It is, after all, a time of our lives brimming with potential, when the world lies open before us. So we should enjoy ourselves during Youth Month – attending concerts and participating in other social events.
Youth Month celebration ideas
If you’re wanting to mark Youth Day or do something to participate in Youth Month this year, we’ve collected some ideas for you.
Those of you in Cape Town can take part in the Miles For Smiles Beach Walk on 16 June, organised by Operation Smile.
Music lovers can head for the Silver Mountain Music Festival, which runs from 16 to 19 June in the Langeberg Mountains.
At the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg, there will be a full programme of classical music for those so inclined.
For those wanting a more immediate experience, the Metro Walk in Soweto allows participants to retrace the steps of the youth on that fateful day in 1976.
What are your ideas for commemorating or celebrating Youth Month? Tell us here, or tweet us on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA
Thursday, 2 June 2016
Let’s ask ourselves then, when we get to 2063 and look back, what are the things we will want to have achieved?
Sustainability isn’t only important from the point of view of preserving our planet and its environment. It’s also a crucial part of any development plans that we make for our own continent. With so many African economies either in early stages of economic development or extremely vulnerable to cost increases, it’s important that the products, processes and models we adopt can be sustained. In other words, that we can afford them in the long-term.
Of course, we also need to start managing natural resources more carefully, and developing alternative sources of energy, if we are to leave a world that offers next generations a lifestyle that is at least comparable to ours – ideally better. On a continent so blessed with daylight hours and other alternative energy production methods, we should hope to be world leaders in sustainability by 2063.
Strong identity, values and ethics
A common culture is one of the things that most strongly binds people together in large communities. If we think of some of the most successful countries in the world we find that a distinguishing feature is that they all have relatively homogenous cultural values. They have a shared culture that the vast majority of people are part of.
One of the big challenges we need to overcome in Africa is the tendency for cultural differences to be divisive. We only need to think of the many civil wars that occur to realise this. This places an exceptionally strong onus on us to work together towards a continent where we celebrate the vast majority of things that we share, rather than allowing our differences to divide us.
Unlocking the potential of women
It’s an unfortunate historical truth that centuries of patriarchy have shaped the world in ways that pose unique challenges for women to overcome. As the world thankfully becomes more egalitarian in gender terms, Africa has its own challenges to overcome, including removing the restrictions that women still face, both regulatory and psychologically.
There are many women’s’ organisations and initiatives that are vitally committed to ensuring that gender inequality disappears from all strata of African society, from the most basic level of healthcare to the highest offices of the land. These organisations are having an increasingly powerful impact on our societies, which bodes well for a future where African men and women live on equal terms.
Good governance and the rule of law
This is an area that Africa needs to focus on if it is to become a place that its inhabitants can really call a mother. The days of corrupt governments diverting resources that people really need must come to an end.
There are encouraging signs that a new generation of leadership is taking this very seriously. The so-called “Millennials” have a well-developed sense of social consciousness and, as they come to dominate the worlds of business and politics, they will hopefully transform these in ways that will serve the people of the continent more fruitfully.
What kind of Africa would you like to leave for your children one day? Tell us here, or tweet us on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA
Thursday, 26 May 2016
The word “investment” generally makes us think of financial interventions and opportunities. So when we are encouraged to invest in our continent we may wonder what we have to offer, if not money.
If we think about it for a while we realise that investment can mean anything that we put in towards building up the continent on which we live: economically, socially and ethically.
So let’s put our heads together to come up with different ways in which we can invest in #YourEduloanFuture, and in the future of Africa.
One of the best ways to make a financial investment in our country’s economy, and by extension, the economy of the continent, is to support local businesses.
It’s really easy to do as well – it’s simply about choosing products that have been produced locally when you do your shopping. Of course, some of our favourite products and brands come from overseas, but with just a little shopping around it’s usually pretty easy to find locally manufactured alternatives, which often offer better value for money and are of equal quality.
There is no better investment than education. It’s an investment in the most important asset of all: human capital. It’s a pretty straightforward equation too – more and better education produces people who are more skilled, who have more knowledge, and who are better equipped for the world of work and other endeavours that benefit the economy.
An educated continent is a healthy continent, filled with people who have the skills, abilities and knowledge to make valuable contributions in whatever careers they pursue.
Education and learning are lifelong activities. We never stop growing, never stop accumulating knowledge. One of the best ways of acquiring knowledge is to learn directly from other people.
