1 Technische Universität Berlin (TUB) (GERMANY)
2 Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BOTSWANA)
3 University of Botswana (BOTSWANA)
4 Stellenbosch University (SOUTH AFRICA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 5982-5986
ISBN: 978-84-606-8243-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
The economy in Southern Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland) is not exploiting its full potential mainly due to the lack of entrepreneurial activities. Small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) represent an important vehicle that can help to address the challenges of job creation and economic growth. SMMEs and general entrepreneurial activities have an important role to play in creating jobs, penetrating new markets and expanding economies in creative and innovative ways. It is therefore critical to increase the contribution of small enterprises to the growth of the Southern African economy. An appropriate enabling environment will foster continued creation of new start-up companies in all segments of society and in all corners of Southern Africa and will result in improvement in economic and social well being in the communities.

The Young Southern African Entrepreneurs (YSAE) is a collaborative initiative between universities in Botswana, South Africa and Germany. The goal of YSAE is to create an enabling environment for alumni of universities in Southern Africa and empower them to become successful entrepreneurs. In setting up the framework for YSAE, a Design Thinking (DT) mindset was adopted. DT is defined as a methodology fostering innovation, particularly through collaborative processes of learning and knowledge creation; it represents a mindset including a repertoire of tools, methods and techniques that can support a profound shift in organisational problem solving.

The first step was to understand and define the problem. In the case of YSAE the issue is one of teaching or training entrepreneurial skills for creating start-up companies in order to have a positive impact on the local economy. The problem was thus defined as “How might we create start-up companies that last?” Next, the thriving start-up culture in Berlin was observed and investigated in order to achieve insights on the needs of young entrepreneurs and their motivations. From interaction with Berlin entrepreneurs, it became evident that many of them had had multiple start-ups that had failed. However, they were still enthusiastically working on their next venture and actively taking part in the “start-up scene”, where they interact with other entrepreneurs, share advice and experiences as well as build a professional network. The entrepreneurs in Berlin therefore do not seem as threatened by the possible failure of their ventures and are willing to treat the whole process as a social experience.

It was decided to build the YSAE initiative around the idea of entrepreneurship being a social experience. An approach was developed to enable young entrepreneurs in their local setting and integrated into the Localised Entrepreneurial Academic Programme (LEAP). The framework of LEAP will thus be to provide students with an enabling environment within the universities where they can interact, share advice and build networks. Competence in selected key disciplines will further be development by offering courses conducted by university and industry partners. DT will be a central feature in the programme and it is envisaged that the students will be able to apply their skills and knowledge and host industry workshops on DT. This approach can ensure LEAP to be self sustainable.
Entrepreneurship, Africa, Design Thinking.