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Education needs to ignite Entrepreneurship

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by Professor Ahmed Shaikh

Globally the perennial battle to alleviate poverty is an enduring one and in this respect South Africa is no exception. According to Statistics SA almost half of the adult popula­tion in our country is living below the upper-bound poverty line. While the battle against poverty has been a difficult one, the recent Covid-19 pan­demic has exacerbated the situation, especially in terms of poverty rates, the economy, health, education, and employment prospects.

In addition to the pandemic, the country is also in its worst economic recession in 100 years. South Africa’s unemployment rate rose to 32.6 per­cent in the first quarter of 2021 from 32.5 percent in the previous period (Trading Economics -2021). Stats SA also confirms the official unemploy­ment rate among youth (15-34 years) was 46.3% in Quarter 1 2021. Millions are at risk of losing their livelihoods.

The combined effects of the pan­demic and economic recession may not only present a temporary shock but have lasting implications for pov­erty rates in South Africa through its effects on people’s health, edu­cation, and employment prospects. Actions being taken to combat South African poverty and Covid-19 have proven that, with new options and renewed commitments, there is still much that can be done to alleviate poverty.

Indeed, poverty reduction has become a critical issue for almost all sectors of society. Guided by this new reality, entrepreneurship and innova­tion, especially through small business development has been touted as a sig­nificant part of the solution to poverty reduction. It is now an established fact that entrepreneurship and innovation generate the majority of decent and sustainable jobs and contribute sig­nificantly to economic growth, thus enabling a large portion of the popu­lation to move out of poverty.

Sadly though, until recently, busi­ness education has adopted a theoret­ical and laissez-faire approach to this proposition and has been lackadaisical in its attitude toward making entrepre­neurship and innovation a catalyst for action. In essence business education has paid lip service to the creation of an empowering and inclusive entre­preneurial and innovation ecosystem that can genuinely contribute to job creation, economic growth and pov­erty alleviation.

To be truly authentic and relevant in a world that is riddled with myr­iad problems and challenges such as poverty and inequality, the purveyors of business education have to forge inclusive strategic partnerships with all stakeholders, especially local com­munities that host them.

For example, REGENT BUSINESS SCHOOL (RBS) besides forging close ties with all its stakeholder commu­nities through its business education, research and outreach programmes has held steadfast to its mission and made considerable investments to create an entrepreneurial and innovation eco­system to support the many facets of small business development for pov­erty and unemployment alleviation.

As part of this initiative, RBS has established REGENT Enterprise Devel­opment Hub (redHUB), an accelerator which has leveraged the institution’s iLeadLABs or national technology hubs and harnessed its academic, research and outreach intellectual property to champion entrepreneurial devel­opment. The redHUB’s mission is to provide impactful education, training, and mentorship for aspirant and cre­ative entrepreneurs by nurturing their disruptive and innovative skills using resilient and anti-fragile strategies.

Professor Shaikh is an academic and researcher and managing director of REGENT BUSINESS SCHOOL. He writes in his personal capacity.

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