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Universities Win 6m From European Union

The European Union has granted 6 million (8.2 million ECU) to the universities of Coventry, Greenwich and Limerick, working with four of their counterparts in South Africa, to fund an innovative project developing new businesses and encouraging entrepreneurs in the country.

The grant, part of the Technical and Business Education in South Africa (TABEISA) project, was announced at a launch in Technikon Northern Gauteng, near Pretoria, on Monday, 7 December. The EU Ambassador to South Africa, the Irish Ambassador and five Vice-Chancellors were present.

Welcoming the award, Cyril Ramaphosa, Chancellor of Technikon Northern Gauteng, and a leading figure in the ANC, said:

"It is an honour to be associated with job creators rather than job seekers. The injection of such a huge amount of money will increase economic and business activity among formerly disadvantaged groups in line with the needs of South Africa."

Glenys Kinnock MEP, who helped secure the funding for the project said:

"It is often not understood that post-apartheid South Africa has enormous needs. The TABEISA Project represents a marvellous partnership between the universities of Coventry, Greenwich and Limerick and the institutions in South Africa.

"The project targets the needs of the most disadvantaged people in the townships and will make a positive and unique contribution to South Africa's security and prosperity. I am delighted that between us we have secured the funding and that the European Union will be able to demonstrate in a very practical way our commitment to South Africa."

Academics in Europe and South Africa will share their skills across continents, helping introduce entrepreneurship onto the curriculum of many students in South Africa. One of the challenges is to work with South African tutors to develop courses, textbooks and learningmaterials that are educationally and culturally relevant. The programme will also include training for higher education staff in South Africa to develop and use their own materials.

One aim of the initiative is to encourage a greater sense of entrepreneurship and business awareness, so that students have the skills to set up their own enterprises on graduation.

"South Africa has a massive need for economic and social development in its poorest townships",

says Coventry University's Dr Jane Conlon, TABEISA Director.

"This really is a tremendously exciting project that will genuinely change the lives of many South Africans for the better by creating economic growth and jobs in their own local communities."

The TABEISA project was established in 1995 when the universities of Greenwich and Coventry teamed up with four South African technikons, which are the equivalent of former polytechnics in the UK: ML Sultan, Durban; Peninsula, Cape Town; Northern Gauteng, near Pretoria; and Eastern Cape, Butterworth. TABEISA's aim is to improve the education of black students who were segregated under South Africa's apartheid regime and to foster economic and social development within its black communities.

The new funding will help start-up new businesses and offer support as they grow and develop. At each of the four technikons, new Technology Enterprise Centres (TECs) will link the technikons, businesses and the community. They will provide facilities such as fax, telephone, computing and printing to help staff and students to pursue business ideas. Other services will include low-cost business consultancy, financial support and advice.

An idea for a water purification system, developed by a chemistry lecturer from one of the technikons, is one of the first business projects to be considered by TABEISA. It is cheap to produce and environmentally friendly; funding will enable production to begin.

Another plan is to support the informal taxi companies which operate widely in South Africa. ML Sultan Technikon has pioneered a scheme under which accountancy students advise taxi companies, sorting out their accounts to enable them to interact with the formal economy.

This will be extended with the provision of business training for taxi owners and a business consultancy service. Professor John Humphreys, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich jointly developed the TABEISA initiative with Jane Conlon.

He explains that the UK institutions are collaborating with local technikons to share experience of regional and economic regeneration.

"We're learning from the South Africans as well," he emphasises. "Access to education, widening participation, vocational learning - these are all issues that are top of the educational agenda in the UK."

TABEISA has the full support of the South African government which funded an earlier project though the Foundation for Research Development. The four technikons are within specially designated areas to encourage commercial and industrial development and the TECs will supplement existing initiatives established by the South African Ministry of Trade and Industry. Other areas of TABEISA's work have been funded by the British Government, through the Department for International Development, and have received financial support from the British Council, the South African electrical company, Eskom and the Anglo-American/DeBeers Chairman's Fund.

Cyrrhian Macrae or Floyd Jebson 01203 838352


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