/ 26 September 2023

GSB&L’s critical role in the entrepreneurial ecosystems of small business development in KwaZulu-Natal


The school’s postgraduate degrees and diplomas embed the ethos and foundations of entrepreneurship and business management

The KwaZulu-Natal province (KZN) is a unique economic region endowed with invaluable growth potential, a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit and rich cultural diversity. It is important for the province to have a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that fosters an interconnected network of resources, support systems and organisations that facilitate the creation, growth and success of small businesses. 

Included in this entrepreneurial ecosystem in KZN is the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) which fosters a conducive environment for small business development and innovation from a competence development perspective. GSB&L has emerged as a key player in teaching, training, supporting and promoting entrepreneurial activities in KZN. This article brings to light the significant role that the GSB&L plays in the entrepreneurial development ecosystems of the province. 

The foremost way in which GSB&L supports entrepreneurship is through a suite of academic programmes and courses. The school offers various postgraduate degrees and diplomas in which the ethos and foundations of entrepreneurship and business management are embedded, thereby equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge to start and run their own businesses successfully and, better still, manage complex business environments. The qualifications are designed to inspire, nurture and empower aspiring managers and entrepreneurs; fostering innovativeness, and creating inspirational learning spaces for business start-up and mind-shifts for professionals, entrepreneurs and business leaders. 

The flagship Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme and the Master of Commerce in Leadership Studies (Mcom) espouse the significant role that business and leadership education and research can play in fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems. Of note is the school’s Postgraduate Diploma in Local Economic Development (PGDip LED), which was designed to provide the students with a range of fundamental knowledge and competencies for leadership and management within local authority governance and municipalities. 

The MBA programme offers modules such as Economics, Business and Society, Entrepreneurship And Innovation, Finance and Decision-making and Supply Chain Management, which prepare students for advanced and specialised professional development, critical thinking, wholesome socioeconomic awareness, governance ethics and innovative leadership in a variety of business fields. These programmes not only provide students with a strong business foundation but also focus on promoting innovation and creativity. 

By nurturing young minds and inspiring them to think outside the box, the GSB&L is fostering a culture of entrepreneurship that will pay dividends for years to come. The school plays a crucial role in fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region through its suite of qualifications and applied research; the school has postgraduate qualifications through to doctoral qualifications such as the PHD in Leadership and the DBA. 

What is heart-warming is that the academic staff (lecturers and researchers) at GSB&L do recognise the importance of community engagement, industry partnerships and entrepreneurship in promoting economic growth. The GSB&L has often taken proactive steps to provide well-equipped learning spaces for aspiring professionals, managers and entrepreneurs and foster a favourable environment for business education and human capital development. Continuous improvement to learning spaces and teaching methods are a fundamental focus of the teaching and learning strategy of the school. 

Another significant contribution by the GSB&L is its staff’s engagement with the local community and local businesses. Collaborative efforts include mentorship programmes, workshops, training, and funding opportunities, all aimed at fostering a culture of entrepreneurship within KZN. The university actively collaborates with both large and small businesses and entrepreneurs, offering capacity development opportunities, training and research expertise to help organisations thrive in their business environments. 

One of the school’s strategic objectives is to bridge the gap between the school and the community of KZN, and to expand industry and entrepreneurial collaborations. By bridging the gap between the academic project and the broad industry community of KZN, the GSB&L fosters the facilitation of knowledge transfer and digital transformation, benefiting both its academic staff, its researchers, organisational spaces and entrepreneurs. GSB&L bears testimony that this collaboration has resulted in the creation of innovativeness in entrepreneurship development and to the overall economic development of some parts of the region, such as the LED cases in Escort.

The school partners with government agencies, industry bodies, and non-profit organizations to create programmes and initiatives that support entrepreneurship. Moreover, the GSB&L has established partnerships with other higher education institutions and other organisations focused on promoting business education and entrepreneurship. These partnerships allow for increased collaboration, resource sharing and joint initiatives that support small business development, professional development and leadership development. The school engages with local businesses, community organisations and individuals to encourage and support entrepreneurship. 

Through initiatives like entrepreneurial workshops, business development programmes, and the provision of resources and expertise, the school empowers local communities to embrace entrepreneurship as a pathway to prosperity. By leveraging on the currently existing partnerships in both private and public sector, the school is able to amplify its impact and reach a broader audience, extending its support to aspiring leaders and entrepreneurs beyond the confines of the university campus. The GSB&L alumni represent such a critical component of the partnerships and relationships that it seeks to expand and nurture.

In conclusion, the entrepreneurial development ecosystem in the KZN province greatly benefits from the active involvement of the GSB&L. GSB&L staff actively collaborate with various stakeholders to build a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem. The GSB&L is dedicated to being a catalyst for growth and economic transformation within its surrounding communities. In effect, such a crucial role in the entrepreneurial ecosystems of small business development would even better be aggressively expanded and espoused by all institutions of higher learning in the province. 

In summary therefore, through its academic programmes, research initiatives, community engagement, and strategic partnerships, the GSB&L continues to support and nurture aspiring professionals and entrepreneurs, fostering an environment that is deemed conducive to innovation and economic growth. By continuing to offer a forward-looking curriculum and prioritising entrepreneurship education and small business development, the GSB&L is therefore making significant contributions to the KZN region’s dynamic economy and paving the way for a more sustainable and prosperous future.

For more information, visit: https://gsbl.ukzn.ac.za/