Watch this video of an interview on eTV’s “Nuusdag Perspektief” that Suzaan Steyn did with Dr Nico de Klerk, CEO of StreetBiz Foundation on 6 December in which they discussed insights gained from the Long Walk Project that ended on 24 November 2018, and the way forward.
Please note: the interview is in Afrikaans, but a full transcript in English has been provided for all our international StreetBizzers directly below the video on this web page.
English translation transcript of the “Nuusdag Perspektief 6 Desember” interview with Suzanne Steyn and Dr Nico de Klerk
[00:07] Suzaan Steyn: We are continuing with “Nuusdag Perspektief” (‘News day perspective’).
Dr Nico de Klerk is an entrepreneur, a public speaker, and also the CEO of StreetBiz Foundation. He’s just arrived home after four months on the road. On foot, from the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where he started walking on 18 July on Mandela Day right up to the Buildings of Parliament [editor’s correction: Cape Town City Hall] in Cape Town, which he reached on South Africa Day on 24 November.
All of this to focus the attention on entrepreneurship in South Africa, and to help his audiences make a mindshift.
And, after more than 2 600 km and a few pairs of walking shoes, he is more than positive about the curiosity, the enthusiasm, and the creativity that he encountered in rural areas.
Dr De Klerk is in the studio with me tonight to tell us more about his adventures.
Nico, I’m sure you had many adventures. But you started this walk to help people make a mindshift. It’s all about mindset, for you. Please expand?
[01:03] Dr Nico de Klerk: I think, after the previous clip, we’re facing this head-on, something has to happen, something has to be done. And we hear such a lot … we have many experts in our country telling us what should be happening, what should be done. But to make something happen is quite a challenge.
So, at this stage I can just summarise [what happened] by saying that I now have a message for the unemployed (about 30% of the country’s population), for the school-leaving youth, for churches, for the corporates, for individuals.
And it took two years to get it to this point. And it’s good that the Minister of Small Business Development bought into [this vision] with a letter of support, as well as Seda’s CEO (Me Tshikwatamba) … yes, we’re facing this head-on. It’s what the Cape had to go through in the beginning of the year in terms of [the availability of] water, and what we’re now facing in terms of electricity [load shedding] .. and this is the world we now find ourselves in.
[02:00] Suzaan Steyn: So, what did you do? What was your goal?
[02:03] Dr Nico de Klerk: My goal is definitely to get attention. I mean, here’s a message that needs to be heard. That it’s really necessary.
[02:11] Suzaan Steyn: And what is this message?
[02:12] Dr Nico de Klerk: The message is: what we’re currently doing in terms of unemployment, in other words, job creation or entrepreneurship – is NOT working.
And there’s such a lot of stats that I could now quote, you know, such as the World Economic Forum Index 2016, 2017, 2018, percentages … South Africa is the underperformer in terms of entrepreneurial spirit – while we have the best potential in Africa. Etcetera. We’re the country with the biggest gap between rich and poor since September 2015.
We have something we must face, and this asks for a mindshift.
[02:49] Suzaan Steyn: So, during your walk, you gave a message to people, and I assume that your message would be how we could fix this thing? And how do we fix this?
[02:58] Dr Nico de Klerk: If I could now speak to every individual and listener, just as with the schools, just as with the communities, just as with the unemployed: realise, accept that something has to change, and that it will have to start in my mind. About how I experience the world around me: is it just bad? Is it just that the country is broken? How do I talk? When last did I make a mindshift? When last did I change my thoughts about something?
So, then you start understanding: my thoughts are stuck. Or I have an open mind. There are lots of research in this regard that makes one very excited coming from a neuro-research perspective.
So, at each school I visited, I left four basic exercises. Now, my friend, it’s your gift – are you going to do these every day, twice a week? And if you do those exercises, it gets a whole process going.
[03:49] Suzaan Steyn: And maybe, in short, could you describe an example of at least one of those exercises?
[03:54] Dr Nico de Klerk: Oh, well, at least the easiest one – and then you’ll have to see how people struggle with it – you place your left hand over your right hand, you fold your hands together … I won’t ask you to do this now, because people often get very confused … and you twist it inwards. Children do this intuitively in pre-primary school. And this leads to integration of the left and right brain … messages … the paths of the synapses are shortened, are increased. So, there is a change that happens physically in the brain just because you do this exercise. So this is just one of the four that I left at schools, not to make it too difficult, but there are lots.
[04:27] Suzaan Steyn: You’re saying that there is a specific message from Grade 10s and 11s that appears throughout the country … there’s a common theme?
[04:35] Dr Nico de Klerk: Yes, you see research was an important aspect for me – to do research – and this is something lacking in our entrepreneurial culture.
So, I made a lot of recordings during the walk and sent it to a transcription company who typed it, filed it, etcetera.
But the message that became so strong that, later on, I just tested it and then I got 100% agreement, you know – the message is the following: our Grade 10s and 11s in this country (and now I am talking about township schools) are SO ready to move ahead, “We just want to make it work, we’re positive, we’re there!”
[05:16] Suzaan Steyn: But how?
[05:17] Dr Nico de Klerk: “We’re being underestimated.” So, the message is, “Your generation [Dr Nico is pointing at himself now] is holding us back. Because you are struggling to let go and you are stuck in conflicts and in the past. Let go, and use that energy to open up our future! Build bridges.”
[05:34] Suzaan Steyn: Okay, and if you could just, in short, tell us more about the route you walked. You walked more than 2 600 kilometres. And you stopped at various communities.
[05:43] Dr Nico de Klerk: Yes, I wanted to give meaning to the whole route.
It started on Mandela Day and ended on South Africa Day – what these two days represent. Visiting more than a hundred communities, that connects with the Mandela centennial birthday celebrations.
