South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. The economy has not been growing at a high enough rate to create employment. The country has the dubious honour of being the most unequal country in the world. This raises a lot of questions on what universities (and universities of technology) should be teaching students to equip them to enter the economy.
This week, Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) hosted the inaugural Student Entrepreneurship Week to encourage students to look into entrepreneurship as a career and to provide feedback to those who have already started their entrepreneurship journeys.
The keynote speaker for the two-day event was Roy Maponya, Chief Executive Officer of the Dr Richard Maponya Institute for Skills and Entrepreneurship Development. Maponya took students through the opportunities that government, its agencies and departments, have set aside for youth entrepreneurs.
The MUT Vice-Chancellor, Dr Enoch Duma Malaza, encouraged participants to use the workshop to come up with creative and innovative ideas to help find solutions to societal problems.
Professor Marcus Ramogale, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, told participants that the level of unemployment in the country was one of the reasons MUT wanted its students to learn about business and to enter the world of business as entrepreneurs. Professor Ramogale emphasised the need for MUT students to break away from the usual. “You need to move to the entrepreneurial quadrant and consider how it is like to be job makers than job seekers,” said Professor Ramogale.
The highlight of the first day was when students pitched their business ideas before judges, who had been speakers. The winner of the contest was Simphiwe Mthembu, a 4th semester Electrical Engineering student. Mthembu pitched a solar-powered electric fence. Mthembu said this was going to solve the break-in problem in businesses and farms.