18 May 2023 Meet Zimkhita Nene: The Youth Leader Transforming Africa

My name is Zimkhita Nene. At 26 years old, I’ve recently been appointed as the gold-youth National Manager for South Africa. Prior to this role, I held the position of National Coordinator and also worked as an Executive Leadership Support Intern. Let me take you on a journey through my life and career.

Growing up in the West Rand in Johannesburg, I was surrounded by a loving family and strong Christian values. Throughout my life, I have always received support and guidance from various sources, including my family and education. My father, in particular, encouraged me to read self-help books from a young age – I even read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” before I was a teenager! Our family also had annual meetings to discuss personal and family goals – short, medium to long term life goals and where we were at spiritually, financially and academically. You are never too young to set your goals, no matter how small they are. It is important to write them down. It’s amazing that almost every single thing that I’ve written down in my life has come to fruition.

Driven by curiosity and a thirst for knowledge, I pursued studies in International Relations and French at Wits University. Being a third-generation graduate from the university, I felt empowered by my family’s history of academic success. This realization instilled in me the confidence to face challenges head-on and strive for excellence.

Entrepreneurship runs deep in my family, and it heavily influenced my career path. At the age of 17, I started my own business offering extra lessons to school children. I wanted to instil in them a strong work ethic, a love for life, and a belief in their own potential. I aimed to break the cycle of mediocrity and inspire them to strive for excellence in all aspects of their lives.

My journey as an educator expanded beyond academics. I encountered students dealing with mental health issues, some even contemplating or attempting suicide. This experience made me realize the importance of providing not only academic support but also emotional support to young people. Sometimes, a listening ear or a comforting presence can make a significant difference in someone’s life.

Through it all, I developed a deep passion for inspiring young people, especially in embracing entrepreneurship. We can no longer rely on traditional employment opportunities; we must create our own and, if possible, generate jobs for others. I believe that education should align with these principles to address the high rates of youth unemployment and graduate unemployment we face today. If the unemployment and unemployability stats are true then most of us will be born and die without having a chance to use the gold deposited in them and that is why we need to raise up a generation of self-starters, change-makers and youth leaders.

Another passion that drives me is the pursuit to live sustainably. Our current way of living is simply not sustainable and is detrimental to the environment. We lead wasteful lives, burning precious resources and fuels just to sustain ourselves. One obvious way that I contribute to sustainable living is opting for second-hand clothing and furniture allows us to utilize what already exists, minimizing the additional costs to my pocket and the environment. For instance, the lifespan of a pair of jeans is not just one season. Denim can last at least 3 years but can last a lifetime depending on wear and tear. Choosing second-hand means, we are not contributing to further resource consumption and waste. So, if you meet me, try to guess which part of my outfit is second-hand, you will not guess right away. That is because of the hidden dignity and quality of it all.

Coming into the role of National Manager at gold-youth was undoubtedly a daunting experience. The other National Managers, who are mostly in their mid-30s and older, possess a tremendous wealth of knowledge that is truly incomparable. However, I firmly believe that throughout my life, I have embodied the spirit of Joshua—a young individual who refuses to disqualify herself based on age. At every stage, I found myself being younger than my peers but ready to ascend to God’s call for my life to lead my peers.

I started school at a young age, and this has been a consistent lesson that God has imparted in my life: that youth should not be a barrier to achieving remarkable things. This appointment is particularly significant because it allows me to inspire and empower young people to awaken and become their own agents of change in the present moment.

My ultimate aspiration is to achieve a youth dividend, alongside gold-youth, contributing to transforming Africa economically, spiritually, and in profound ways. I also strive for redemptive justice, going beyond restoration to deliver Africans to what God has promised our people and our land. I am about redeeming Africans from poverty, illiteracy, and corrupt leadership; enabling us to lead sustainable and prosperous lives.

Join me on this journey of empowering and uplifting young people in Africa, creating a future where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and succeed. Together, we can make a difference and bring about real change.