Social Entrepreneurs Celebrated at Demo Day

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Social Entrepreneurs Demo Day 2023
From left: Dr Simon Taylor, Mr Sifundo Mdletshe, Ms Thabile Dlamini, Mr Lunga Dlungwane, Mr Norman Venketiah and Mr Patrick Mbokazi.

In partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), UKZN, the University of Zululand (UNIZULU) and Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) co-hosted a Social Entrepreneur’s Demo Day to celebrate and showcase the initiatives of 35 social entrepreneurs.

The Champions Programme is designed to capacitate social entrepreneurs, also known as “Champions” to scale up the impact of social enterprises in communities in KwaZulu-Natal.

The event provided a platform for these entrepreneurs to showcase the positive impact of their initiatives upon completing 10 months in the social entrepreneurs’ programme.

The event featured Mr Sandile Mkhwanazi, an accomplished alumnus of the project. Mkhwanazi played a pivotal role in the KwaZulu-Natal Social Economy Development Programme (Champions Programme) in 2014. He is the founder and CEO of Yenza Africa, an engineering and manufacturing company with a Level 1 B-BBEE (Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment) rating. He shared his personal journey and reflected on the transformative impact of the programme. ‘The programme helped me to solve problems in my business life,’ he said.

Each Champion gave a five-minute presentation to the judges on their business and the significant impact they had made during their time in the programme. They also outlined their funding needs to the EDTEA and Absa, the sponsors of these initiatives. The top three presenters were awarded sponsorship of R5 000 from Absa Bank to further support their initiatives.

The recipients were Ms Thabile Mdhluli of Uhange, a 100% youth-owned enterprise that provides voter education to young people; Mr Lunga Dlungwane of Food Volitions Pty Ltd that addresses household food insecurity and promotes local food markets, and Mr Sifundo Mdletshe of Mdlume Recycling Management that offers comprehensive waste recycling services to the community.

Mr Norman Venketiah, Regional Segment Head: SME and Enterprise Development at Absa Bank who handed out the prizes encouraged all social entrepreneurs to work hard and continue to demonstrate resilience.

‘You have demonstrated that with excellence…,’ he said. ‘We acknowledge that our initial involvement may be modest, but your actions have shown us the need to expand our commitment.’

In closing the event, Mr Patrick Mbokazi, Deputy Director for Capacity Building and Institutional Development at the EDTEA, thanked all those who contributed to its success. He added that the significance of such gatherings lies in not only advancing social entrepreneurship but in creating employment and socio-economic development.

Mbokazi also commended academics from the three participating institutions for their commitment in training these social entrepreneurs: ‘We appreciate the effort you put into this programme. Your guidance, mentorship and tireless efforts have been invaluable in shaping these social entrepreneurs into knowledgeable and capable individuals ready to tackle the challenges of the real world. Your passion for education and social change is a beacon of hope and a brighter future.’

The event was facilitated by Mr Themba Ngwaba, founder of a number of co-operatives, who graduated from the programme in 2018.

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele

Photograph: Andile Ndlovu

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