UNIZULU Instrumental in KZN Social Entrepreneurship Development Drive

UNIZULU Instrumental in KZN Social Entrepreneurship Development Drive

The University of Zululand (UNIZULU), together with three partners in KwaZulu-Natal, is making a valuable contribution to the province’s economic development agenda through equipping local social entrepreneurs with key business management skills.

In August 2021, the University’s Department of Business Management joined forces with the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), which had a longstanding partnership to implement the KZN Social Economy Development programme.

A training-intensive initiative, the programme seeks to bolster social entrepreneurship in the province by exposing social entrepreneurs, also known as local economic development (LED) champions, to holistic business administration education.

Providing more context to the programme, Dr Simon Taylor, a UKZN academic who heads the project said: “The main purpose of the project is to develop, create and empower social entrepreneurs within KZN; to encourage skills development for them to become more resilient in their businesses. The social entrepreneurship drive aligns with government policy on social development. It’s driven by the president’s National Development Plan 2030.”

He added that the 2022 cycle was the first time that EDTEA and UKZN had worked with other universities. “This year, we had UNIZULU, Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) and the Durban University of Technology (DUT) – so that is a step up. Now the reach is much wider because UNIZULU goes right up to Pongola, Vryheid, Kosi Bay. We can reach more people,” Dr Taylor said.

In the 2021/22 period, more than 50 entrepreneurs were mentored in the programme, with UNIZULU mentoring 10. Dr Sheunesu Zhou, one of the mentors, explained that the social entrepreneurs were selected through an application process, and the interviews took place in November 2021. The mentors sought businesses that were operational and that either had a social impact or the intention of making a social impact.

“The training focussed on social entrepreneurship – who is a social entrepreneur, what do they do, basic business management, tips, and basic manager skills. The entrepreneurs had to redraw their business plans. We put a lot of emphasis on the social and environmental impact that the entrepreneurs’ businesses would make,” he said.

In his view, Dr Zhou believes the six-month interactions between the mentors and entrepreneurs were fruitful as the mentors were not only able to impart new knowledge, but also tackle most of the common problem areas of the businesses. These were improper drawing up of financials and internal business management, as well as total neglect of utilising marketing tools to increase the visibility of the businesses. Beyond this, Dr Zhou said the experience was life-changing for mentors too, as they dealt with individuals from varied business and personal backgrounds.

UNIZULU and MUT Champions Demo Day

On 2 September, LED champions who were trained by UNIZULU and MUT attended the Champions Demo Day at The Royal Hotel. Here they presented their businesses in front of a judging panel, investors and fellow social entrepreneurs.

Dr Ayansola Ayandibu, the second UNIZULU mentor who was also on the judging panel, explained that the champions were judged mainly according to the social impact elements of their businesses.

At the end, two champions were chosen as the overall winners – one from each university group. They each received a R5 000 cash prize from Nedbank.

– Naledi Hlefane

Caption

UNIZULU joined hands with the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs and three KZN universities in a project geared towards advancing the skills and knowledge of social entrepreneurs in the province.

Picture: James Thwala

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