Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Previous Archive
12 March 2020 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Thabo Kessah
Japan UFS Afromontane Research Unit research collaboration
Dr Melissa Hansen (left) with ARU guest researchers. They are, from the left: Gema Carlota Cubelos Perez, Emilie Jones, Ven Paolo Valenzuela, Kanako Matsuyama (International Christian University), and Dr Kudo Shogo.

Research ties between the University of the Free State, the University of Tokyo, and the International Christian University strengthened when the Japanese scholars visited the Afromontane Research Unit (ARU) on the Qwaqwa Campus. 

“The visiting delegation is part of the larger research group on sustainability studies that has been sharing research expertise with the Afromontane Research Unit’s researchers over the past three years,” said Dr Kudo Shogo, Assistant Professor from the University of Tokyo’s Graduate Programme in Sustainability Science – Global Leadership Initiative (GPSS-GLI).

Entrepreneurship in Qwaqwa
“Our focus this time is on entrepreneurs who have had exposure to megacities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town, and who are finding themselves back in places like Qwaqwa. We have discovered that they actually find Qwaqwa more resourceful than when they left. Two to three years of unstable living in the cities gave them a fresh view to see the many opportunities in Qwaqwa and they then start their businesses. Talking to the Qwaqwa entrepreneurs has been a great learning experience for all of us,” he added.

The visiting scholars conducted interviews with 10 local entrepreneurs to get a sense of how they use entrepreneurship for sustainability purposes.

“We are pleased by the local people’s understanding that local problems require local solutions. I would really like to contribute to these people’s understanding of how these solutions fit the problems better than solutions that come from outside. We have quite a number of voices talking about empowering Qwaqwa, with the emphasis on creating jobs for Qwaqwa, solving the problems that Qwaqwa is facing. I have found education to be a unifying factor through tutoring, after-school classes, mentorship, and the personal imperative of sharing,” said Emilie Jones, originally from the United States of America and now studying for a master’s degree in Sustainability Science focusing on water supply and resources.

Education and arts empower communities
“Most of the entrepreneurs we spoke to have experience of the big cities. For them, Qwaqwa is very close to the heart and is home. There are challenges, but they are doing their best to empower their community with ideas and skills from the big cities. They provide services such as education and arts to empower the community to come up with a local identity,” said a PhD candidate, Ven Paolo Valenzuela from the Philippines. 

“I was impressed with the people who realise the opportunities to identify problems and even come up with solutions themselves. A lot of communities can learn from this,” said Gema Carlota Cubelos Perez, a PhD candidate originally from Spain.

Their host, Dr Melissa Hansen, Lecturer from the Department of Geography, said the visit was part of the bigger study on migration and sustainable development. “This was a Global Field Exercise (GFE) for teaching research methods in the field. We found that Qwaqwa is overflowing with potential for entrepreneurship in a wide variety of fields and that there is a strong, vibrant network of young individuals brimming with talent. We are learning from each other, as Akita City in Japan and Qwaqwa are similar in more ways than one,” she said.

One of the entrepreneurs, Refiloe Seekane, is a self-taught fashion designer, choreographer, and event coordinator. “The interview has actually made me realise the gaps we have for business opportunities in Qwaqwa and the importance of implementing some of the projects I have been planning for years,” said Seekane, a second-year Education student and CEO of Evomind.

News Archive

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.