Youth Month 2021: Kudzai Nigel Makuwe

Youth Month 2021: Kudzai Nigel Makuwe

June is Youth Month, and this year the NRF is celebrating the Youth of the NRF who are Advancing Knowledge, Transforming Lives and Inspiring a Nation. We thank all participants for sharing their stories with us and we hope that you are inspired by the young dreamers and achievers who are affiliated with the NRF through their work or studies.

Mr Kudzai Nigel Makuwe is a Master’s student at the Durban University of Technology. He has received an NRF Master’s Innovation Scholarship as well as NRF Master’s Extension support.

This is his story…

I was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe. I come from a family of four siblings (two boys and two girls) and I am the second born. I did my primary and secondary studies in Zimbabwe and only came to South Africa for my university studies.  I have been at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) since my first year and now I am studying towards my Master’s degree. Furthering my studies is the best thing that I have done and I am grateful to my parents for instilling the values of education in me since I was young.

It was a coincidence that I ended up studying for a Human Resources Management qualification for my undergrad. I visited DUT to enquire about the requirements that I needed in order for me to gain university entrance. Luckily, I carried all my school leaving certificates with me and the lady who assisted me advised me to apply. She asked me to apply as soon as possible but I had not fully made up my mind about what I wanted to study since I just wanted to enquire. I ended up selecting HR, got a firm offer, and that’s how I ended up reading for a human resources qualification.

I am currently doing my Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA). I opted to switch from HR to MBA because the qualification will help me advance my understanding of the field of entrepreneurship.

Did you have to overcome any obstacles to be where you are today, and what did you learn from it?

Leaving Zimbabwe at the height of the economic meltdown is one obstacle that I had to overcome – from obtaining finance to securing accommodation in a foreign country. However, I failed my Ordinary Level studies in Zimbabwe.  This meant that I could not proceed to Advanced Level that would allow me to go to university.  I had to repeat my Ordinary Level studies, worked very hard and I passed. Then I proceeded to do my Advanced Level studies and, as they say, the rest is for the history books. Failing and then working hard to pass taught me a valuable lesson in life – in order to achieve, one has to work extra hard.

What is your area of expertise?

My research focus is on exploring the factors that influence Small and Medium Enterprises Innovation strategies in Durban. It is evident and generally agreed that SMEs are the backbone of an economy – they help create employment opportunities thus eradicating poverty. I enjoy researching areas of entrepreneurship and finding ways in which SMEs can be assisted to ensure sustainability.  

How can your research/work advance knowledge, transform lives and inspire a nation?

Limited studies have been conducted on factors that influence SMEs innovation strategies and especially in the local context of South Africa. Furthermore, academics, future researchers and SME stakeholders will find the study valuable. A working and well supported SMEs sector is poised to change the economic fortunes of the country through job creation, poverty alleviation and a growing Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

What are some of your proudest achievements?

Graduating cum laude for my undergraduate studies remains one of my proudest academic moments. Also, to be funded by the National Research Foundation for my Master’s studies brings so much joy in my life. If one considers the rigour that goes into the selection process, being awarded the scholarship is more than an achievement, it is life. 

I have just published some of my research work in an accredited journal. I am hoping to present the paper at both local and international conferences. 

Did the COVID-19 pandemic (and national lockdown) change the way you work/study? How did you adapt to the “new normal”?

COVID-19 has brought about major changes in the way we do business, not only in South Africa but also in the rest of the world. The lockdown came at a time when I was about to do my data collection and I was not able to physically collect it due to the COVID-19 health regulations. Some of the areas were regarded as “hotspots” meaning they were a “no go” area.  I had to adapt and most of the data were collected online and, in some instances, telephonically.

What is the best advice you have ever received (and from whom)?

Always aim for the moon so that if you miss you will settle for the stars. I received it from my former maths teacher and I find it so encouraging.

What, in your opinion, are some of the best ways to get youngsters interested in science-related careers?

There is no doubt that STEM subjects are the future, especially in this era of the Industrial Revolution.  There is this saying: catch them young, watch them grow. It is important that STEM subjects are introduced to people at a very young age and their importance articulated.

What are your career aspirations for the future?

I would like to be an academic and an NRF-rated researcher.

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