By Zindzi Nkunzi
Last week, Rhodes Business School (RBS) has launched the Entrepreneurial and Technological Empowerment Programme (ETEP). This initiative is in collaboration with local Makhanda Cooperatives, Department of Social Development (DSD) - Sarah Baartman District and USA-based partners, Bowie State University and Circle, a global financial services company. The programme is funded by the US Diplomatic Mission to South Africa as part of its Expanding University Partnership Initiatives.
The event was held at Eden Grove Red and online. It combines both internationalisation and community engagement components. Rhodes University Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, Dr ‘Monnapula-Mapesela, in her opening remarks, found that; “the programme focuses on developing digital financial literacies through teaching business students who have to apply same digital financial literacies, technologies to local cooperatives to seek the best and suitable solutions for identified cooperative problems”. She acknowledged the USA and RSA partners that have worked for almost three years to make ETEP a reality.
In introducing this impact-driven programme, Rhodes Business School Associate Professor Matshediso ‘Tshidi’ Mohapeloa outlined the purpose and outcomes of the programme. She gave a background of where the journey started before ETEP. “The first programme was the Business Support (BizzSupport), where Postgraduate Diploma in Enterprise Management (PDEM) students engaged the communities. The programme looked at PDEM students without work experience and the school linked them with programmes that will give them experience working with the communities. The outcome was to prepare them for the world of work but also engage them with communities through cooperatives and local businesses as part of the service-learning programme. This also ensured that students focus on businesses in terms of social progress,” she said.
While looking at possible ways to develop the programme, the second part of the journey was to expand the programme through collaboration with partners; Bowie State University is our leading partner in developing this programme. Professor Mohapeloa said students doing enterprise management in South Africa at Rhodes University and those doing Business Studies at Bowie State University would gain business skills that are not just entrepreneurial but also technologies to help them understand the global impact and international business.
Bowie State University College of Business, Dr Kavita Kapur said the journey to the official launch of ETEP was long, interesting, and beautiful. “To us, this is a programme that brings collaboration, experiential learning, mentorship, and technological skills to our classroom. We need to bring the world to the classroom,” she said.
Dr Andrew Mangle from the Bowie State University College of Business said the vision for ETEP is a long-term, global and necessary collaboration. “ETEP showcases the opportunity to empower individuals, businesses, co-ops, and communities through experiential learning, contact development and employment, strategic partnerships and alliances, and shared experience,” he said.
Yaya Fanusie from Cryptocurrency AML Strategies, an expert partner, said: “the desire is to make sure the change in technology and finance do not pass by those of us at these universities but that all can participate in this technological evolution and the empowerment that can come from that,”
Dante Disparte from Circle, an industry partner, said the ETEP partners would have to “work together to bring essential learning, digital financial literacy, promote responsible financial services, innovation and entrepreneurship worldwide”. Teamwork will allow ETEP to succeed; follow the African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” ETEP is about being together.
Chris Engelbrecht, Deputy Director, Development and Research, Sarah Baartman District, from the Department of Social Development (DSD), remarks provided background on the support provided to Co-operatives by the DSD. She further elaborated on how RBS has been in partnership with DSD on the Co-operative since 2017 on the Bizz Support. The Bizz Support project allowed students and co-operatives to collaborate on improving cooperative business outcomes. Thus ETEP is a natural extension of that program. Chris was very clear that collaboration with Co-operatives as equal partners allows the program to succeed. She found that students and co-operatives will teach others about sustainable enterprises.
Dr Lwarence McNeil, Dean, College of Business, Bowie State University, was pleased to see that the ETEP program was in line with the strategic pillars of Bowie State University. Rhodes University having these principles allow for a great relationship. ETEP has shown potential for academic excellence in curricular and co-curricular experience. ETEP has also demonstrated an innovative approach in its development. ETEP has a great goal of adding the community as part of the engagement. Dr McNeil says it is imperative for ETEP to succeed.
Rhodes Business School, Director Professor Owen Skae, emphasised the importance of collaboration in opening doors of higher education physically and virtually. ETEP is directly in line with Rhodes Business School Teaching Sustainable leadership vision. He strongly agreed with the use of the African proverb of walking together. ETEP is part of the curriculum demanded by a generation growing up today who see sustainability and technology as crucial to succeeding in the modern economy.