The Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme’s 2023 Kick-off event starting today, Wednesday, 22 February 2023, marks the strengthening of relationships with countries that value entrepreneurship development at universities, says Dr Norah Clarke (left), Director: EDHE at Universities South Africa (USAf). She believes this international interaction will enable student entrepreneurs to look beyond South African borders in further nurturing their own innovative thinking.  This Kick-off event sets the tone for EDHE’s programme performance for 2023.

Scheduled to take place from 22 to 23 February at the Southern Sun Hotel near O.R Tambo International, the 2023 Kick-off event will run concurrently with the Academia-Industry Training: Swiss and African Science and Business Innovators Programme (AIT-SASBI) Spring Conference 2023. AIT-SASBI is an initiative of the government of Switzerland run by the University of Basel. Their objective is to connect student entrepreneurs with various industries to help them develop the market application of their business ideas. African countries collaborating with the Swiss stakeholders to broaden student entrepreneurship are Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa.

Relations between EDHE and AIT-SASBI formed in 2021 when Dr Clarke began serving on the AIT-SASBI Sounding Board, representing both USAf and EDHE.  “We are pursuing this relationship with Swiss and other member countries because we believe it will strengthen the work we do in entrepreneurship development at universities,” says Dr Clarke.

EDHE’s 2023 theme is social innovation for societal impact , hence the slogan #innovation4impact. Correspondingly, the AIT-SASBI Spring Conference 2023 theme is Social and Tech-driven Innovation for Impact.

“We appreciate the alignment of values between EDHE and SASBI,” says Dr Clarke. “We look forward to seeing strengthened relationships and newly established relationships focused on innovation in entrepreneurship between South African universities and their counterparts in other African countries and Switzerland.”

Echoing her sentiments is Mr Erich Thaler (right), Senior Manager: Networks and Global Partnership Development at the University of Basel, who says innovation is about crossing borders — geographically and mentally. “By opening the field of action and interaction between Swiss entrepreneurs and those on the African continent, we encourage new ways of thinking and new regions to discover,” he says.

According to Mr Thaler, the aim of each cooperation is to build relationships from medium to long-term perspectives.

“By focusing on universities as our main partners in the AIT-SASBI programme, we encourage long-term thinking and anchorage of relationships in a broader network of partners. African student entrepreneurs may benefit in the same way from Swiss networks as their Swiss peers gain access to universities and local partners in Africa.”

The EDHE Kick-off 2023 and AIT-SASBI Spring Conference 2023 will gather like-minded entrepreneurship enthusiasts at an event to be hosted both physically and virtually. Virtual attendees will connect via Glue Up. Registration for virtual attendance remains open through EDHE Kick-off/ SASBI Spring Conference 2023. As part of the programme, 11 students representing the African member countries will pitch their businesses, out of which four successful prototypes will be showcased at the SASBI residency programme in June at the University of Basel. The two-day 2023 kick-off event also promises to impart crucial knowledge to studentpreneurs on social innovation, while enabling cross-pollination of ideas among  peers.

Founded in 2016 from the University Education Branch of South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training, EDHE was government’s response to the growing youth unemployment in South Africa. The programme was established to drive small to medium enterprises nationally, and to enable universities to bolster their third-stream income. EDHE is pursuing three-pronged goals to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in students, in academics, and to develop entrepreneurial universities.

The programme has grown in leaps and bounds since 2016, introducing a myriad of projects encouraging entrepreneurial activity among students, and in teaching and research. 

Nqobile Tembe is Universities South Africa’s Communication Consultant.

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