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Community based students business projects

Community based students business projects

Media statement by Nomonde Mbadi, Executive Director of Corporate Affairs

Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) have embarked on community based business initiatives applying their skills and knowledge learnt in the classroom.

SIFE is a student-run organisation whose focus is to create partnerships with businesses to sponsor outreach programmes, community economic improvement projects, and competitions. SIFE students are challenged to implement projects that will transform the lives of people facing real social and economic problems; by expanding economic growth and opportunity through activities that foster education and skills-building in their communities.

The SIFE experience enables university students to reach their full potential by helping others reach theirs. Students acquire teamwork, leadership, communication and project management skills in a unique way, not typically gained through other university programmes. This total SIFE experience equips SIFE alumni to develop into successful entrepreneurs and top recruits for leading companies, large and small, such as ABSA, KPMG, Pick ‘n Pay and dozens more.

Small business owners, entrepreneurs and communities become more successful through SIFE as SIFE students take the lessons they learn in the classroom and apply them to help solve real-life problems.

SIFE President Melusi Ndima is confident that the projects will make a positive impact once concluded and implemented. “We have achieved a certain milestone in some of them. Some doors have opened, networks established and approval granted by authorities to get started,” says Ndima. He says sooner or later the projects will start yielding results and benefiting communities.

SIFE’s LEARNING PHILOSOPHY:

“Tell me and I will forget; Show me and I might remember; Involve me and I will understand.”
Being able to impact the community surrounding Durban University of Technology (DUT) and further afield, is the cornerstone of DUT’s SIFE programme. SIFE conducts its educational outreach projects throughout the academic year and are given the opportunity to showcase them at competitions where they present oral, audio-visual and written summaries to judges comprised of top business leaders who determine which teams did the best job teaching and equipping others with the tools necessary for success. National champions advance to the ultimate level of global competition, the SIFE World Cup. DUT SIFE is privileged to have local Business Advisory Board members to help with the decisions of the team along with the Faculty Advisor, Mrs Lana-Ann Brady.

The DUT SIFE Team seeks to lead, inspire and empower people from disadvantaged communities to make a difference in their lives. In our aim to achieving this, we are currently engaged in four uniquely different community upliftment projects.

Project 1
Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal, considered one of the busiest little towns in rural KwaZulu-Natal, lies north west of Hluhluwe. The Nongoma district in KwaZulu-Natal has a population of around 26,000 people, of whom an estimated 71% are unemployed. The estimated dependency ratio (of 1:15), which is the ratio of the number of dependants to a breadwinner, is one of the highest in Southern Africa.

The demographic profile of the disadvantaged communities is characterised by high levels of unemployment, low-income levels of skill / training and relatively poor health conditions. The area experiences high levels of poverty and has a high incidence of HIV/AIDS infection. Another prevailing problem is poor accessibility to basic facilities and services.

The economic base of the town is mainly vested in the agricultural sector. The need to develop this sector is important from a household livelihood point of view and from an economic/commercial agricultural point of view.

Negotiations are being conducted with agricultural input suppliers (feed, seed, insecticide and fertiliser suppliers) to reduce costs. The cooperative will sell their produce –vegetables, goats’ milk and cheese, and livestock (goats) – to the local community at a local market and contracts are being negotiated with more formal business sectors such as the local provincial hospital, the department correctional services, boarding schools and local hospitality establishments such as the Hluhluwe Game Reserve.

The Department of Agriculture have agreed to provide technical training in, amongst others, vegetable farming , spray programmes, soil analysis and cultivation techniques to the members of the cooperative to assist them in increasing yields.

SIFE will assist the cooperative to create valuable linkages with markets, suppliers and offer various support systems and training in basic business management skills, project management, marketing skills, pricing and financial record-keeping.

PROJECT 2
Glencoe is situated in the northern most region of KwaZulu-Natal. The area has an approximate population of 13 547 people. The area is characterised by unemployment, lack of essential services such as a library, recreation facilities, and poverty is compounded by the lack of innovation and entrepreneurship.

There are four schools in the area from primary schools to high schools. The schools are poorly equipped and students do not have access to facilities to enable them to do their homework, assignments and a place to learn as many of them do not have a quiet place to study in their overcrowded homes. The nearest municipal library is in Dundee which is 20km from Glencoe.
SIFE aims to help create jobs and economic growth in Glencoe by developing and supporting a media centre, which inter alia, will include: books, periodicals, internet access, computer, photocopying and faxing facilities.

The project will be launched in the form of a cooperative. SIFE will assist in the registering of the cooperative and will offer training and mentorship to the entrepreneurs involved. Suppliers of the various technology will offer training to the co-op members on how to operate the machinery. This project stretches beyond the scope of just catering for students, but will be beneficial to the wider community. SIFE will conduct regular site visits and provide mentorship to ensure the sustainability of the venture. The cooperative will be responsible to pay for the running expenses of the project and will receive a fixed income per month. Profits will be ploughed back into the media centre to maintain and upgrade materials and machinery and expand the venture in the long run.

PROJECTS 3 & 4
Besides the main two projects mentioned above, other projects include:
• paper recycling project in conjunction with Mondi
• electricity conservation and education in conjunction with Eskom

About SIFE
Founded in the United States in 1975, SIFE is a global, non- profit organisation that is changing the world through highly dedicated student teams on more than 1600 university campuses in 40 countries.
In these projects that they engage in, they must strive to satisfy SIFE’S six educational pillars, namely:
• Market economics
• Success skills
• Entrepreneurship
• Financial Literacy
• Business Ethics
• Environmental Sustainability

For comment, please contact Bhekani Dlamini on 031 373 2845 to facilitate the interview.