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18 September 2023
Universities Unite to Advance Student Entrepreneurship
A movement to bolster and nurture student entrepreneurship has taken root in universities across South Africa, with the University of the Western Cape (UWC) leading the charge. Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE), in collaboration with UWC and the Department of Higher Education and Training, recently hosted a week-long gathering on the UWC campus. 

Other key collaborators included Universities South Africa (USAf) and the Cape Higher Education Consortium. The event consisted of a lekgotla and a student indaba, which was centered around the theme, “Social Innovation for Social Impact ''. Scholars from across the country converged to exchange ideas and expand their networks. 
Buti Manamela (second right) formed part of the discussion panel
alongside Prof Lawack, Zamazwazi Shabangu and Prof Michelle Esau

The EDHE Lekgotla is a flagship event for the EDHE programme, and aims to support student entrepreneurs with existing start-ups or small businesses by providing knowledge, opportunities and a vibrant networking space.

Proceedings were opened by Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Buti Manamela, who passionately encouraged students to tap into available resources and recognise their pivotal role in boosting the country’s economy.

“One of the key objectives of the EDHE Programme is the need for us to constantly reimagine the role of universities. To bring us closer to achieving this strategic goal, it is expected that the lekgotla will create a conducive platform for sharing the best practices in emerging initiatives in university entrepreneurship,’’ said Manamela.

The lekgotla featured engaging sessions aligned with the relevant goals, including open discussions, think tanks, launchpads, and breakaways for collective reflection and feedback.

UWC Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, Professor Vivienne Lawack, welcomed this creative and networking space, highlighting the University’s various programmes that nurture entrepreneurial spirit among students. These programmes include Zone Learning, which encampuses various clinics such as The Transmedia Clinic, Entrepreneurial Law Clinic, the Green Incubator, and the Small Business Clinic.

“I am in a fortunate position as I am leading ZoneLearning@UWC. In 2017, during a trip to Canada with Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Nzimande, I was fascinated by how they integrated entrepreneurship with different zones and disciplines into the curriculum,’’ said Prof Lawack.

She also highlighted the role of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in orchestrating collaboration, inspiration, and entrepreneurship support across different faculties. Initiatives like pitching days and market days have been particularly successful, including the recent “Battle of the Seven Faculties.

During the event, students from participating universities could also showcase their small businesses at the UWC Student Centre.

UWC third-year Arts and Humanities student Bokamoso Flatha Mamasedi is one of 20 students trying to convert their passion into a thriving business. Mamasedi, who learnt crocheting from her grandmother at the tender age of 10, proudly displayed her edgy designs, including bucket hats, jerseys and beanies at the Student Centre. 

“The University has been instrumental in providing us with exposure. There are a lot of people coming from outside who are helping us to market our business. It's really all about exposure more than anything,’’ said Mamasedi, the founder of Flatha Crochets.