So I tried to give meaning during the walk, to say, this walk is a gift for you – for any individual in this country. Take it as a gift, open it up. This is now yours.
Because you are going on a journey if you want to open up your mind – there are a few changes – and this could possibly mean a long walk for you.
You are going to have to persevere. And it’s part of our culture – these days we want things to change so fast – but it requires a bit of perseverance to change your own thinking, and to bring about the necessary changes regarding our life styles.
[06:34] Suzaan Steyn: And I think that the people would also be listening to you tonight and say, “Yes, Nico, it’s easy talking about this. But it’s impossible. It’s an impossibility.”
[06:43] Dr Nico de Klerk: Yes. What are we made of? Who are we? In every community, I discovered the most amazing potential, good people, goodwill, hospitality – in all of the communities. And most of the time I slept in our townships. The hospitality, the joy, no – there’s a lot we mustn’t overlook.
[07:05] Suzaan Steyn: So you went through … I think the first night you stayed over in Diepsloot.
[07:14] Dr Nico de Klerk: Olievenhoutbosch the first evening, Diepsloot, Soweto …
[07:15] Suzaan Steyn: But you also went through Vrede in the Free State …
[07:22] Dr Nico de Klerk: … Orange Farm, Sebokeng … when I opened my eyes, I arrived at the Vaal River.
Then it became Free State people, and the farmers would stop and ask, “Can we help? Where are you going?” And then it became something else.
Reitz, Bethlehem, Ficksburg … down against the border … Zastron .. crossed the border at Aliwal …
And through the Karoo – Middelburg, Graaff-Reinet, Nieu-Bethesda …
And then into the Western Cape. At Uniondale, and then I went up into the Langkloof up to Kareedouw … across to Tsitsikamma … down to Mossel Bay, back to Oudtshoorn … then Route 62 into Franschhoek and towards Stellenbosch.
[07:58] Suzaan Steyn: And where did you sleep over? Because you just walked. You didn’t really book the places where you’d overnight in advance?
[08:06] Dr Nico de Klerk: No, I only had an accommodation team from the Free State who helped me. I built up teams who helped me, all of them volunteers, without any payment and the like. This is how I made it work over the past two years. But everything just fell into place.
I honestly want to tell you, people would ask, “Were you threatened anywhere?” NO! Not even in the Cape Flats. Yes, there are really connected!
[08:32] Suzaan Steyn: Yes, I’m thinking of the gang activities over there. Were you ever in such a situation where you …
[08:35] Dr Nico de Klerk: Well, the gang members … (and now I’m talking about ex-gangsters who still have a lot of communication with the present gangsters … otherwise I would never have gone through there, I can assure you) … literally led me through, if I can describe it as such – told me where I should walk, “Here you should go to the left side of the street, here on the right”, arranged places to sleep over at. In the end I sang my “long walk song” (my motivational song) with a band – the programme in the Cape Flats is “Join bands, not gangs”.
And I learned a whole lot about the culture of the gangs, and how it works, the hierarchies and structures.
[09:17] Suzaan Steyn: So, for practical tips – where can we start? Practical tips for entrepreneurship for me and the viewers tonight – tips to encourage entrepreneurship. Because we’re not all entrepreneurs.
[09:28] Dr Nico de Klerk: No, but there’s a place and a role for everyone.
Become involved. Take a decision that you won’t just have conversations about everything that’s going wrong. There is no argument about how many things are going wrong here – and it’s also happening globally.
So just make a decision that you are going to make your small difference. And you’ll find a point of connection.
And that is why I want to work towards an online school. A business school. But very unique – I don’t know of something similar in the world.
Because this business school is for the unemployed. He might be without work for twenty years already. Now he also has to change. The guy who left school – we can make such an impact.
My research indicated that about 5% of Grade 10s and 11s are really thinking about, and making plans about, what they’re going to do after Grade 12, after leaving school. If we can change that 5% to 15% – good heavens!
[10:21] Suzaan Steyn: But what about if there really isn’t money? It’s a reality.
[10:29] Dr Nico de Klerk: It is simply a way of thinking. I did this whole Long Walk Project without money. I contacted more than a thousand companies for assistance, and there was nothing, or “It sounds too vague” and “It sounds like a crazy idea – how are you going to do it?”
So, money is the first mistake you make in your thinking – that you have to overcome.
[10:51] Suzaan Steyn: So, it’s interesting. You’re always thinking about the problems, “there’s not going to be money”, “this is missing that is missing”. But changing it is difficult.
[10:57] Dr Nico de Klerk: “I don’t have the money” is most probably the number one sentence you hear that you have to overcome with new ways of thinking.
[11:08] Suzaan Steyn: What about skills?
[11:09] Dr Nico de Klerk: Sorry, please explain what you want to know about this?
[11:15] Suzaan Steyn: Well, not everyone has specifically entrepreneurial skills
[11:19] Dr Nico de Klerk: Oh, okay. I don’t have enough time to run around amongst various communities … although I would love to do that .. but that is why technology is so important.
We’re never going to catch up with education. And let me just add this: I have the greatest admiration for the township schools’ principals and staff. That which I witnessed – these people are pure gold!
But we have to bring in technology and that’s the reason for the online school. There’s going to be a whole lot of information regarding the development of entrepreneurial skills at grassroots level.
I know, in every community you’ll find three or four people who’ll hear and understand this tonight – THEY have to make contact. So, while I was walking, I brought the together – but we need them across the whole country. They must please make contact with us.
[12:04] Suzaan Steyn: Nico, thank you very much. And when you say that they must make contact, then it is, of course, at the StreetBiz Foundation. That was Dr Nico de Klerk, entrepreneur, public speaker, and the CEO of the StreetBiz Foundation.
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