28 September 2023

In 2017, Professor Niyimbanira clinched the title of National ENACTUS: SA Senior Alumnus of the Year, a recognition that led him and the team president and secretary to the global stage in London for the world competition. Demonstrating unwavering dedication, he repeated his success in 2020 by securing, for the second time, the National ENACTUS: SA Faculty Advisor of the Year Award.

In a ceremony held on 19 September 2019 in Johannesburg, the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) of Universities South Africa (USAf) and the Department of Higher Education, Science, and Technology honoured Professor Niyimbanira as one of the nominees for his longstanding contribution to the entrepreneurial development of students.

"I’m committed to the promotion and advocating for entrepreneurship to students, and the immediate community served by UMP." 

His sphere of influence extends beyond UMP. He recently assumed a role as one of the five African representatives for the Global Faculty Research Network (GFRN) of ENACTUS. This network collaborates with the Enactus Global Headquarters, advising on policy matters. Comprising 15 Enactus Coordinators from the five Enactus regions: Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, and Eurasia. The network is a testament to his international impact.

Under his guidance, the ENACTUS team at UMP has initiated and managed entrepreneurship projects, yielding positive outcomes not only for the communities involved but also for the personal and professional growth of UMP students.

His engagement with ENACTUS seamlessly integrates his expertise as an educator, motivating students to channel their energy into improving lives, fortifying communities, and establishing entrepreneurial, self-sustaining ventures. Members of the ENACTUS: UMP team additionally acquire invaluable entrepreneurship skills, with some even venturing into their own businesses. Furthermore, UMP students who are part of the team gain immeasurable benefits from his mentorship, coaching, leadership, presentation, and communication skills.

Winning Formula

Professor Niyimbanira attributes the success of the ENACTUS team to the robust support system at UMP, particularly highlighting the backing from Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso. "Her support, encouragement, leadership, and motivation drive the team to always aim for excellence," he adds.

"As future leaders, our students are the generation that should understand local, continental, and global socio-economic and environmental issues as well as how to address such challenges."

He draws inspiration from Joseph Schumpeter’s theory, emphasising the pivotal role entrepreneurs play in the development and deployment of new inventions. This theory underscores how entrepreneurs propel growth, innovation, and economic development.

UMPProfessor Niyimbanira with former ENACTUS winners.

"Working with ENACTUS is about deliberating on ways of including and empowering students for participation in the mainstream economy through skills development, enterprise development, and social entrepreneurship projects. More importantly, I strive to ignite students’ careers and talents. My dedication is about assisting students to transform their dreams into realities. I get very happy when students achieve their ultimate goals.”

His association with ENACTUS began in 2007, during his pursuit of a Master of Commerce degree. Fuelled by a fervent desire to effect social change through entrepreneurial action, he introduced ENACTUS (then known as Student In Free Enterprise = SIFE) and assumed the role of campus team leader while still a student at UKZN.

The journey took an exciting turn when his team clinched national championships in 2008 and 2009, representing the country in Singapore and Germany. Upon joining the Vaal University of Technology, he continued to spearhead the ENACTUS team, overseeing numerous community projects and earning several accolades.

"I wish to thank the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mayekiso who trusted and requested me to establish the team at UMP in 2016 when I joined the University. That was an opportunity to contribute to the holistic growth of the students."

Championing Student Growth

Professor Ferdinand Niyimbanira is a dynamic, deeply committed academic with visionary ideas, particularly in the realm of student empowerment. Grounded in the theory of constructivism and centred around student-focused learning, his teaching philosophy fosters active participation through group discussions.

He believes in experiential learning as a means to unlock each student's full potential. Beyond the confines of the classroom, he sees Enactus as an instrumental force in creating an environment where all students can thrive.

"My teaching goal has always been to contribute towards the development of students by ensuring that they have the understanding, skills, and expertise to apply a holistic approach towards business activities, where possible, and research beyond their graduation."

Professor Niyimbanira is resolute in his mission to kindle students' careers and talents, finding immense joy in witnessing their accomplishments. "ENACTUS gives the opportunity to contribute in a positive way. When we compete to positively change the world, we all win."

His academic journey commenced in 2003 when he embarked on his Bachelor of Commerce at the University of KwaZulu Natal. Armed with a PhD in Economics, earned in 2014 from North-West University, and a wealth of experience accrued over the past 16 years, Professor Niyimbanira continues to shape the next generation of leaders through teaching, research, and community engagement.

Story by Lisa Thabethe. Pictures supplied.