How entrepreneurship can benefit the environment


Dr Adri du Toit says as the people of the world become more aware of their responsibility to the environment and the dangers of climate change, pollution and the looting of natural resources, the focus shifts to the environmental value of entrepreneurship.


Responsible entrepreneurship teaches that nothing is done in isolation and that product development for instance cannot be done in a silo. One entrepreneurial venture can have an impact on another and in doing so also directly affect the environment.


“This aspect encourages responsible entrepreneurship and the protection and preservation of the environment.”

With entrepreneurship being implemented as a new separate subject*, as well as embedded into existing subjects in the South African school curriculum, eish! spoke to an NWU education expert about the importance of fostering an affinity for entrepreneurship from an early age.


Dr Adri du Toit, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Education’s Research Unit for Self-Directed Learning, says most people only view entrepreneurship as an economic activity aimed at financial gain, but it also has social and environmental value.


These aspects play an important non-monetary role in changing society for the better, and this is where IK especially can make a positive impact.


Starting young is the first step


“According to various literature sources, many young people feel that they are not prepared enough for the world of work and life after school,” says Adri.


They feel helpless, especially when faced with the massive youth unemployment rate. “A large group of learners leave school at the end of Grade 9 and it is paramount that entrepreneurship should be advocated before this – the earlier the better.”


Adri says the Department of Basic Education developed a blueprint in 2016 to incorporate entrepreneurship in all subjects and in all grades by the year 2030. At present, entrepreneurship education is only prominently included in the curriculum in business studies and consumer studies.


“It is not enough, however, that entrepreneurship features in many subjects and that it is presented as a subject on its own. We also need the buy-in of teachers to make it exciting and appealing to learners. This is why the long-term goal is to firstly develop an entrepreneurial mindset in teachers, who will in turn develop a similar positive view of the value of entrepreneurship in their learners.”


This is where IK comes in:  the teachers should educate and inspire their learners to use their indigenous knowledge when identifying entrepreneurship opportunities in their communities and surroundings.


The role of IK in entrepreneurship


Adri says Western approaches are often the starting point in promoting entrepreneurship, especially at school level. “We know that a major shift is needed and that the importance of IK in entrepreneurial teaching should be highlighted.”


She says this is more than just decolonising the curriculum; it is about giving generational knowledge its rightful place. “We have seen how indigenous knowledge has opened up many opportunities for individuals and communities.”


From rooibos to African shirts and mopane worms


Adri points out that a well-known example is the commercialisation of rooibos by local communities. “There are many more examples where indigenous knowledge has proven to be the catalyst for innovative entrepreneurial endeavours.


“One of these is from Limpopo where a young man started making traditional African shirts and selling them to tourists, and another from the same province is where mopane worms, which are seen as an African delicacy, are dried and sold commercially.”


Upcoming entrepreneurial projects include the commercial use of the plant Lippia javanica as insect repellent, commercialising various traditional fermented drinks, and the use of Hoodia gordonii, also known as Bushman’s hat, as an appetite suppressant.


“The sky is the limit when communities realise the potential of the indigenous knowledge they grew up with and start employing it responsibly and innovatively to not only make a living but also to make the world a better place. I believe it can mostly be done by cultivating and supporting a positive entrepreneurial mindset from an early age.”


 “In short, it is about taking cognisance of the surrounding areas and their needs and challenges, and making life better for all.”


*According to the Gauteng Department of Basic Education, recent additions to the school curriculum include coding and robotics, new African languages and entrepreneurship. Marine biology and nuclear power studies have also been approved as subjects at selected schools.

presents new entrepreneurial opportunities


Dr Adri du Toit says indigenous knowledge has opened up many opportunities for individuals and communities, for instance the commercialisation of rooibos by local communities..

It’s not only about the money


Dr Adri du Toit is passionate about entrepreneurship in all its forms.


“I believe it is our role as researchers and universities to help teachers and learners understand the full value of entrepreneurship.”


She says teaching an entrepreneurial mindset also leads to skills development such as problem solving, creativity, critical analysis, effective communication, peer participation and reflective thinking.


“I believe the greatest value of entrepreneurship is in the Ubuntu sense ― the positive impact it can have on communities.


“Entrepreneurship that focuses on addressing challenges in society rather than (just) making money can solve some of the most pressing problems in communities such as water and electricity supply and providing care solutions for the elderly, for example.


“In short, it is about taking cognisance of the surrounding areas and their needs and challenges, and making life better for all.”

An example of how people use their indigenous knowledge in entrepreneurial projects, is the drying and selling of mopane worms, which are seen as an African delicacy.

Teaching learners about indigenous knowledge (IK) and how they can use it in entrepreneurial ventures can open up a whole world of opportunities in South Africa.