Nine SWEEP coordinators alongside ten students from various South African universities have been given a unique opportunity through the Student Women Economic Empowerment Programme (SWEEP) Residential Knowledge Exchange Study Visit to the United Kingdom (UK). This weeklong visit is hosted by the British Council (SA), which has partnered with the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme. The visit will be held from 27th to 31st May 2024 and delivered by the London School of Economics.

In response to the realities of women’s under-representation in entrepreneurship and gender-based violence, SWEEP was designed by the EDHE programme to equip female students and graduates across public universities in South Africa for entrepreneurial activities. This programme aims to empower student women to become successful in the world of entrepreneurship and to create businesses that have a positive societal impact. Through university SWEEP Chapters, a governance structure that includes student entrepreneurship coordinators of SWEEP in public universities, the project aims to contribute to system-wide change by advancing gender equity and economic empowerment of student and graduate women at a national level. SWEEP chapters provide a platform for women to connect, support, empower each other, and create a community that promotes personal and professional growth, while also giving back to society. A cohort of student woman and SWEEP coordinators have been selected to participate. The main objective of this Residential Knowledge Exchange Study Visit is to introduce aspiring South African women entrepreneurs (university female students and graduates) to the UK entrepreneurial ecosystem. It aims to inspire, educate, and stimulate ideas for impact-driven business creation and will include face-to-face mentoring sessions for female entrepreneurs. This is a unique opportunity for students and coordinators from South African universities to embark on a journey of learning and discovery.

During their time in the UK, participants will engage in a series of workshops, engage with mentors and business experts, have site visits to other campuses and successful UK impact start-ups and incubators, and a networking event designed to promote cross-cultural interactions across a variety of sectors, inspire and empower. With this project, we aim to expose this cohort to global best practices in entrepreneurship and innovation, facilitate networking opportunities with industry experts and thought leaders, foster cross-cultural exchange and collaboration among students from diverse backgrounds, and provide a platform for participants to showcase their ideas and projects on an international stage.

SWEEP representatives gathered at the SWEEP Chapter Executive Workshop held in 2023.

Building of partnerships

Since the launch of the SWEEP programme in October 2021, the British Council and the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme have partnered to support entrepreneurship development in the Higher Education sector in South Africa. This collaboration has been aligned with the objectives of the EDHE programme, related to student entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship in academia, and entrepreneurial universities, with a focus on the latter. EDHE, for its part, is an initiative of the Department of Higher Education and Training through the University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP), being implemented in partnership with Universities South Africa (USAf).

Through joint projects, the British Council and EDHE seek to address the issue of graduate unemployment and the need for universities to grow third income streams by strengthening the capacity of leaders and universities to advance entrepreneurship within their institutions. With a special focus on addressing gender inequality and empowering female students and graduates with an entrepreneurial mindset and/or for entrepreneurship, the EDHE-SWEEP programme was identified by the British Council as a potentially impactful and transformative initiative that aligns with the UK International Education Strategy’s emphasis on the empowerment of women and girls and the British Council’s commitment to supporting gender equality in Higher Education.

The British Council and EDHE have collaborated to deliver specific activities under the SWEEP programme. This programme aims to address the barriers to entrepreneurship faced by female students and graduates through dedicated skills and opportunities interventions, with a strong focus on leveraging UK expertise in the design and delivery of the initiative.

The key objectives for this Residential Knowledge Exchange Study Visit include:

  • Developing an awareness of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial activity as a means of economic participation amongst university female students and graduates.
  • Promoting the participation of women in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial activities in universities, focusing on creating businesses that have a positive societal impact.
  • Connecting women with UK and South African entrepreneurship mentors with the skills and knowledge needed to guide and mentor student women and professional women entrepreneurs in creating businesses that have a positive societal impact.

This initiative represents more than just a trip abroad; it’s an opportunity to build bridges between nations, cultivate lifelong friendships, and ignite a passion for entrepreneurship and innovation.

We are confident that this UK Residential Knowledge Exchange Study Visit will provide the participants of the Student Women Economic Empowerment Programme (SWEEP) with invaluable experiences and insights. Supported by the British Council and delivered by The London School of Economics  Enterprise, this initiative promises to inspire, empower, and equip the next generation of female entrepreneurs from South Africa. We look forward to seeing the positive impact and innovative ideas that will emerge from this transformative journey.

For more information and updates, please visit the EDHE website at

EDHE Project Manager: Ms Zana Boshoff –

EDHE Media Contact: Ms Khutso Moleko – and 076 589 4174

Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) is the national platform for the advancement and support of entrepreneurship in universities across South Africa. As a program of the Department of Higher Education & Training (DHET) and Universities South Africa (USAf), EDHE aims to equip students and graduates for economic participation through entrepreneurial activity, to support academics in developing entrepreneurship through teaching and research and to foster entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystems within.