How EDHE is enabling the entrepreneurship ecosystem within South Africa’s universities

Published On: 25 March 2022|

The Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme – which was established in 2016 “with humble beginnings” – is broadening its scope from creating business in its strictest sense to broadening the definition of entrepreneurship.

Mr Richardt Kok (left), EDHE’s Stakeholder Manager, says the programme expanded from starting a movement to building a community with a vision of equipping every student and graduate to participate in the economy.

At the recent Executive Leadership Workshop that was held in Cape Town, sponsored by the British Council, Kok gave an overview of the objectives and mandate of the EDHE Economic Activation Offices.   He explained: “There are three levels of engagement, from student level to academics and support professionals, right through to the executive leadership within our universities. We try and advance the entrepreneurship agenda to all of them.”

Thus, EDHE aims to equip every student for economic participation through entrepreneurial activity with an emphasis on female students. It supports academics and professionals to develop entrepreneurship through teaching, learning and research across all disciplines. The programme also supports universities as entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystems through relevant policy development.

Next, Kok outlined what EDHE does, year on year. “Each year we begin with a kick-off event which in 2022 entailed the Train-the-Trainer workshop. This gives academics and support professionals at universities the practical tools and information to be able to guide (potential) student entrepreneurs on their journey to start and grow businesses and to increase the number of institutions positioned as entrepreneurial universities. There are also more recent initiatives such as the Student Women Economic Empowerment Programme and the Student Entrepreneurship Week.”

He said one of the secrets of the success behind EDHE lies in the programme’s communities of practice (CoP) members who are the programme voices within universities. The five CoPs, who drive specific tasks and objectives, yearly, are:

  • EDHE CoP for Entrepreneurial Universities: Chairperson: Professor Eugene Cloete, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at Stellenbosch University. His deputy is Professor Eunice Seekoe, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University.
  • EDHE CoP for Entrepreneurship in Learning and Teaching: Chairperson: Dr Thea van der Westhuizen, Academic Leader: Management and Entrepreneurship Discipline at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She is deputised by Professor Tshidi Mohapeloa — Associate Professor: Enterprise Management at Rhodes University.
  • EDHE CoP for Entrepreneurship Research: Chairperson: Professor Natanya Meyer, Associate Professor: Business Management at the University of Johannesburg. The Deputy Chair is Dr Nana Vezi-Magigaba, Senior Lecturer: Business Management at the University of Zululand.
  • EDHE CoP for Student Entrepreneurship: Chairperson: Ms Nadia Waggie, Head: Operations for Careers Service at the University of Cape Town. The Deputy Chair is  Ms Karen Snyman,  Student Entrepreneurship Specialist at Nelson Mandela University.
  • EDHE Studentpreneurs CoP: Chairperson: Ms Phetha Mchunu, Bachelor of Law student at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her Deputy is Mr Chad Lucas, Bachelor of Commerce: General student at Sol Plaatje University.

“Through the communities of practice, we have advanced entrepreneurship development. We are now partnering towards the establishment of Economic Activation Offices (EAOs),” he said.

He said recent studies conducted through the EDHE structures have indicated that there is a need to integrate efforts, structures and resources within universities to deliver greater impact within the ecosystem. This needs to be coordinated and properly managed internally.

He continued: “The Economic Activation Offices (EAOs) will be piloted in collaboration with hosting universities. EAOs should ideally play a central (internal) role in the university’s entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem, with a key focus on facilitation and coordination of support, networking and information sharing in the broader university community.

“The economic activation office will essentially be a central point in the nervous system that has a very strong impetus on communication not only to the external environment but to the internal university structures as well’’.

“The functions of the Economic Activation Offices would be to:

  • Support alignment between university leadership, faculty, support staff and students to advance entrepreneurship within the university ecosystem.
  • Work closely with Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs), business incubators, centres for entrepreneurship and other existing entities within the university.
  • Facilitate and coordinate support, networking and information sharing in the broader university community.
  • Play role of information centre for any entrepreneurship development enquiries at the university.

Kok continued: “During September last year a call for expression of interest was circulated to all the public universities to partner with EDHE in the establishment of these offices and we asked all universities to submit a proposal as to how this would fit into their university ecosystem. We are cognisant of the fact that no two universities are the same. EDHE also hosted an information session on the submission requirements and processes.”

During the EDHE Lekgotla 2021, the 10 partnering universities were announced, namely:

  • Cape Town Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)
  • Durban University of Technology (DUT)
  • Nelson Mandela University (NMU)
  • Sol Plaatje University (SPU)
  • Tshwane University of Technology (WSU)
  • Walter Sisulu University (WSU)
  • University of Cape Town (UCT)
  • University of Johannesburg (UJ)
  • University of Limpopo (UL)
  • University of Venda (Univen)

He encouraged university staff to become a member of EDHE. Benefits include:

  • Receiving newsletters and staying informed of all EDHE initiatives and events.
  • Receiving notifications, annually, when membership applications open for Communities of Practice – usually at the beginning of January.
  • Exclusive access to EDHE hybrid events including the annual EDHE Lekgotla.
  • Professional development for members and a letter of recognition for contribution to EDHE.
  • Connection to a national university entrepreneurial ecosystem.
  • Sharing of knowledge and expertise.

“We want to come and visit you at your universities and hear what your story is; what are your needs and challenges and what are your pockets of excellence when it comes to entrepreneurship development,” Kok concluded.

Janine Greenleaf Walker is a contract writer for Universities South Africa.