SA’s real gold lies in small business‚ enterprise lekgotla hears

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This according Dr Taddy Blecher‚ who chaired the Human Resource Development Council’s Enabling Entrepreneurship Technical Task Team.

He was speaking at the country’s first lekgotla on Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education‚ launched by Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana in Johannesburg on Thursday.

The education department is establishing a national entrepreneurship ecosystem in local universities‚ based on recommendations made by task team in a report.

Blecher said the task team’s work‚ spanning about five years‚ showed that entrepreneurship is central to life and that the country’s “real gold” lies in small businesses.

“We’ve got a lot of wonderful initiatives that don’t talk to each other. We need a national entrepreneurship plan. Entrepreneurial skills should be incorporated into Grade 1 through to the end of school‚” Blecher said‚ in an assessment of the state of play in South Africa.

The task team launched a number of mobile technology interventions to assist entrepreneurs while it was at work.

These include a programme with Google which helped 65 000 businesses create websites‚ a free education portal at the Regenesys Business School which has been accessed by over 500 000 South Africans and a website‚ called FinFind‚ which has helped 25 000 people access funding.

Since 75% of South Africa’s unemployed people are young people‚ universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges must come to the party‚ Blecher said.

Dr Marius Venter of the University of Johannesburg agreed and gave practical advice for growing businesses.

Franchising is something that should be approached with caution‚ he said.

“People become slaves of franchisors. If you want to start a business‚ do something that you love because you’re going to spend a lot of time there. Rather be content than greedy.”

In a snap survey in a university class Venter spoke to‚ 90% of the students said that they want to start a business but could not get business plans off the ground.

Professor Deresh Ramjugernath‚ Pro Vice-Chancellor for Innovation‚ Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship at the University of KwaZulu-Natal‚ said South African academics pay lip service to developing entrepreneurship but take little action.

“Universities and higher education has got to be one of the most ineffective and inefficient sectors in the country. We’re not being entrepreneurial in the way we run our institutions.”

Promoting entrepreneurship requires more than a curriculum change‚ but for universities to turn around inefficiencies in operations‚ Ramjugernath said.

He also urged executive management to set the tone and learn from their peers abroad.

“Why don’t we learn from universities globally that are 30 years on and have done particularly well in this regard? Don’t go reinvent the wheel. Use strategic partnerships to bring these expertise to our universities.”

Manana said part of the department’s three-point action plan was the development of entrepreneurial universities.

“Graduates are more likely to become economically active‚ whereas universities are in a better position to generate a sustainable third stream income.”

– TMG Digital

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