Creating opportunities and areas for collaboration between the Department of Small Business Development and the University of KwaZulu-Natal was the aim of a recent roundtable discussion championed by the School of Accounting Economics and Finance (SAEF).
The meeting focused on the gaps and strengths of entrepreneurship; the evolvement of small business support in South Africa and the upcoming summit on township and rural economies.
The School’s Acting Dean, Professor Mabutho Sibanda, said the University conducts a lot of research in the areas of entrepreneurship and economic development but this does not get to influence policy and legislation as it does not reach the relevant government departments.
‘As a university, we want to get involved in the research conducted by the Department. Academic involvement in research that informs policy is vital; we are the custodians and generators of knowledge and we have the right skills to assist government departments in their research agendas,’ he said.
Special adviser to the Minister of Small Business Development and Head of the National Planning Commission’s Township and Rural Economies task team, Dr Thami Mazwai said the aim of the meeting was to determine the role of universities in changing and shaping the narrative around entrepreneurship.
‘Entrepreneurs are in universities hence it is important for government to engage with entrepreneurship lecturers. Our students know their lived experience in the townships and rural areas better than anybody else and they should be leading the transformation of their communities with entrepreneurship as the driver,’ he said.
Through his presentation titled: Today’s Student and Entrepreneurship-the Partnership for Development, Mazwai shared insights on education and entrepreneurship. He also announced that the Department is planning on hosting a colloquium to engage with entrepreneurship academics from the country’s 26 universities.
‘We want to know how students see themselves as entrepreneurship champions and what must be done in terms of policy to influence them to be entrepreneurs and wealth creators. It is academics themselves that can tell us how much we have taken issues of the push economies, indigenous entrepreneurship, producing quality and dealing with the human element when it comes to economic development,’ he said.
Moving forward, Mazwai stated that he will submit a report to the Minister on the outcomes of the meeting and suggested that a memorandum of understanding between the Department and the University should be pursued.
Words and photograph by: Thandiwe Jumo