S.Africa’s universities launch forum to foster entrepreneurial innovation - CNBC Africa

S.Africa’s universities launch forum to foster entrepreneurial innovation

Southern Africa

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“Universities definitely play a massive role around the world. If you look at the United States, for example, Google started on Stanford’s campus, Facebook started on Harvard’s campus, Dell Computers started on University of Texas’s campus. There are tens of thousands of the biggest businesses in the world that started on university campuses,” Taddy Blecher, chair of the Higher Education and Human Resources Development Council Enabling Entrepreneurship technical task team, told CNBC Africa on Tuesday.

“Generally universities are the people in the country that get to be highly educated, they have creativity and so this we feel is a massive opportunity for South Africa if we stimulate entrepreneurship.”

The Entrepreneurship Development initiative is also aimed to reduce poverty by stimulating South Africans in universities as hotbeds for innovation and entrepreneurship by implementing programmes such as National Entrepreneurial week and entrepreneurial Olympiad on university campuses.

Stimulating entrepreneurship and nurturing innovation in its early stages will have the potential to address job creation and unemployment numbers, which are currently sitting at record high levels of 48 per cent in the country.

“Our new minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande has the vision and he has actually communicated that in the green paper, which we hope soon to be a white paper, that we need to do something and that we cannot only produce job seekers. We have to create job creators,” said Angela van Staden, the chief director in the Department of Higher Education and Training.

The transition from creating job seekers to job creators will needs to be swift and its structural changes implemented into universities to start producing job creators.

 “We’ve challenged the universities at this moment and we’ve asked them to differentiate themselves and to actually establish them in a different role within South Africa. One of the areas we have asked them to consider is looking at entrepreneurship development. The challenge in the court of the universities,” Van Staden explained.

A council of patrons has also been established on the forum’s entrepreneurial task team to change the perception of entrepreneurship being for the old. Sir Richard Branson and Herman Mashaba are among the patrons on the team.

“We want to foster creativity, it’s a mindset. Entrepreneurship is a mindset. We want young people to think out of the box and we’ve got to teach in a way that fosters that,” said Blecher.