You are important to the economy. We are rooting for you. We are here to help.
That was the predominant sentiment of partners of the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Intervarsity as they pledged their support for another year in 2022.
They were speaking virtually at the launch of the prestigious Entrepreneurship Intervarsity, attended by 230 students from all 26 of South Africa’s universities last Thursday.
The students entering this competition will spend this year establishing, growing, marketing and showcasing their businesses. The competition, held in stages throughout the year, ends with winners in four categories, out of which the winner of the Studentpreneur of the Year Award will emerge.
According to EDHE’s Director, Dr Norah Clarke, three generous partners – SAB Foundation, Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and Entrepreneurs Organisation – play a critical role in making the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity possible.
Last year, the SAB Foundation contribution sponsored three winners in the Existing Business, Social Impact category.
All three winners were women:
- Ms Tshegofatso Masenya (left above), a medical student at UCT, won in the category and took home the coveted overall winner prize for her business GoShare, a platform that helps financially strapped students crowdfund to pay their fees.
- Ms Vuthlarhi Shirindza (middle), a medical student at UCT won for her business, Chewi, a pet telehealth app that offers on-demand pet telemedicine and services, is a fourth year medical student at UCT.
- Ms Zisanda Poswayo (right), a Master of Science in Botany student at Walter Sisulu University, won for her company Izithalandwe Farming, a 100% black, female and youth owned company that specialises in agricultural skills development and organic crop production.
Pledging support for 2022 was Ms Itumeleng Dhlamini (left), SAB Foundation’s Social Innovation Specialist. She told this year’s entrants the Foundation was serious about supporting and investing in social innovators because they are “at the forefront of addressing challenges and we believe that these initiatives can accelerate economic growth and job creation.”
She outlined why Social Entrepreneurs are important in society:
- They are change makers who come up with innovative ways to solve some of society’s challenges.
- They address inequality by improving the quality of our education and health system.
- They work to democratise education.
- They develop initiaves that seek to empower thus enabling people to participate in a meaningful life.
- They actively contribute to economic growth through employment creation.
Being an entrepreneur, Ms Dhlamini said, is difficult. “That is why we need to encourage a culture of innovative thinking and resilience at an early age; at high school and university level. We need to ensure that young people choose entrepreneurship and are intentional about getting into it – not as a second or third option but something they choose, to alleviate some of the challenges facing us.”
Ms Dhlamini said the SAB Foundation was aware that cultivating a passion for entrepreneurship at an early age requires support and collaboration from key ecosystem actors. “This partnership with EDHE is important to us because it enables us to ignite that culture of social innovation and to mainstream social impact. It is also critical in that it helps us identify, find and support innovative ideas and enterprises.”
She added that a partnership with EDHE allowed the SAB Foundation to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:
- SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth through promotion of entrepreneurship and innovation
- SDG 10: Reducing inequality
- SDG 1: The alleviation of poverty
“We hope this new round of submissions will bring fresh innovative ideas that can be scaled to create change and positive impact and so we wish those taking part in the competition a successful year.
“We look forward to wonderful ideas that we can support and help scale.”
Allan Gray Orbis Foundation
Ms Nontando Mthethwa (right), Head of Public Affairs and Communications at Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, believes that business “stakeholders of society” have a duty to drive initiatives like the Intervarsity competition. This is because entrepreneurs play an important role in South Africa’s economy and in reducing unemployment (especially among youth). She said support of studentpreneurs could come through active business skills training, funding or market facilitation.
“In the past two years, the challenges of the pandemic have given us an opportunity to reflect on how entrepreneurship empowers our students, helping them navigate this uncertain terrain.” She said now more than ever, South Africa needs more entrepreneurs and more entrepreneurial thinkers. “We’ve seen how old ways of thinking are unreliable in the new world we find ourselves in. What we need are people of vision; who are able to look at what is, picture what could be, and not be deterred by the hurdles they may encounter as they work to make that vision a reality.”
Ms Mthethwa said the country urgently needs people who understand that their efforts have a critical bearing on their community. “We need people who are working not just to enrich themselves, but to improve the lives of those around them. We, at the Foundation, believe in and support the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity because it allows us to collaborate in harnessing certain qualities that are reliable projectors of entrepreneurial success.” She listed these as entrepreneurial desire, confidence, the ability to think as innovators, the ability to build resilience; being solutions-oriented and diligent.
To the students in the virtual room, she said: “each one of you has a purpose; every idea you pursue, every notion, every possibility you explore – you are bringing to fruition a better world for South Africa.
“We invite you into this vision that we, as an organisation, believe in – that entrepreneurship has a bigger role to play in terms of bringing about wellness in our society. As a foundation, we have a proud history of providing a platform for entrepreneurs who answer society’s needs. We believe this competition helps nurture them.”
Mr Masego Mokitimi (left), Chair of the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards at the Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO) Board, was on the judging panel at the EDHE Intervarsity finals in 2021. He explained that EO is a member-led organisation with about 14 000 like-minded leaders spread throughout 61 countries across the globe.
It linked a very large number of capitals around the world, he said, adding that EO is the world’s only peer-to-peer network exclusively for entrepreneurs.
“We support and develop each other because we understand how daunting and how long and frustrating being an entrepreneur can be.”
The four South African chapters – Johannesburg, Durban, Winelands, Cape Town – have 200 members and employ 15 000. “Our partnership with EDHE has been going for two years. We, at EO, see ourselves as the industry side of the equation. Our 200 members – all entrepreneurs running companies – bring a wealth of knowledge, information, mentorship, guidance, and coaching. You will see us throughout the competition.
“We are there to support you, the student entrepreneurs.”
He said it was wonderful to see the level of talent and energy and told the students they would learn a lot this year. “Entrepreneurs don’t give up so don’t give up. Refine your business, ask for help whenever you need it. We at EO are here to assist.”
The students who reach the finals in this competition automatically qualify to go into the EO Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards. That way, it gives South Africa’s studentpreneurs an opportunity to compete with the best in the world.
Charmain Naidoo is a contract writer for Universities South Africa