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18 May 2016
ABSA Donation Boosts Entrepreneurship At UWC

ABSA R1.2 million donation supports entrepreneurship at UWC

UWC’s Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) is working towards positive social change and driving economic growth by equipping local entrepreneurs with business skills - a mission that became a bit more manageable with ABSA Bank’s R1.2 million donation on 18 May 2016.

Last year the Centre joined hands with the Western Cape Government and Absa to equip 1000 entrepreneurs across the Western Cape with the strategic and operational skills needed to help develop and grow their businesses. With this added support from Absa, UWC hopes to continue the work being done in communities – for the next three years, the CEI will work towards the improvement of enterprise, financial and life skills of the next generation.

The partners will jointly consider and execute initiatives at the University’s CEI by focusing on:

  • Enhancement of the academic programme

  • Co-ordination of entrepreneurship programmes

  • Enterprise support

  • Fellowship programmes

  • Development of mutually beneficial joint corporate opportunities

It’s a multidisciplinary effort, with the CEI coordinating efforts across UWC’s faculties.

“It’s important to see entrepreneurship as a culture and a mindset,” said CEI Director, Charleen Duncan. “Lots of entrepreneurs in South Africa have valuable skills and experience - but don’t necessarily have the business skills to build their businesses the way they dreamed. We need to map a new route of academic literacy to give these entrepreneurs access to information, to finances, to training and to opportunities.”

One such entrepreneur is Peregrine van Heerden, owner of Da Kaapo Metalworks and one of the CEI’s first Entrepreneurship Fellows.

Peregrine had to drop out of school before completing matric to make extra money when his mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was a difficult situation - he was poor, and spent time on the streets - but he managed to find work with a structural engineering firm, start a family, and also had a part-time activity at home: he made burglar bars and railings and more. In 2001 he quit his job and decided to turn that activity into a full-time business endeavour in order to build a better life for his family. He tried his hand at distribution, went overseas to learn about musical instruments in China, and then switched over to metalwork, co-founding Da Kaapo Metalworks.

In 2014,  the CEI’s Wendy Merhl invited him to attend an eTools sessions at UWC - and it changed the way he did business (for the better).

“At first I was a bit nervous - how would I cope?” he said. “Attending all these sessions, I realised I had lots of homework to do. But as I attended these sessions my confidence increased, because I had a family grouping - the CEI - who was ready to assist me. They opened up my understanding so much, urged me to take bigger steps - and I started to achieve more than I ever realised I could.”

By supporting the CEI’s initiatives, Absa hopes to help more entrepreneurs like Peregrine achieve their ambitions. The pillars of this project are in line with the bank’s strategy to ensure small-, micro- and medium-enterprises have access to finance and markets, as well as other non-financial support. And in addition to the bank’s normal lending criteria, Absa has committed R20-million annually in non-traditional lending aimed at the SME sector in South Africa. This fund is available to SMEs that typically would not meet traditional lending criteria, but have the ability to generate income in the future.

“Absa is a value-based business,” said  Clinton Clarke, Regional Head ABSA CIB KZN and Western Cape. “We believe in the power of a set of values - including respect, integrity, service, excellence and stewardship. This is aligned to the University’s vision of helping small business entrepreneurs achieve their goals and improve their livelihoods. The UWC Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has granted Absa the opportunity to make a contribution to much-needed development, learning, research and community engagement. There was no doubt in our decision to contribute R1,2m in funding for the programme - we recognise the vital role SMEs play in economic growth and job creation, and we are delighted to be in a partnership to bring about healthy social change and drive economic growth that will positively impact the South African economy.”

Entrepreneurs joining hands for a better South Africa

The objectives of UWC’s Entrepreneurship Fellowship are to create an environment that attracts entrepreneurs who want to grow their business and create network opportunities, and to put UWC on the map with regards to empowerment and reaching new heights as an engaged university. To qualify as a Fellow you need to successfully graduate from a UWC Entrepreneurship short course. Fellows have the opportunity to enhance their skills, knowledge, and experience through peer-to-peer learning, workshops, and contact with relevant eminent persons.

“We often don’t know and we don’t understand the power of bringing like-minded people together, who can create jobs as a collective, see a different set of opportunities and help each other understand things differently,” added Charleen. “All of us can contribute to the bigger picture, the bigger plan, and ensure that we met our goals.”

“I encourage my fellow entrepreneurs to take the time to attend these sessions,” added Peregrine. “Get up from your position of relaxation and run to achieve. You’ll be glad you did.”

Want to know more about the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation? Why not visit their website or just watch this handy information video?