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MBA Alumni, Steven Zwane is inspiring Africa’s future entrepreneurs

YLED member giving a speech and logo

Date: July 2022Coloured dividing banner

Inspired and continuous learning

Steven Zwane recently visited Durham as part of his Durham DBA programme, and we took the opportunity to find out more about his MBA to DBA journey and what motivates his continued learning.

In 2006, Steven first arrived at the Business School to start his MBA. He was one of three South African students to arrive that year and was supported by a prestigious Nelson Mandela scholarship. Steven elaborates, “I was awarded the scholarship in acknowledgement for the work I was doing raising the aspirations of young people in South Africa. I’d started YLED (Youth Leadership and Entrepreneurial Development) as a social enterprise that was providing Saturday morning entrepreneurial sessions. I had a harsh life as a young person, in fact I had to raise and fend for myself from age 11 and that gave me a great appreciation of how an entrepreneurship mindset can greatly contribute to one’s success. With those lenses and what I was seeing in my home city, I wanted to teach young people to be intentional in learning and harnessing these skills, knowing that the results of that will have great impact to the trajectory of these young people lives. The work we do at YLED is centred on this cornerstone.”

Steven had considered several UK business schools including Oxford, Manchester and Edinburgh before deciding on Durham. And when Steven decided to study for his professional doctorate, he again looked at the offerings from the same schools.

“One of the key factors in my decision was my MBA experience at Durham. I liked the small city experience and living at Ustinov College back in 2006. It gives a sense of community where people still acknowledge each other and that worked well with who I am. With the Durham DBA I have been able to return to this beautiful city for my last taught modules and I hope to return with my family.”

Steven will now be undertaking the research element of his DBA. Like many DBA candidates, the focus of Steven’s research is directly relevant and related to his not-for-profit organisation. 

“My thesis is entitled ‘Determining the Influence of Entrepreneurial Intervention on Entrepreneurial Intentions of the Youth of South Africa’. Most entrepreneurial education and intervention efforts in South Africa, Africa and other countries start at university and after high school which misses an opportunity to plant the entrepreneurship seed much earlier in young people’s minds; my argument is that an opportunity is missed within this context. The basic education systems do not have entrepreneurship as a subject hence I refer to entrepreneurship interventions in the study. I will leverage the work of two organisations whose objectives are to teach entrepreneurship amongst school age young people and test their effectiveness.”   

While the research gets underway, Steven and YLED continue to provide South Africa’s young learners with much-needed skills to improve their chances in life and prepare them for challenges and opportunities beyond their schooling. This continuation is much more meaningful after the disruption caused by Covid-19 with YLED boasting over 20,000 strong beneficiaries and the alignment of Steven’s research and his passion. 

Steven’s life mission is to help others reach their full potential. “I currently also serve as a lecturer in at one of Africa’s leading business schools based in Johannesburg and would like to build links between the schools YLED works with and the university students. I would also like to help expose Durham’s current MBA students to business and entrepreneurship on the continent.”

For YLED, as a not-for-profit organisation, developing these links and support is important. The organisation relies on donations and generous contributions from both individuals and business aligning their Corporate Social Responsibility activities to support YLED.