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Building mutually beneficial partnerships was the purpose of the British Council Delegation visiting the Durban University of Technology (DUT) at the Ritson Campus, Durban on Friday, 17 June 2022.

This visit is in connection with the Carbon Literacy for Youth Employability and Job Creation (CL4YEJC) in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) project for which the British Council awarded a grant to the network partnership comprising of DUT as the SSA lead partner, Sheffield Hallam University as the UK lead partner, Kisii University in Kenya and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology in Nigeria, as the other SSA partner and Innovate Durban as the SSA ecosystem player partner.

The event provided for physical and virtual attendance, with CL4YEJC project team members from Nigeria and Kenya in virtual attendance.

The programme of activities for the visit began with a walkabout led by Ugeshni Moodley, to the DUT computing laboratories to familiarise the guests with DUT infrastructural and resource capability for innovation and entrepreneurship activities. The laboratories visited included the Faculty of Accounting and Informatics Virtual Reality & Internet of Things lab, the Luban Workshop equipped with 3D printing facilities and the DUT – MICTSETA 4IR Centre of Excellence lab. Students showcased various robots they have been building and coding using various tool kits.

The formal meeting followed the physical walkabout and Professor Oludayo O Olugbara, the Executive Dean Faculty of the Faculty of Accounting and Informatics, welcomed and thanked the guests for being part of the event. He also thanked the British Council for the support that they are offering the DUT.

Professor Sibusiso Moyo, the DUT Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Engagement addressed the audience. She informed delegates that the innobiz Centre was launched in 2021 to enable students to become entrepreneurs that were well equipped with practical experience. She opined that in the next two years or so DUT will probably be the first university to offer a programme that allows students to study and graduate as entrepreneurs owning their own businesses. According to her, the CL4YEJC project seeks to use Carbon Literacy as a leverage and tool, to empower African youths to engage in Green Innovation and Entrepreneurship (GIE) ventures, towards addressing the youth unemployment grand challenge in SSA. Hence the visit by the British Council helps to strengthen our collaboration with various ecosystem partners, as well as think about the sustainability of the project beyond the funding cycle. It has also given us an opportunity to show case our facilities and capabilities to co-host such a project with our partners.

She concluded by thanking the faculty led by Prof Olugbara, the Heads of Department, Staff and Students for their contribution in making the project a reality.

Nontokozo Ngcobo, the Acting Senior Manager; DUT Innobiz Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, shared a presentation that took us on a virtual walkabout of the Midlands Campus innobiz Centre.

In her presentation she informed that innobiz Centre offers entrepreneurial learning in more practical and theoretical terms to all DUT students with interest in Entrepreneurship. innobiz services include business start-up training, sector-specific skills training, mentorship and coaching, business support and advisory, intellectual property, seed funding and enterprise development.

She informed the audience that the incubation programme structure includes the call-out and selection of the students during the beginning of the year and taking them through the ideation and showing that the idea is feasible.

“Moving them to the pre-incubation where all the skills are now imparted in training, technical skills, mentorship-introducing the seed funding part, if the student qualifies and the business is ready for financial injection. Incubation, where they have a list of database of suppliers and clients and a bit of cash flow, coming in and out of the business and post-incubation programme where they are introduced to the bigger market which can be inside and even out of the province of KwaZulu-Natal,” said Ngcobo.

She further informed everyone that the various skills training Hubs of the University that have assisted include Technology Hub, Agricultural hub, fashion, Art hub and the Innovation Hub where the students come and meet their mentors. They are also welcome to work from there as the Hubs have all the necessary facilities, computers, software, and resources to assist students.

Meekness Lunga, the British Council (South Africa) Programme Manager for Science and Higher Education shared the purpose of their visit. She informed the audience that the British Council is the United Kingdom’s international organisation for the cultural relations and educational opportunities, which aims at building trust, understanding and connections between people.

British Council operates in over 100 countries globally, including 19 SSA countries, having two offices in South Africa, one in Cape Town and the Head offices in Johannesburg. The Innovation for African Universities (IAU) programme aims to reposition universities as key role players in the Entrepreneurial ecosystem. She stated the purpose of the visit as to build a relationship and establish a connection with the institution, as well as assessing and discussing the state of the CL4YEJC project. It is also to discuss the sustainability of the project, what plans are in place, and how the project can be sustained beyond the September end of the IAU programme cycle.

Professor Sunday Olusegun Ojo, the Project Leader shared a presentation on the CL4YEJC project. He stated the two-fold goal of the project thus: (a) to enhance the capacity of SSA youths to explore Green Innovation and Entrepreneurship (GIE) opportunities for employability enhancement and job creation, and (b) to strengthen the capacity of SSA Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to integrate Carbon Literacy for GIE (CL4GIE) into their academic curricula provisioning and research & innovation agenda.

He highlighted the challenges of the project which include delayed fund delivery for project execution, resulting in project team members’ dampened enthusiasm to carry out assigned activities, and also their inability to procure human and material resources required for the project delivery. They also include time constraining project execution and IAUP COP activities, electricity and internet connectivity disruption that negatively impacted effectiveness of project team members’ participation in virtual meetings, vagaries of partner institutional policies and procedures conflict with British Council IAU programme governance rules, as well as staff and student unrest in partner HEIs negatively impacting project activities.

The event ended with an interactive engagement session with the British Council delegation was held entailing comments and questions and answers.

Pictured: Meekness Lunga (British Council), Prof Sunday Olusegun Ojo (DUT), Olipa Ntawanga (British Council), Prof Oludayo O Olugbara (DUT), Mthokozisi Ndlela Innovate Durban, Prof Sibusiso Moyo (DUT) at the event.

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