UFH seeks to address youth unemployment in Eastern Cape through SEDA funded Centre for Entrepreneurship and Rapid Incubator

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The University of Fort Hare has been awarded R5 million by the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) to establish a Centre for Entrepreneurship and Rapid Incubator (CfERI) that seeks to address youth unemployment in the Eastern Cape by developing self-sustainable entrepreneurs.

The incubation centre which will serve students and surrounding communities will be located on the Alice Campus and is set to assist SMMEs (Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises) with starting up, job creation and client support. Operation is estimated to commence in the last quarter of this year.

According to the Statistics South Africa 2022 Quarter 1 Labour Force Survey report, the youth unemployment rate for 15-24 years old was at 63.9%.

Recent research conducted by the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Consultative Council (ECSECC) found that during the 4th quarter of 2021, the unemployment rate for young people in the Eastern Cape stood at 73.5%.It also found that the proportion of employed young people in the province who earned less than the minimum wage rate has increased from 69.0% in the 4th quarter of 2014 to 71.3% in the 4th quarter of 2021. The report further states that due to lack of economic activities and opportunities, thousands of young people are deserting the province for greener pastures elsewhere. https://www.ecsecc.org/infocentreitem/has-the-social-profile-of-the-marginalised-youth-i

The call for proposals for funding for the establishment of the incubator centre was made last year to all South African Universities and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.

A team from the University’s Department of Business Management led by Prof Olabanji Oni submitted a proposal on behalf of the University. After a selection process, UFH was one of eight institutions that were shortlisted for an incubation review meeting.  The University's proposal was approved and the grant was awarded in March this year.

The grant will be used for the renovation of premises, purchase of machinery, equipment, furniture, computers, administration, salaries, branding and marketing material as well as SMME support programmes.

Prof Oni said the motivation behind the application was solution-driven. “We want to be able to provide solutions to the real challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality which our students and youths are facing in the rural communities by encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation development. In fact, young people are vulnerable to unemployment and youth unemployment is very high.”

According to him, the core objective of the incubator is to be responsive to the challenges of rural communities through entrepreneurial and innovation development.

“This is expected to be achieved through the following secondary objectives: first to be a catalyst for entrepreneurial development within a rural community context. Second, to advance innovations in view of the challenges that exist in rural marginalized communities. Third, to drive the localisation of local Intellectual Property (IP) commercialisation and last, to scale up new technologies that solve the challenges of rural communities.”

The services to be provided at the incubator centre are guided by activities in the three phases of incubation which are:

  1.  Pre-incubation phase: focuses on recruitment and selection, screening, orientation programmes for learners, training of entrepreneurs (pre-incubation), training on idea generation, feasibility studies and business plan pitching. 
  2.  The Incubation phase will focus on business plans, training on raising and management of finances, pitch readiness training, technical support attached to the sectors, training on marketing, sector-specific operations training on Agriculture, Smart technologies, Renewable energy and Health (Pharmaceutical products). Also training on Intellectual Property (IP) and protecting IP as well as mentoring and evaluation.
  3.  The Exit or Graduation phase will focus on networking.

 “The centre has a significant role to play in terms of local economic development and in addressing challenges experienced by youth in accessing entrepreneurial opportunities in Alice and surrounding communities,” said Prof Oni.