Government and Higher Education Working Together to Alleviate Poverty in KZN
The KwaZulu-Natal Social (KZN) Economy Development Programme (SEDP), a collaborative partnership between the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism, and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) and the four premier Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the province, namely, UKZN, the Durban University of Technology (DUT), Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) and the University of Zululand (UNIZULU), hosted the inaugural Provincial Social and Solidarity Economy Conference on 20 June at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L).
Themed: Celebrating a Decade of Cultivating Social Entrepreneurs in KZN, the conference was the first of its kind in South Africa. It aimed to celebrate and showcase the work that has been done in sowing the seeds of social entrepreneurship in KZN and chart the way forward into the next decade of expansion of the programme through best practices.
Delivering the welcome address, acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Law and Management Studies, Professor Managay Reddi congratulated the EDTEA and the academic institutions for their contribution in boosting the KZN economy.
Mr Patrick Mbokazi, Deputy Director of Regional and Local Economic Development (RLED) at the EDTEA unpacked the background of the programme and noted that the initiative started at the GSB&L in 2012 with two academic programmes in local economic development (LED). It developed and later featured the Young Researchers Programme, hosted doctoral candidates and post-doctoral fellows, and introduced the Annual LED summer and winter school workshops as well as the Social Entrepreneurship Programme.
He added that the social entrepreneurship incubation programme began in 2013 as a direct response to tackle the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality in the province. The programme draws candidates with existing enterprises who are contributing to economic development in their communities.
From humble beginnings in 2013 with only 12 participants, the aim of the initiative was to capacitate social entrepreneurs with personal development and foster the growth of their innovative social enterprises with the objective of scaling up their social impact. To date, the SEDP programme has trained and nurtured 192 social entrepreneurs from across KZN.
Attending the conference were proud alumni of the KZN SEDP, UKZN participant (2019) Mr Themba Mgwaba of Asikhule Co-Operative Development Cooperation; DUT participant (2022) Ms Xoli England who is the Director and Co-Founder of NutriVita and Happy Healthy Human; MUT participant (2022) Ms Mpume Gebashe of Banophuma Trading Enterprise; and UNIZULU participant (2023) Ms Ntombifuthi Ngiba, Co-Founder of Thulasizwe Global Projects (Pty) Ltd.
The participants expressed gratitude to the EDTEA and the HEIs for the transformative impact on their enterprises. They stated that their businesses have become more sustainable, they have introduced innovations in their offerings and the programme enabled them to sharpen their business acumen.
Chief Director of RLED at the EDTEA, Mr Ranveer Persad said that the KZN government was very pleased with the partnership with HEIs in KZN: ‘Through the programme’s support, the social entrepreneurs have fine-tuned their financial management, enhancing their record-keeping and analysis capabilities. Some have expanded their operations globally, exemplifying the programme’s ability to foster entrepreneurship with a broader reach. Furthermore, they have developed resilience, equipping them to overcome challenges and contribute positively to their communities.’
Mbokazi urged the private sector to support the project through the triple helix model of innovation that enables all stakeholders to support economic and social development in KZN.
The conference was also attended by Mr Bhavanesh Parboo, Programme Manager at the Industrial Development Corporation who shared information about funding opportunities available to social entrepreneurs and Independent Evaluator of LED projects Ms Claire Kerry.
Over the years, the KZN SEDP has been recognised locally and internationally for its outstanding achievements. In 2014, it received the Global Best Award for the best partnership in Africa presented by the International Partnership Network at a ceremony in Brussels in recognition of its outstanding Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Skills in Africa. In 2015, the programme was honoured with the KZN Top Business Award, recognising it as the best partnership project between the government and academic institutions.
Words: Hazel Langa