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To cultivate the culture of active participation amongst students as drivers of economy, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) successfully hosted its first ever virtual DUT Student Business Festival (SBF) from Monday, 20 September 2021 to Thursday, 23 September 2021.

Facilitating the proceedings of the festival was Mzwandile Khumalo, Co-ordinator: Student Support and Development Unit at DUT and Lungile Ngcobo, Administrator at DUT’s Student Services department.

“The best part of the whole experience would be the students showcasing their businesses. One of DUT’s strategic plan was to make sure that entrepreneurship is the centre and the core of our students lives, so that when we go out there to the world we are able to create job opportunities and also make sure that we don’t go looking for jobs. The part that excites me the most is to see young entrepreneurs showcasing their businesses and we are hoping that the DUT community is going to be supporting our students,” said Ngcobo.

Giving insight on the SBF, Khumalo said it is a cross-departmental initiative to bring to bear the first-ever festival for student entrepreneurs to showcase, sell, advertise, and celebrate their products and services at DUT. He added that it is a platform for DUT students to enhance their skills, pick up new business skills, get advice on the best business practices, take the first step in controlling their lives and livelihoods and give them confidence to take on challenges of entrepreneurship.

“SBF also seeks to cultivate the culture of active participation amongst students as drivers of the economy. The idea of the SBF was a response to a challenge by the Vice-Chancellor for the university, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, to deliberately inculcate entrepreneurship amongst students. It was further motivated by lessons of 2019 China Tour Group. This venture has blossomed beyond its initial inspiration to be embraced by different stakeholders within and outside the university. The current stakeholders within the university that are actively championing the SBF are Student Governance and Development, Entrepreneurship Desk, Alumni Relations, CELT, Student Housing, Faculty Office of Arts and Design and the Department of Education,” said Khumalo.

In her opening remarks, Prof Keolebogile Motaung, Director of Technology, Transfer and Innovation (TTI) at DUT said they are bringing together smartest minds from across faculties and industry, their own entrepreneurs. She added that it is a platform where everybody can learn from each other and also contribute to the social economy of KwaZulu-Natal.

According to Prof Motaung, the main aim and objectives of the SBF was to create a platform to facilitate the culture of entrepreneurship amongst students.

“We also want to create a culture that entrenches agility and adapting in business amongst students to cope with the increasing change in the world. We also want to contribute towards sustainable growing of the economy. Every crisis is an opportunity. How many of the businesses have an opportunity to reflect and think beyond challenges, for instance PESTEL can be incorporated in your business. COVID-19 has taught us a lesson, while we were still thinking of COVID-19 there was looting. Seldom is life shaken up so forcefully, tackling the deep-rooted issues, inequality becomes an immediate priority. Traditional drivers of values have shifted ethically, and sustainable business are driving spiral financial performance,” said Prof Motaung.

Furthermore, they believe that every business can become a catalyst for change and contribute to the common goal of humanity and has the power to influence how the future unfolds. Prof Motaung advised the participants to take their minds off the trauma experienced through this pandemic and look into the future to grasp the gap that has been exposed by COVID-19. She urged the participants to question themselves on what they can do to make a difference.

Unpacking the purpose of the festival, DUT Registrar Dr Maditsane Nkonoane said: “While this is an auspicious occasion by any standards, it is also a defining moment in the life of our great university, whose mission is to enable all of us to achieve greatness together. It is a reality that South Africa is faced with jobs scarcity resulting to poverty, unemployment and social injustice deeply engraved in the history of the country during and post-apartheid. The idea of the DUT Students Business Festival is a response to a challenge by the Vice-Chancellor for the university to deliberately inculpate entrepreneurship amongst the students. The venture has blossomed beyond its initial inspiration to be embraced by different stakeholders within and outside of the university,” said Dr Nkonoane.

In addition, students are mandated with the responsibility of contributing positively in a South Africa that is inclusive, socially cohesive and sustainability. Dr Nkonoane further clarified that DUT seeks to produce creative, innovative and adaptive graduates.

Giving a message of support, the DUT Student Representative Council (SRC) Deputy President, Mr Silindokuhle Ndzalele said this is an initiative that uses business as a tool to bring about change in the lives of DUT students.

“As the SRC, we believe every business idea can become means for change and it can contribute to the common goal of uplifting and empowering the lives of DUT students. It has the power to influence how our future unfolds. Entrepreneurship is all about being a visionary sales data leadership who is able to identify opportunities and offer solutions. Part of what we learn at DUT is to provide solutions to the issues that we are faced with in our societies. DUT students this is the best opportunity that is afforded to us, to boost our confidence and change how we see life so that we can focus on self-development and be business driven. We see this initiative as a step forward to achieve our long term goals and as a tool to transform the lives of DUT students, but it also requires discipline, commitment and patience, therefore we call upon all DUT students to use this opportunity to the best of their ability,” Ndzalele said.

DUT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, Prof Sibusiso Moyo said DUT’s strategy of ENVISION2030 focuses on four perspectives which are Stewardship, Systems and Processes, Sustainability and Society, each having three objectives linked to them. She highlighted that the SBF falls under the Stewardship perspective, inspiring innovation and entrepreneurship. Being innovative and entrepreneurial is part of DUT’s DNA.

“The University established the Economic Activation Desk in Durban and Midlands in 2018 following the appointment of the new Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Thandwa Mthembu, who is not only passionate about entrepreneurship but he himself has authored a book on the subject and has ensured that in our budgeting process supports strategies with resources. These desks are grown and we have now registered as an Innobiz, which is a DUT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to be launched in 2021, this was approved by Council in late 2020. We invite our students and staff to be part of that celebration. More importantly, we are also in the process of designing the most innovative curriculum for select students who want to go the entrepreneurial route from undergraduate level. Watch that space,” said Prof Moyo.

Speaking on entrepreneurship, businessman, Mr Armstrong Ndlela supports this initiative where DUT is promoting entrepreneurship, mentorship, incubation and development of black people. He elaborated saying it has been discussed that higher education should be starting to develop programmes that respond to South Africa’s challenges.

“The country should stop producing 200 Public Relations Officers and two Engineers, we need a balance. We know our country needs infrastructure and an upgrade therefore we need to develop people who will specifically respond to those challenges. We need students that are ready and willing to come with ideas and dreams that no one have thought of. We need students who will fill in the gaps in the market, come up with things that will increase value and create opportunities for people behind us. We know our country is having a triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Those inequalities will be dealt with properly if our people are able to seize opportunities, create new spaces and new opportunities,” said Ndlela.

Pictured: DUT Registrar, Dr Maditsane Nkonoane

Simangele Zuma

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