At the University of Cape Town, we envision a thriving and inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem where innovative ideas are nurtured, challenges are transformed into opportunities, and every student and faculty member is equipped with the resources, support, and network to bring their entrepreneurial dreams to life, making impactful contributions locally and globally.

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Entrepreneurship is the vehicle that will set South Africa on the road to economic prosperity. 

The country’s National Development Plan envisions that by 2030, Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) will be responsible for between 60 and 80% of gross domestic product growth and will have created 90% of the projected 11-million new jobs.

In short, the SMMEs holds the key to reversing South Africa’s 32.6% unemployment rate - one of the highest in the world.

The challenge is to nurture and grow a national spirit of entrepreneurship.

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The latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) National Entrepreneurial Context Index puts South Africa 45th out of 50 countries, an indication that the prevailing business environment discourages small business owners.

The University of Cape Town recognises that it is uniquely positioned to play a leadership role in instilling confidence among aspirant entrepreneurs.

UCT’s Vision 2030 seeks to “Unleash human potential to create a fair and just society” in the core academic functions, the cross-cutting responsibilities of transformation and social responsiveness, and the systems that support and sustain the university’s work. The three pillars of this system are Excellence, Transformation and Sustainability – criteria that speak directly to how entrepreneurship may be developed in South Africa.

In 2018, the UCT Leadership Lekgotla, backed by the Vice-Chancellor’s Office, initiated the UCT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Project to foster entrepreneurial growth at the University of Cape Town. Located in the Careers Service department within the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED), the project's inaugural action in 2019 was to commission qualitative research to comprehend the entrepreneurial ecosystem at UCT thoroughly. This understanding would enhance the support offered to students and staff in their entrepreneurial endeavours.

The study’s findings highlighted several aspects. It presented a map of the UCT entrepreneurial ecosystem, aiming to identify gaps and existing programs. The varied "systems of entrepreneurship" present within UCT was a significant discovery. 

Furthermore, a model combining these systems with support dimensions was suggested to guide future entrepreneurial assistance comprehensively. The report detailed challenges within the UCT environment, describing it as "politicised" and "regimented." 

UCT was acknowledged for fostering entrepreneurial thinking and offering invaluable resources to students. Unique entrepreneurial activities were discovered across diverse faculties, and characteristics defining a UCT entrepreneur were distilled into intellectual, emotional, and values-based components. 

Finally, the study culminated in recommendations, emphasising a unified approach to entrepreneurship, enhanced networking opportunities, and the integration of entrepreneurship into certain degree programs.

Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE Programme)

The UCT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Project aligns with South Africa’s platform for Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE), established at the end of 2016.

Among the goals of the EDHE Programme is student entrepreneurship through the mobilisation of national student and graduate resources to create successful enterprises that will ultimately lead to both wealth and job creation.

It also supports academics in instilling an entrepreneurial mindset among all students and graduates through the provision of relevant knowledge, transferral of practical skills and the application of business principles.

In addition, the EDHE Programme seeks to develop entrepreneurial universities that adapt strategically and embark on projects whereby third-stream income can be generated through innovative business ideas.

The EDHE theme for this year is focussed on Social Innovation for Societal Impact #innovation4impact. We hope to delve deeper into how Social Innovations develops and implements new ideas and approaches that address social needs and improve the well-being of individuals, the Higher Education ecosystem as well as the broader community.


UCT has been a leader in implementing strategies that effectively meet the objectives of this programme. The intention is for all students to be more successful in terms of becoming economically active during and after their tertiary study. Not only can entrepreneurial activity during their studies enable students to generate an additional income and fast-track the process of becoming economically active but upon graduation, they can consider entrepreneurship as a career, especially if they have difficulty in finding employment. These outcomes fit seamlessly into UCT’s Vision 2030 to transform and shape a better future for all South African’s and Afrika.


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