UKZN Partners with eThekwini Municipality to Support Entrepreneurs
In a bid to assist local entrepreneurs grow their business and create more employment opportunities, eThekwini Municipality in partnership with UKZN and other stakeholders recently launched Innovate Durban during a two-day Innovation Summit at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
The founding partners of Innovate Durban are eThekwini Municipality, UKZN, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Technology Innovation Agency, and the Durban University of Technology. The initiative aims to position eThekwini as a leading innovative city in Africa so that it can develop solutions for the challenges of service delivery as well as for problems faced by rapid urbanisation.
IBM and Mahindra were among other partners involved in the innovation summit which brought students, budding entrepreneurs and all innovative and creative thinkers together in one space.
UKZN Pro Vice-Chancellor, Innovation, Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, said developing a strong culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and a strong ecosystem in which they could thrive, were vital in order to address the challenges faced with regard to high unemployment, low economic growth, and massive inequality in the country.
‘UKZN is very proud to be one of the founding members of Innovate Durban. We see our role at the University as not simply undertaking excellent teaching and learning, and research, but leveraging that to impact the lives of all South Africans in a positive manner,’ said Ramjugernath.
The Chair of the Forum, Dr Anneline Chetty, said the summit was a resounding success. ‘We are celebrating Youth Month and we decided that this time, instead of just discussing our challenges, we would let the youth be a part of the solution.’
A highlight leading up to the Summit included the novel “Innovation Trek” - a one-day excursion in which groups of some of the younger Conference members toured various areas in eThekwini. The groups were tasked with identifying some visible challenges and then brainstorming innovative solutions which they showcased at the Summit with the winning group receiving an award.
The “Cato Maniacs”, a passionate group comprising high school and tertiary students, won first prize for their innovative ideas to tackle social challenges in Chesterville. The group proposed the development of a computer and mobile application that allows non-governmental organisations to network and brainstorm solutions to challenges faced by the community, e.g. drug abuse, crime and poverty.
The students also thought of an innovative way of ensuring that the Youth Centre was more accessible. Cato Maniac team member Ahmed Mohamed said there was no signage at the Youth Centre which resulted in the Centre being under-utilised.
The team conducted extensive research in the field of solar-powered digital signage. Mohamed said Durban had an average of 6.4 hours of sunshine a day. ‘Why not use this natural resource to our advantage? After start-up costs, solar power also proves to be much cheaper.’
Said City Manager, Sibusiso Sithole: ‘People should realise that innovation is not only about the big things but also about the little changes in our thinking, our systems, and processes we introduce to improve the quality of life of all our citizens.
‘It all starts with an idea… and the idea starts with us.’
For more information about getting involved in next year’s Innovation Summit or more about the winners, contact eThekwini Municipality’s Chair of the Forum Dr Anneline Chetty on email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 083-4598083.
Words: Sejal Desai