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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) in collaboration with Ithala Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) hosted a virtual signing ceremony for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), to seal their agreement in supporting local, economic recovery, on Zoom, Wednesday, 9 September 2020.

This prestigious ceremony which was attended by over 60 guests showcased the DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu and Ithala Group Chief Executive, Ms Pearl Bengu signing the ground-breaking MoU.

DUT, ranked as one of the top five universities in South Africa and Ithala, which is a 60-year old development finance institution, recognise that in order to pull the economy out of its downward spiral, there must be a pooling of strategies and resources to drive decisive change. Both (DUT and Ithala Development Finance Corporation) have joined forces to build an Innovation Hub, to develop technology innovations in order to improve the lives of DUT students and to assist in elevating the local economy.

In her opening remarks, DUT’s Deputy-Vice Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, Professor Sibusiso Moyo said the signing ceremony marks a number of months of preparation to reach this stage between DUT and IDFC.

“This day is very special in a sense that we formalise our intent to co-operate. For us to strive as a KZN economy or South African economy, we need to remain active. We need to ensure that our people are skilled. Digital literacy at the moment is one of the key areas where skills are needed both to communicate and also to train,” said Prof Moyo.

She said the discussion with Ithala started of trying to see what DUT can do in the entrepreneurial space in order to contribute to the economic growth of the province. Ithala Group Chief Executive, Ms Pearl Bengu said Ithala takes matters of boosting the local economy and contributing to the skills development of small businesses very seriously.

“It is because of these reasons that the two entities sat down and decided to map out strategies that will see the business sector rise again. COVID-19 has had a significant negative impact on the local economy and no sector has been left unscathed. Economic recovery post the lockdown requires collaboration from public and private sectors to ensure that local business is able to resume operations as effectively as possible. This must be done without delay to ensure jobs which existed before COVID-19 are protected and new job opportunities created,” said Bengu.

DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Mthembu said the economy is a major problem that the country needs to solve. Prof Mthembu said the National Development Plan states that the country needs to solve poverty, unemployment and inequality.

“In the midst of what we do, we should be about contributing towards improving the lives and the livelihoods of our people in the broader society. We are the University in and for our people. DUT and IDFC have had a series of engagements around collaborating on the establishment of DUT’s Innovation Hub as it is well known from national and global exemplars of innovation hubs. Identifying local industries and corporates that have a similar agenda as the University plays a big role in ensuring that once the innovation hub is established, it does not become a silent island or a white elephant. Where there are no products and innovation activities that contribute to socio economic development in the region and in the country,” said Prof Mthembu.

Furthermore, Prof Mthembu stated that the signing of the MoU between DUT and IDFC signifies an important landmark in the region.

DUT values the relationship with IDFC and believes it will be exemplary for future partnerships.

Prof Mthembu thanked Bengu and her team for engaging with DUT on a number of occasions on areas of collaborations and looked forward to many initiatives they will co-design and deliver.

Pictured: Durban University of Technology Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu and the Ithala Group Chief Executive, Ms Pearl Bengu signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on supporting local economic recovery.

Simangele Zuma

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