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GSB&L’s Young researchers with MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu
at the opening.

The recent launch of the Graduate School of Business and Leadership’s Regional and Local Economic Development (RLED) Winter School Festival saw RLED practitioners based within key RLED institutions in provincial, district and local level in government, business and civil society and academics commit to building skills and sharing knowledge for improved RLED practice aimed at achieving economic transformation to change people’s lives. 

The launch, which saw the KZN MEC of Economic Development and Tourism (EDTEA) Mr Michael Mabuyakhulu deliver a key note address, brought together key role players within the RLED sector to inform them of the role that the GSB&L is playing in fostering regional and local economic development through its Winter School festival and other initiatives. 

The two week long winter school creates a platform for robust engagement between national and international industry experts, networking, sharing ideas and exploring research collaboration to encourage the growth of the province’s economy. 

GSB&L Dean and Head, Professor Theuns Pelser said that everyone should be involved in bringing solutions to economic problems – an effort that will not be possible without collaboration and efforts aimed at reducing poverty and unemployment in the province. 

The same sentiments were echoed by Mabuyakhulu who, in his address, emphasised that LED is a locally owned approach, therefore all the role players need to come together and share ideas. 

‘Today’s session is essentially a platform for us all as development partners to dialogue on how best we can collaboratively address the socio-economic issues that face regional and local economic development in KZN. This, we believe, will also unleash the full economic potential of our people and ensure that they contribute meaningfully to the creation of better conditions for economic growth and employment generation,’ he said. 

To set the scene, EDTEA’s Head of Department, Mr Desmond Golding, said that the purpose of the Winter School is to produce a new breed of graduates that can think practically. 

‘Through such initiatives, we are able to merge academia and the practical world and for me that is the value add that comes out of this project. The things that make us grow and become innovative is what happens out of the classroom. Therefore we need to produce graduates that are transdisciplinary in their thinking so that they can transcend all areas, so that they can change people’s mind sets about poverty’, he said. 

Speaking on UKZN’s vision on economic development, UKZN’s Pro Vice-Chancellor of Innovation, Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath said the mindset shift in relation to entrepreneurship and unemployment needs to take place at university level through innovative research and teaching and learning. 

‘Universities need to bridge the gap between research and outputs in addressing the issue of unemployment. Everything we do needs to benefit the society. This culture of an innovative economy and economic growth will start at UKZN and penetrate the community,’ he said. 

GSB&L’s RLEDI project manager, Dr Jennifer Houghton said that initiatives are vital in getting people who are involved in RLED to engage in critical thinking and the sharing of problems and solutions and the GSB&L is looking forward to hosting these events and gaining insights and fostering youth partnerships and capacity building.