Wednesday, October 26, 2005

British tycoon Richard Branson launched a business school on Wednesday in Johannesburg aimed at budding entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds in South Africa.

“The South African economy is dependent on entrepreneurial activity for creating future economic growth and jobs,” Richard Branson said at the launch of the Branson School of Entrepreneurship at Cida City Campus, the first project to carry his name. “I hope to up the percentage of successful companies in South Africa.”

The school is a collaboration between Branson’s Virgin Group and Cida, a privately funded university that offers education to impoverished students at a fraction of the usual cost. It will be housed in the downtown building where South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, once had a law office.

Millions of black South Africans remain mired in poverty more than a decade after the end of oppressive white minority rule.

Unemployment is officially 27% but believed to be much higher because of the number of people who have given up looking for work and are making a living in the informal sector.

Branson and local business leaders left their footprints in concrete slabs that will be displayed in the school to represent walking in the footsteps of global entrepreneurs.

“After political freedom we need to gain economic freedom,” said Taddy Blecher, Cida’s chief executive.

Most small and medium-sized businesses are providing services such as cleaning, gardening or catering rather than venturing into growth sectors such as manufacturing or tourism, he said.

Cida’s 1 330 students will be introduced to entrepreneurship skills at the school during their first year of undergraduate study, learning from successful companies like Branson’s Virgin and gaining practical experience with its staff. Funding will also be provided to help students start micro-enterprises.

Source: Mail & Gaurdian Online (link opens in a new window)