Lekgotla Promotes African Entrepreneurship Through Technology

The Fourth Annual Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Lekgotla and Studentpreneurs’ Indaba was held virtually in the context of COVID-19.

Arranged under the auspices of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and Universities South Africa (USAf), the five-day gathering from 14 to 18 September brought together academics and students from South Africa and other countries under the theme #AfroTech – African Entrepreneurship through Technology. The opening address was delivered by Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande.

Amongst those leading the online presentations and discussions was UKZN academic, Dr Thea van der Westhuizen. An authority in the field of entrepreneurship development, she received an international award in 2018 at The Innovative Youth Incubator Awards held in Washington DC for Excellence in reaching out to the community and Best Youth Development Organisation in KwaZulu-Natal, the latter for her work in the organisation SHAPE (Shifting Hope, Activating Potential Entrepreneurship).

Since its inception, van der Westhuizen has convened the EDHE Community of Practice (CoP) for Entrepreneurship in Academia. The CoP represents researchers and academics who support entrepreneurship development through teaching, learning and research across disciplines.

Van der Westhuizen chaired a session of the Lekgotla on sharing best practice. The presenters included Professor Paul Jones (Professor in Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation, Swansea University, Wales), Ms Relebohile Moeng, Director and Founder of Afri-Berry (a range of naturally-based skin and haircare products), and Professor Keolebogile Shirley Motaung, Assistant Dean: Research, Innovation and Engagement, Tshwane University of Technology, and Founder and CEO: Global Health Biotech (Pty) Ltd. She also provided a final-day summation and recommendations arising from the conference proceedings, focused on taking the vision of the CoP forward in a post-COVID-19 environment.

Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research at UKZN took part in a panel discussion on Entrepreneurial Universities’ Baseline Research – unpacking the research findings and strategy for integration into the plan for entrepreneurship and innovation at the respective universities. He was joined on the panel by Dr Robert Martin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Operations at the University of Venda, and Professor Sibusiso Moyo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement at the Durban University of Technology.

On the final day of the Lekgotla, van der Westhuizen also participated in the 15th European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ECIE). This event has been held in Italy, Northern Ireland, France, Belgium, Portugal, and Finland and is generally attended by participants from more than 40 countries, attracting a combination of academic scholars, practitioners and individuals engaged in various aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching and research. The 15th European Conference from 16 to 18 September was hosted by Università degli Studi Internazionali di Roma (UNINT), Italy under the Chairpersonship of Professor Alessandro De Nisco.

Van der Westhuizen delivered a research paper on The influence of technology on entrepreneurial self-efficacy development for online business start-up in developing nations.

‘As a country and as a continent, we have the opportunity to lead the way in developing new technologies and start-ups to meet the specific needs and challenges of the era we are in. Hosting and participating in these forums is testimony to the status of South African universities’ academic research capability, and to the capability and respect accorded to the country’s scholars,’ she said.

Words: Derek Griffin
Photograph: Supplied