University of the Western Cape: UWC students win national entrepreneurship competition and trip to the US

This big win came at the annual USSAVI (US-Embassy SA Virtual Incubator initiative) entrepreneurship programme on 5 May 2022, where UWC claimed five of the eight available prizes.

UWC’s Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) facilitated the partnership with USSAVI in its quest to foster an entrepreneurial mindset amongst UWC students and graduates.

The programme, sponsored by the US Embassy in South Africa, took competitors through the programme week by week, culminating in the pitching event.

The event consisted of a national competition against various universities in South Africa, including the Universities of Pretoria, Venda, Limpopo and Zululand. The entrepreneurship programme and competition saw five teams pitching their ideas to a group of investors and judges.

The winning team was TripleR which focused on English as a language barrier. The team in second place, Mlimi Platform, illustrated how the Mlimi-Agri-tech app could help address the lack of market access and exploitation by middlemen. And in third place, 3Green SA-Smart grid focused on developing a micro-grid to provide clean and reliable electricity.

UWC students Jonathan Sudi Anzuluni and Ekeoma Festus from TripleR will be packing their bags for that sought-after trip to the US. At the same time, Floyd Mabiala, a PhD Fellow in Computer Science from 3Green SA-Smart grid, won the popular vote category.

The three other UWC students receiving 100 US dollars in cash are Olabode Ajayi, Zizipho Dweba and Pozisa Manisi from the Mlimi Platform team.

“The programme aims to create high-impact ventures for Africa where students work in multi-university-SA-teams in partnership with universities in the United States. The idea is to develop high-impact ventures that address big societal challenges affecting South Africa and the African continent,” said Wendy Mehl, Coordinator of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) at UWC.

“Teams are guided in taking their idea and bringing it to life through education, support, mentors, tools and templates. They learn the scientific (lean) approach to starting a business venture and get imbued with an entrepreneurial mindset.”

Festus, a fourth-year Medical Bioscience student, is excited about her trip to the US in September, where she will be visiting Guilford College in North Carolina and other entrepreneurial ventures.

As part of the competition, she worked on solving reduced employability problems among South African graduates caused by poor understanding and use of English in communication.

She said the topic resonated with her because she struggled with the language while growing up.

“Coming from a teaching background, I observed students’ struggle to communicate in English effectively. I believe poor education is a root cause of underdevelopment in Africa, and I think that providing equal learning opportunities to both urban and rural learners will help close the communication gap between the rich and the poor and help to employ more people,” said Festus.

“I think what contributed to the overall win was the social impact of our solution to economic development and growth, a presentation that went really well, along with a natural ability to work tirelessly refining problem-solution-fit technique. This was a great opportunity. It increased my knowledge about real-time idea conceptualisation and the procedures involved in reaching a problem-solution fit. I also learned some soft skills on web tools usage.”

She believes if more students are exposed to entrepreneurial programmes, it will help them initiate start-ups after graduating. This would help address “day-to-day problems” and increase employment in South Africa.

Anzuluni, a postgraduate honours Information Systems student, has supply chain and logistics management experience. He and his all-UWC team finished in second place. This group focused on the Mlimi Platform, an app for small-scale farmers in the townships and rural areas of South Africa to help access the market, networking, and agricultural education and little to no support from local governments. Furthermore, it assists with management skills, logistics, marketing, procurement as well as real-time support.

He said, “A friend who is also an entrepreneur and UWC alumni introduced me to an Agritech mobile application from Kenya that was growing fast. We explored prototyping a similar product, however, using Malawi as our place to validate our concept.

“I took the same idea and transformed it into a South African context to develop and describe a problem and a potential hypothesis as a solution. To my surprise, my concept to solve food security was chosen as one of the product owner solutions that will be allocated to a team.”

Mabiala and his team represented 3Green SA which focused on developing a micro-grid to provide clean and reliable electricity to help mining companies to have a consistent electricity supply, with a smart control design that switches between wind and photovoltaic systems and monitors customer consumption.