Social enterprise is the way, students told

06 May 2010 | Story by Newsroom

Siya Mapoko

It was a matter of forewarned is forearmed when the Students' Representative Council (SRC) roped in successful personalities to equip students with entrepreneurial skills at the Siyazenzela Entrepreneurship Conference.

Speakers at the event on 30 April to 2 May included Siya Mapoko, a UCT alumnus and entrepreneur who talked on the ups and downs of running a business; Professor Ben Turok, a Member of Parliament who spoke on how to leverage government resources to support emerging businesses, and Varkey George of Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) shared insights into the social enterprise programmes he runs.

The conference, the first of its kind, was attended by students and participants of Masizikhulise, a SHAWCO-driven project in Nyanga and Khayelitsha that teaches entrepreneurship to residents.

Wandile Mamba, SRC vice-president and event co-ordinator, reports that the conference was designed to encourage students to start community-driven businesses - enterprises that are not only aimed at making profit, but also to benefit the community. A case in point is that of Professor Muhammad Yunis, who started the Grameen Bank that provides credit without any collateral to the poorest of the poor in rural Bangladesh.

Mamba says the idea sprang out of the realisation that many graduates are battling to find employment.

"Teaching students to be employable is not enough," he explains. "We need to transfer skills to students while they are young so they can contribute to building the economy."

Mamba said the conference has shown students that they can run profitable businesses while improving the lives of the poor.

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