Educating each other by passing on the skills and knowledge we have gained is a very important way in which we can invest in our continent, through the people who live in it. If we look around we’re sure to find plenty of opportunities to do so. We can teach junior colleagues the deeper details of our jobs or professions. We can share information we’ve gained from reading or from television documentaries. We can join online discussion forums; there a plenty of ways to spread knowledge and information.
Look after what we have
Africa is a continent with an ancient history. Tradition plays an important role in our cultures, and we often look to our forefathers for guidance, wisdom and knowledge.
In the same way, we need to look after what we currently have: our cultures and their symbols, our heritage, our way of life and our shared values. This can range from preserving historical buildings and artefacts for the benefit of future generations, to making sure that we pay our taxes on time so that money is available to fund the many initiatives that preserve and further our cultural values.
Possibly the biggest challenge facing our continent at the moment is the threat of environmental destruction. We’re constantly being reminded of the damage we’re doing to the earth and its atmosphere with what we consume and dispose of – with our cars, technology and need for sources of power to keep everything up and running.
Africa is particularly susceptible to the effects of environmental change: the continent is already very vulnerable to catastrophic events like drought and famine. This means that we need to be extra careful to live in ways that are as kind as possible to the environment. A little reading up online will give you plenty of ideas for how to do this.
Any investment is a good investment
There are plenty of other ways to invest in your future and in a bright African future for all of us who live here, and our children to come. It doesn’t really matter how you choose to do it – as long as we are all making an effort.
I’m sure you have your own suggestions on how each of us can invest in Africa through how we live our lives. Give us your ideas here, or tweet us on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA
Thursday, 19 May 2016
It's Africa Month – a time to highlight the opportunities that lie on our continent. It's also a time to celebrate everything that makes us who we are. In fact, it's also a good time to evaluate what it means to be African. And the best way to do this is to find out from our fellow Africans. How do our fellow Africans see themselves?
If we talk to the people around us about what it means to be African, you'll usually end up with clusters of similar answers. Each person has his or her own individual idea of their African identity, and they express these in a bewildering variety of ways. However, they all tend to agree on a few broad characteristics.
The most common feelings that people have about being African relate to a deep sense of opportunity. The types of opportunities that people see vary from one person to the next, but the common thread is that they all feel privileged or empowered by the opportunities they see around them.
A continent of opportunity
They describe a sense of having the opportunity to create their own identities, to pursue their own goals in life and to shape their lives in their own ways. They feel free to express themselves as fully as they can – to self-actualise. They experience this as a special feeling, and the more sober-minded among them will usually say that they feel it is a privilege.
Their sense of opportunity extends beyond their personal lives; something that is especially true among the so-called millennials, who have a well-developed sense of social responsibility. They see the opportunity to shape the destinies of their countries and of the continent as a whole. They also appear to have a deep understanding of the opportunities they have to influence future generations in ways that are more beneficial to human relations, relations between countries, our relationship with animals and our sustainable coexistence in the environment.
A pan-African vision
The traditional, even ancient, pan-African vision is that African people, whether on the continent or overseas, have a common history and share a common destiny.
Fortunately one generally finds that this is mirrored in the attitudes of people in the street. They are strongly disposed towards the idea that cultural diversity is a central aspect of life in Africa. We all know this is true – we only have to look around us every day as we interact with our fellow countrymen here in South Africa.
There is also a deep sense of tolerance. Africa has seen more than its fair share of war, genocide, poverty and other miseries, but its people remain unbreakably tolerant, not only of others, but of the very hardships of life. It is this endurance that can be seen in everything from the woman who walks 5 miles before dawn to fetch water, to world champion Ethiopian long-distance athletes.
Along with this is a flexibility that permeates all aspects of society. As a continent almost entirely made up of developing countries, there is vast flexibility to still shape the places where we live, the values we share and the ways in which we interact.
Hope founded on ancient foundations
Being African is also characterised by a feeling of connectedness to powerful, almost primordial, forces. This is expressed in many different ways, from music to art and fashion, from our spiritual rituals to character traits like humility, empathy and respect.
One of the ways in which this connectedness is most strongly felt is in the way Africans describe themselves as embodying the struggle of their ancestors – how this is etched into their souls. They are naturally aware of the long journeys that previous generations undertook to reach the point where we now are.
It is this foundation of resilience and of overcoming through struggle that has produced an African outlook of hope, at an personal level, and applied to broader society and the continent as a whole.
Let's start a conversation. Tell me what you feel makes you African - right here or connect with me on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA