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These are some of the pointers that panel members gave during a recent career empowerment webinar for alumni, themed “The economic opportunities and challenges posed by Covid-19: How to position yourself as an entrepreneur or job seeker”.


Alumna Michelle Groenewald, an economist at the NWU, facilitated the webinar on 28 July. Alumni Francois Fouché, Olivier Tshimbidi and Nthabiseng Kgobokoe shared their experience about business opportunities and entrepreneurship – especially during the pandemic – with more than 400 participants and viewers.


Alumni relations practitioner Zanele Ngobese says this was a pilot project which they will most probably repeat next year.


Watch the video below to see what the webinar was all about.


Seize opportunities and embrace change to grow your business

If you are an entrepreneur or job seeker, you have to look at business in a completely new way. You should also study the value chains of industries for business opportunities, and not be afraid to add new skills to your repertoire.


Alumnus and professional economist Francois Fouché works for TRADE Research Advisory, which is the NWU research entity TRADE’s commercial advisory arm and a spin-off company of the university. This company provides strategic and practical assistance to government and businesses on economic development and export expansion.


Picture the scene: A group of people are sitting around the boardroom table, saying that digital transformation is still years away and that their company does not have to change soon. What they can’t see is the wrecking ball called Covid-19 heading their way.


The gist of this part of Francois’ presentation is that you should be willing to embrace change – if you don’t do that, a difficult future awaits you.


Francois also shares various characteristics of the so-called new normal, including that the pandemic will escalate the US-China trade war.


This holds certain benefits for South African exporters, however, as they now have cheaper access to China and the USA than exporters in those two countries.


“There is a massive opportunity for South Africans to find new suppliers in China, and to diversify the range of export markets,” Francois says.


His conclusion is that the answer lies in adapting to change and making it your own.


If you shift your focus from mere survival to embracing change, you are going to have a real opportunity to benefit from the changed circumstances we are now experiencing.


Never be too scared or too busy to adapt to change, and be ready to seize the opportunities that go hand in hand with challenges, especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic. These are some of the helpful hints that the panel of alumni give in the above video.


Alumnus Olivier Tshimbidi is an entrepreneur and the executive director of Pax Africana Holdings. This investment company has interests in a wide range of sectors, from construction and mining to media and real estate.


Olivier used the analogy of the tomato production value chain (the value-creating process from beginning to end) to illustrate how you should look for business and career opportunities.


“Studying the value chains of industries and determining where you fit into these, might help you find new opportunities to explore,” he says. Examples are opportunities in logistics to move products, or in advertising to market the products.


Olivier points out that if your skills are not in demand currently, flexibility becomes key: you have to look at different ways to upskill and reposition yourself.



Nthabiseng Kgobokoe is a law graduate, first-generation farmer and agripreneur (entrepreneur whose main business is agriculture-related).


Employing millions of people, the multi-layered agriculture sector offers vast opportunities – in particular for young people, says Nthabiseng.


“As a new entrant in the industry, you do not necessarily have to own land – you could buy into already existing businesses.”


Nthabiseng says there is a huge gap between farmers and consumers. “In that gap we need people like software developers, product developers and soil scientists, to mention only a few.”


Unlike other industries, the food market can never be saturated as the population keeps on growing, she says.


Some of the other interesting opportunities for entrepreneurs include snail production, fish farming and bee-keeping. The latter, she explains, may be not only for honey but also for other products such as pollen which can be used as natural antibiotics.



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