The EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2021 event, organised by Universities South Africa’s Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme, was a women-dominated event.
In an unprecedented breakdown, a total of 16 out of 28 finalists were female. And much to the delight of all organisers, five out of the six winners were women. Fifth-year medical student at the University of Cape Town, Tshegofatso Masenya took home the coveted R100 000 EDHE Studentpreneur of the year 2021 prize with her winning gamified donation-based crowdfunding business, GoShare. The enterprise enables tertiary students to raise funds to cover their outstanding fees.
The gender shift in just three years since the inception of the event in 2019, was noted with awe by Dr Norah Clarke, Director: Entrepreneurship Universities South Africa (USAf). She said: “I am always going on about how women students are under-represented in entrepreneurship.
“In our first event in 2019, only four or five finalists were women. In 2020, we got no more than eight women in the finals, and only one woman won in one of the four categories. We were really concerned about why there were so few women student entrepreneurs!
“After that first intervarsity, the women student finalists called me saying: ‘shouldn’t there be a special category with an award for women entrepreneurs?’” Dr Clarke said her response was emphatic: “I said we are not special-needs students; that slow learner in the back of the class. We don’t need a special prize because we are women. Women must compete in the world of business on equal terms. Nobody signs a business deal out of sympathy for the entrepreneur being a woman. Business is not gentle.”
Earning their place
Women were going to earn their place in the competition, Dr Clarke said, emphatically. She said that the 16 women finalists in the 2021 EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity were chosen on merit. “The selection was not fudged; it was real. They were in the competition on merit,” she said. She acknowledged women at institutions who are the entrepreneurship support for women students, helping them “claim their seat at the table.”
And the theme of successful women wiping the board did not end with studentpreneurs. Also on the women’s roll at Intervarsity 2021 were Ms Mandisa Cakwe, Acting Chief Director: Teaching, Learning and Research Development in the University Education Branch, Department of Higher Education and Training, who gave the keynote address. She was followed by inspirational guest speaker, Ms Mbali Bhengu – a serial entrepreneur, author, marketer and advisory mentor who won the KZN Top Achiever Award as well as the Standard Bank Top 26 Business Finalist award.
Two highly respected women academics, both recognised leaders in their respective fields, received the EDHE Awards in recognition of their outstanding support for entrepreneurship development at their institutions.
The EDHE DVC Award in recognition of exceptional institutional support for entrepreneurship development was bestowed on Professor Sibusiso Moyo (left), Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). Professor Moyo, who is widely credited for leading best practice in entrepreneurship development, was lauded for encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit and helping create a climate conducive to entrepreneurship at her university.
Professor Moyo said: “Thank you for the award. I’m surprised because I rely heavily on the team that supports all entrepreneurial activity at DUT.” She requested that team, which was attending the Intervarsity finals event, to rise and be acknowledged. She also added that she could not achieve what she was without the active support of the DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, who was also in the audience.
“It would not be possible to create an entrepreneurial climate at the university without the support of the vice-chancellor,” she said.
DVCs play pivotal role
Professor Eunice Seekoe (above), Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching, Learning and Community Engagement at Sefako Makgatho University of Health Sciences, received the EDHE “Rising Star” award. She was singled out for her tireless efforts at ensuring that entrepreneurship was fostered at her university.
Dr Clarke said that innovation soared at universities where DVCs who took an active role in promoting entrepreneurship. She said: “In our game, vice-chancellors are critical in what actually happens, what is supported and enabled in an institution.”
The EDHE DVC awards were a culmination of a process started at institutional level, where students and staff (both teaching and administrative) within university communities were asked to nominate their DVC if the latter had demonstrated exceptional support to entrepreneurship in 2021. A neutral panel of independent judges had gone through the short list that featured Central University of Technology’s Professor Alfred Ngowi, Stellenbosch University’s Professor Eugene Cloete, Limpopo University’s Professor Jesika Singh and the University of Pretoria’s Professor Norman Duncan.
Professor Ahmed Bawa, CEO of Universities South Africa, in his welcome address, had acknowledged the DVCs and the role they play in this context. “At the end of the day, you are really the engines at our universities that foster the growth of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking and innovation.”
Charmain Naidoo is a contract writer for Universities South Africa