The University of Johannesburg Centre for Entrepreneurship (UJCfE) in collaboration with the Dr Richard Maponya Institute of Skills and Entrepreneurship Development hosted the 6th Annual UJ- Dr Richard Maponya Soweto two-day Conference on Entrepreneurship, on Monday, 4 December until 5 December 2018.
The theme of the conference was "High-Tech Urban Agribusiness and Green Economy is Big Business: The Future of Gauteng Township Entrepreneurship Reimagined.
"The 2017 conference was held in a stimulating, interactive, entrepreneurship festival style under the theme Spark, Grow, Connect which was aimed at identifying and exploiting mainly technology and green economy start-ups and SMEs opportunities. This year we are shifting focus to modern high-tech agribusiness and zero-waste green economy opportunities and emphasising the importance of women and youth entrepreneurship participation in these important sectors," said UJCfE Director, Ms Moipone Molotsi.
The conference aim was to share knowledge and impart useful skills on aspiring, nascent and growth stage entrepreneurs and SMMEs in the township of Soweto and other townships in Gauteng in a quest to alleviate socioeconomic challenges and boost township economy. The specific objectives are to: facilitate information provision; identify entrepreneurship and small business needs; share knowledge, research and best practices in entrepreneurship and SMME development; identify feasible projects for implementation and; provide a networking platform for the Gauteng township entrepreneurship ecosystem.
"The conference has grown and evolved over the years and the 2018 event is designed and planned to continue in this trajectory. It brought to the attention of all, the importance of urban/township entrepreneurship and SMME development whilst revealing and crafting opportunity pathways for the future. All of this in the context of a growing urban population which is expected to reach about 79% by the year 2015 from about 65% of the South African population in 2018. The conference will look for solutions that are in tandem with a global entrepreneurship community that is swiftly embracing the 4th industrial revolution era. Indeed the University of Johannesburg has embraced the 4th industrial revolution and adopted a strategic approach that puts it at the center of advancement," explained Ms Molotsi.
About 1500 entrepreneurs and SMMEs attended the conference. Annually this gathering brings township entrepreneurship and SMME development under scrutiny and congregates academics, corporates, policy makers, investors and entrepreneurs under one roof to discover solutions for entrepreneurship and SMME development. Even though the 2018 event's focus is agribusiness and green economy, other relevant sectors for township entrepreneurship develop will be explored and discussed in detail. These other sectors, equally pertinent for South Africa's context are: Technology and Innovation- Unlocking opportunities in the 4th Industrial Revolution Era; Manufacturing and Services- Made in my Kasi Soweto, a manufacturing township revolution anchored in Agribusiness and Z-waste Green Gauteng sectors and Entertainment, Culture, Sports and Tourism- Uniquely Soweto, lets rebrand, market and exploit G4 era business opportunities.
The world is moving deeper into the 4th industrial revolution and entrepreneurship & SMME development are key drivers of a successful socio-economic advancement and need to embrace modern ways of innovation and entrepreneurship development. We have thus invited partners and giants of the globe in this regard, countries such as Brazil, Israel and Chile will be represented by their ambassadors in sharing with Gauteng entrepreneurs the global trends of urban agribusiness and strategies that have worked for their countries in boosting urban agribusiness and township youth entrepreneurship development.
During the two-day conference, experts lead discussions on a wide-range of topics including: Comprehensive Agribusiness and farming opportunities- Agribusiness is the Future; Green Economy- Gauteng Zero-Waste business is ready for exploitation; Technology and Innovation- Disruption and unlocking entrepreneurship opportunities in G4 era is everyone's business; Manufacturing and Services- Made in Soweto, a manufacturing township revolution anchored in Agribusiness and Zero-Waste Green Gauteng sectors is the future; Entertainment, Culture, Sports and Tourism- Uniquely Soweto and Kasi, lets rebrand, market and exploit G4 era business opportunities.
From 2014, UJCfE partnered with Dr Maponya Institute for Skills and Entrepreneurship Development and the conference adopted the name Dr Richard Maponya Soweto Conference on Entrepreneurship. "Dr. Richard Maponya is best known in South Africa as the leading entrepreneur and property developer who built his empire, breaking all restrictions imposed by apartheid. Dr. Maponya successfully established retail properties in the Soweto Township culminating with the successful Maponya Mall. The conference continues to celebrate this township entrepreneurship icon who remains an inspiration for many entrepreneurs in South Africa," says Dr Richard Maponya Institute for Skills and Entrepreneurship Development CEO, Mr. Roy Maponya.
UJCfE was proud to welcome on board its partners and sponsors which included several of the Gauteng Provincial Government's departments and entities such as Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD), The Department of Economic Development and its associated entities which are the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) and Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA) and other entities in Gauteng.
The Department of Trade and Industry (the DTi) also came on board, Dr Richard Maponya Institute for Skills and Entrepreneurship Development, Women in Agribusiness and Rural Development (WARD), Youth in Agribusiness and Rural Development (YARD), Youth Development and Entrepreneurship Institute of Africa (YDEIafrica), Pick and Pay Foundation and others. A few other partners from the private sector and the municipalities from Gauteng attended. Mayors of all Metropolitan Municipalities and District Municipalities presented their strategies and plans and highlighted opportunities they have opened for revived township entrepreneurship development that focuses on agribusiness and green economy.
The initiative is the brainchild of the University of Johannesburg's Centre for Entrepreneurship (UJCfE). Among its various programmes, the UJCfE facilitates business development in townships, specifically those located in the Greater Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Vaal, and Mogale City. Since 2010, the UJCfE has been organising its signature Soweto Conference on Entrepreneurship which is popularly known as the Annual Soweto Conference.