The Project Edupreneurs: Networking and Empowering Education Enterpreneurs towards a resilient edtech ecosystem in Southern Africa, funded by the Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS) 2, was successfully launched on 31st March 2021. The project is developed by the consortium between Eduix, Glowdom and the Namibian Business Innovation Institution (NBII). Over 120 participants from Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, and Finland registered to the event and will be contacted for further developments.
The event counted on the participation of brilliant keynote speakers and panelists in the morning and afternoon. The event finished with the needs assessment workshop, in which we gathered personal and professional experiences of the stakeholders regarding their challenges and expectations for building a resilient education business ecosystem in the Southern Africa region.
Project stakeholders will benefit from engaging in the project …
… by getting opportunities to network with relevant education business organizations and promote their services and products, as well as by receiving capacity building on business innovation and digital transformation. On the other hand, the stakeholders have the crucial role of providing us relevant information about their needs and challenges for thriving in critical situations, so we can tailor the project outcomes to their specific situation.
The keynote speakers mainly clarified how the Edupreneurs project and its three deliverables will address the pressing needs of the Southern African Development Community (SADC):
Ms. Sanet Steenkamp (Executive Director, Ministry of Basic Education, Arts and Culture of Namibia) emphasized how the Edupreneur digital platform can support schools in engaging with the education ecosystem, highlighting that African countries need to rely on their precious human resources in order to improve their capacity to create innovative and effective digital education ecosystem.
Aligned to that, Dr Lisho Mundia (Director of Research and Innovation, Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation of Namibia) reflected about the pressing needs for capacity building in the Education sector, both for providing education quality as well as for supporting business innovation.
Finally, Ms. Lovisa Kambonde (Manager, Innovation and Industrial Research, Namibia Commission on Research, Science, Technology, NCRST) stressed the role of research for developing the policy paper about building a resilient business ecosystem with the different stakeholders not only competing between themselves, but also cooperating and sharing responsibilities.
In the next section of the event, Mr. Rami Heinisuo (CEO and founder of Eduix Ltd.) shared his experiences on building software business ecosystem in Finland, emphasizing five principles to reach a successful ecosystem: 1) trust, 2) transparency, 3) fairness/shareness of IPR/copyright management, 4) scope and progress, and 5) scalable model for introducing new ecosystem members. He concluded that the existence of a business ecosystem allows the stakeholders to focus on new services and innovations, without having to develop everything always from scratch.
Next, Mr. Ilari Lindy (Lead Expert and SAIS 2 Innovation Fund Manager) explained the role of SAIS for business innovation in the SADC and how it related to building a resilient business ecosystem that overcomes and thrives in critical situations. Following, Ms. Bernice Ndungaua (Manager: Entrepreneurship and Incubation of Namibian University of Science and Technology) emphasized how NBII, as the project coordinator, is committed to make its contribution to the innovation space of the country.
After a short break, the participants got the opportunity to hear a lively conversation between experts from different countries in the SADC about the actual needs of building an edtech ecosystem in the region. Leonard Imene (Coordinator of Innovation and Business Development, University of Namibia) encouraged personalized and student-centered learning through edtech solutions. Lasarus Makili (teacher of the Augustineum School, Namibia) pointed out that most of teachers’ time is being wasted to organize managerial processes, while it could be done with edtech solutions and teacher will have more time for teaching processes that can improve students’ learning. Festus Malakia (Founder of Unique Empowerment and Employment Initiative Foundation, Namibia) followed the previous point stating that edtech will not substitute teachers, but it will make easier and more efficient learning and teaching. Nhlanhla Lupahla (Deputy Director: Innovation Ministry of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation in Namibia) highlighted that practice and innovation development cannot be complete without cooperation between teachers, students, IT developers, researchers. Finally, Tabisho Mashaba (CEO of These Hands, Botswana) clarified that for technology to enable things to move in a qualitative different way and from a bottom-up approach, the direct users and people who will benefit from them should be co-designing the product/service.
The morning session finished with the last two presentations of Dr. Altti Lagstedt (Principal Lecturer of Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Finland) about who are the players of a business ecosystem and what are their respective roles, challenges, and benefits for joining a business ecosytem. Lastly, Ms. Krista Davison (Head of Programmes and Incubation, Injini Africa, South Africa) gave an informative overview of the African edtech landscape and what are the reasons why so many edtech startup initiatives fail to succeed.
After the lunch break, the stakeholders participated in the needs assessment workshop, in which we gathered valuable information about their organizations, they needs and challenges, and what they are expecting from the Edupreneurs project to help them in solidifying their business and services for providing quality education in the SADC.
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