Addressing scores of students, staff and academics during a public lecture held at Midlands State University on Friday the 31st of March 2017, the Minister of Small to Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development, Honourable Sithembiso Nyoni said, for a long-time, universities have been the missing link needed to further develop and capacitate small to medium enterprises (SMEs) through the incubation of innovative entrepreneurs.
‘My opinion is that at college and university, that is where people should be stimulated to innovate. Universities should be the biggest incubators of entrepreneurs, and I’m glad this has started, that is where creativity should begin, research should begin and the advancement of knowledge in every sector should begin,’ said the Minister.
The public lecture whose theme was, ‘Student business incubation and entrepreneurship: Beyond teaching the theory of small to medium scale enterprises in Zimbabwe’, proved to be an important first step in creating linkages between the Ministry of Small to Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development and the University, that will see both parties working together to incubate entrepreneurs.
In her presentation, the Minister also underscored the important role played by universities, government, angel investors and non-governmental organisations and other players, in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. She highlighted that in order for SMEs to be successful there was need for all the players in the ecosystem to work together to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to thrive.
Minister Nyoni highlighted that at a time when large businesses continue to operate below full capacity, with some even folding, SMEs have become an important contributor to the country’s GDP, contributing at least 17 % of the country’s total GDP according to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe figures. Moreover, SMEs have become a big source of employment for both school leavers and graduates alike.
Honourable Nyoni noted that when her ministry was established, they assisted several MSU students to develop their innovations and launch their products onto the market. Consequently, the Minister invited the University to partner her ministry in incubating entrepreneurs as part of a virtual incubation programme being rolled out by the Ministry of Small to Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development together with various other partners.
‘We have also started what is called virtual incubation, which is where I hope MSU will partner with us,’ said the Minister.
Speaking at the same event, Midlands State University, Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Victor Ngonidzashe Muzvidziwa, said the University was pro-actively involved in preparing students to be innovative and enterprising graduates through a number of initiatives, chief among them being the teaching of a University-wide compulsory entrepreneurship module.
‘Honourable Minister, allow me to underscore the fact that through the teaching of a compulsory and examinable entrepreneurship module to all our students across our 9 faculties, we have tried to entrench an entrepreneurial culture amongst our students,’ said Professor Muzvidziwa.
Plans are underway for Midlands State University to establish a centre of technological innovation and entrepreneurial excellence, a ‘Silicon Valley’ premised on the Indian model.
Among those who attended the public lecture were the MSU Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor V. N. Muzvidziwa, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Business and Administration, Professor, K. H. Wekwete, the Registrar, Mr E. Mupfiga, the Bursar, Mr A. Zvandasara and various members of the University community among them, Executive Deans, staff, the Student Representative Council (SRC) and students.