Student exchange opens students’ eyes to international entrepreneurship trends

The International Student Exchange Programme is an initiative of Unisa’s Directorate of Innovation, Technology Transfer and Commercialisation (DITTC). It allows Unisa-registered students to visit, learn, inspire and be inspired by their peers in international universities.

The Unisa delegation at the University of Dar Es Salaam Business School

Participants in the 2022 exchange programme were selected from the Unisa Innovation Challenge Programme winners, Research & Innovation Postgraduate Student Showcase and the Tshwane Inter-University Innovation Challenge. The three international universities participating in the exchange programme were the University of Basel in Switzerland, the University of Rwanda (as part of the Swiss-Southern Africa Business Innovators network) and the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

Unisa students promoted their research and innovation and participated in innovation and business plan competitions by presenting projects geared toward addressing some of Africa’s societal and socio-economic challenges.

Below two postgraduate students who were part of the 2022 International Exchange Programme share their experiences.

La-Portia Mahlangu-Matjila

From academic theory to practical implications

La-Portia Mahlangu-Matjila

La-Portia Mahlangu-Matjila was one of nine Unisa delegates who visited Tanzania’s University of Dar Es Salaam (UDSM) from 21 to 28 May 2022. She is a PhD student in Business Administration and Management. She explains:

This visit created an ideal opportunity for me to be exposed to the research and innovation environment at the UDSM. Our hosts prepared an exciting programme, and our visit coincided with their Research & Innovation (R&I) Week. I am grateful for the opportunity because my needs, interests and expectations were met. It was a fruitful and educational visit for my field of study and my role as an administrative employee at Unisa.

During the UDSM’s R&I week, we interacted with fellow students, forged relationships and learned how they gathered data and knowledge for their research.

Key lessons learnt

I have learnt how to identify what a country can produce by itself to contribute toward improving the domestic economy and be able to export to the world.

Identifying drivers of strategic success in sustainable business development is crucial to improve human capital, sustainable skills development, and readiness to serve the modern industry.

Furthermore, I have learnt the importance of research that analyses the gap between university graduates and the skills gaps in the country. Universities should prepare graduates to be relevant in the market. This could be done through partnerships between businesses and universities.

The strategic transformation agenda of a university, family unit, and society’s contribution should be directed toward developing students. The visit helped shape my thoughts from academic theoretical thinking to obtaining entrepreneurial skills for practical implementation.

Nomonde Huma

Swiss visit shows the benefits of cutting-edge innovation

Nomonde Huma at the University of Basel, Innovation Office

Nomonde Huma, a Baccalaureus Technologiae in Civil Structural Engineering student, visited Switzerland in central Europe. The group of Unisa students departed from OR Tambo International Airport on 2 April 2022 and landed in Zurich on 3 April 2022. She explains:

We were met with snow as we headed for our host’s city, Basel. The visit was hosted by the University of Basel, which crafted an exciting programme that took me and 13 other researchers and innovators from Unisa on a journey to take research topics and innovative ideas to the product stage.

Switzerland in the fast lane

I was highly impressed with the transport system of Europe as they use all modes of transport. Furthermore, Switzerland is technologically advanced; convenience stores and payments are digitised. The trams have built-in monitors where a tourist like me could quickly locate the destination and get off a bus safely. Public transport is available until midnight, with trams arriving at 10-minute intervals.

The five-day programme included visiting key institutions that showcased why Switzerland is a leading country in technology and innovation.

The trip shaped my thoughts on my research by showing me that

  • an idea can only be successful upon action.
  • building networks and seeing what other like-minded individuals are doing can spark a new perspective on how you initially thought of an idea.
  • it is essential to establish the proof of concept/identification method of a group of potential customers to test or confirm research theories.
  • the iteration of a product model is essential, and it will take time.
  • an idea can be interpreted in several ways, and it is imperative to explore all possibilities.
  • technology doesn’t have to be complicated; a simple concept can change a lot.
  • incorporating a product can be delayed until the stage where the final product is feasible for commercialisation.
  • a start-up concept should become a live document, changing as the world evolves; change is inevitable.
  • business thinking patterns should have a world view and not be focused only on what my country of residence patterns are.
  • developed countries still need construction maintenance.

The last international student exchange with Unisa students will take place later in 2022.

The Unisa and Brazil delegation in St Gallen, Switzerland

* Compiled by Mpho Moloele, PR and Communications, Department of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation

Publish date: 2022/09/20

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