For the next two years, the Institute for Rural Development (IRD) at the University of Venda (UNIVEN) will be home to six degreed young people, all thanks to the funding received from the Department of Science and Innovation through the Technology Innovation Agency. The young graduates will anchor implementation of the Innovation Champions for Local Economic Development (IC4LED) project in Vhembe District. Three of these Innovation Champions (ICs) assumed duty on the 2nd of August 2021. Broadly, their role will be to facilitate and coordinate the integration of innovation into local economic development (LED) practice, working closely with multiple stakeholders and role players both within and out of the District. Specifically, the ICs will apply various methods, techniques and tools in creative, unique and inclusive ways as they spearhead stakeholder engagement, map the local economy, analyse priority value chains, unearth inherent innovations and introduce new ones, and seek viable solutions to impediments to life-improvement activities and health of businesses across all economic sectors in Vhembe District. The 21 development nodal areas that make up Collins Chabane, Makhado, Musina and Thulamela Local Municipalities of Vhembe District Municipality in Limpopo Province are the implementation sites. 

Prof Joseph Francis who leads the IC4LED project could not hide his delight at the prospect of co-mentoring the ICs with the LED Managers of all the five Municipalities in Vhembe District. Here is what he had to say, “We are immensely proud to announce that the IC4LED is the first national pilot project designed to test how some core imperatives of the South African National Framework for Local Economic Development, 2018-2028 can be operationalised. Call us a Guinea pig, yes – but that’s precisely what innovation partly entails – who would not gloat under these circumstances – having six young people tasked with using their brains and skills to connect innovation with LED?”. Note that this project was officially launched during a multi-stakeholder workshop held at Muofhe Graceland Lodge from 11-12 February 2020. A lot has happened already. The ICs are jumping onto a train that is in cruise mode. So, who are the three ICs on board now? 

Mr Rudzani Bernard Mamphweli

Mr Rudzani Bernard Mamphweli has qualifications in social work and development studies. His educational qualifications include Bachelor of Social Work and BA Hons (Sociology) obtained from the University of Venda. Financial support received through a prestigious international scholarship from the European Commission under the framework of Erasmus Mundus saw him complete a Master’s in International Development Studies from Palacky University in the Czech Republic. During his studies towards the masters degree Rudzani benefitted from a CzechAid sponsored internship that took him to Bosnia/Herzegovina in South-eastern Europe for a journey in monitoring and evaluation of rural village-based projects funded by Czech Development Cooperation. He has experience in community and international/rural development, stakeholder mobilization, communication and marketing, and project coordination. Also, Rudzani argues that it was a privilege to be placed as an Office Intern for the German Development Cooperation in Pretoria and DSI/NRF Intern in the Institute for Rural Development at UNIVEN. The most exciting thing about the journey ahead is that “I will contribute to local economic development practice and learn by doing as we collectively seek to enhance the performance of local municipalities through infusing innovation into LED. 

Mr Andani Nemutandani

Mr Andani Nemutandani holds a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning degree from the University of Venda. Currently, he is studying towards a Masters degree in Town and Regional Planning with the University of Pretoria. Andani is a registered member of the South African Council of Planners and South African Planning Institute. His experience encompasses natural resource management and rural development. He joins the IC4LED project after a learning expedition whilst attached to the Matsila Community Development Trust as an environmental management intern. Prior to that he was part of a team that prepared a conflict resolution and area spatial development proposal for Mankweng (Nobody community) for the City of Polokwane. “I am extremely excited that I am embarking on a journey that inspires hope and has immense potential to impact on local economic development practice. What more can I ask for when I know I will be leading solution-seeking processes in unique, creative ways within a previously marginalized rural district?” 

Ms Amukelani Hlaiseka

Ms Amukelani Hlaiseka is a social scientist whose working experience has been in the fields of rural and sustainable development, and monitoring and evaluation. She holds the following qualifications: Masters in Rural Development from the University of Venda, and BA Honours in Development Studies and BA Psychology from the University of Johannesburg. She is currently studying towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Management (Public and Development Sector Monitoring and Evaluation) with the University of Witwatersrand. Amukelani will deploy into the IC4LED project her wealth of experience in multi-disciplinary social and policy research, monitoring and evaluation, programme and project management that was gained whilst attached to the public, private and non-profit sectors. “My exposure, experience and skills in desktop research, survey design, mixed methods research, multi-stakeholder engagement, and written and oral communication will make me immerse seamlessly into the Innovation Champion post. I look forward to learning from and contributing to the IC4LED objectives as we strive to build a better life for all”. 

Issued by: 

Department of Marketing, Branding and Communication 

University of Venda 
Tel: (015) 962 8525 /8710 
Date: 07 August 2021 

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