A way forward for Nigeria by Zaid Olanrewaju

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Zaid Olanrewaju
Zaid Olanrewaju

Ewing Marion Kauffmann Foundation reports detailed  that more than 2000 American institutions teaches entrepreneurship, although there is no study at the moment to prove the effectiveness of this.

As Nigeria battles to recover from its longest recession in 25 years the challenge is on the educational sector to liaise with the students to push the economy back on track. This challenges  the educational authorities to re-engineer the educational curriculum to ginger the economy for growth.

There is need for a holistic educational transformation as a panacea to place Nigeria in the desired economic El-Dorado. Although, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the National Universities Commission (NUC), has introduced Entrepreneurship Education (EE), there is need for radical changes in the teaching.

Educationist must deviate from the traditional way and prepare students to reason casually to set goals achievable over time.  Schools will have to teach entrepreneurship for creative thinking and encourage divergent perspective of the students. Creativity is a product of practices which are only acquired in the laboratory or in the field. Entrepreneurial reasoning should be structured in a profit driven model to expose the students to a different behaviour unlike most of the current entrepreneurial classes. Agricultural students should be able to market products to generate profit so that students can appreciate service oriented marketing aspect of agriculture.  Engineering and science students should also be exposed to the tendering and bidding process as part of the curriculum. With a service oriented education, the entrepreneurial skills of creativity, reasoning, negotiation, pitching, and business planning would have become part of the students at the end of their education.

Nigerian universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and other higher education institutions are ecosystems that should encourage and establish entrepreneur societies on campus. These societies will provide shows, workshops, events, training and talks where students and the industry can converge to swap ideas and share stories. Meeting different people in this niche within institutions will enable students with similar vision but with different skills set to converge.

Thus, someone with a business idea will easily meet a computer programmer with the right programming skill and more importantly find a matching marketer or public relations inclined student. Nigeria educational institutions can become geographical-centred ecosystems where incubators, accelerators, mentors, investors from all around the country can easily converge.

Schools should also make career guidance readily available on a seasonal schedule either at the beginning or end of every academic session thereby propelling a mentoring pool. There should be competitions in terms of business challenge games fashioned after similar ones in foreign universities.  This will encourage students to set up their own business.

Once schools promote entrepreneurship, a good proportion of the emerging workforce will be innovators who are willing calculated risk takers rather than the current crop of docile graduates queuing to join paid employment.  These new group of graduates will have been prepared to realize that entrepreneurship is not about quick returns on investment but a combination of patience,  organisation, idea formulation, execution and marketing.

Government should continue the current reforms in improving the business environment.  Effective monitoring of the advances in fiscal policies and institutional reforms should be sustained to improve access to credit facilities, improve registration of new start up, and encourage the return of non resident Nigerians for knowledge transfer.

Nigeria is blessed with a yearly pool of adventurous and smart graduates. Government agencies should take advantage of the NYSC programme to enlighten these budding entrepreneurs on available government aids to business. Capital is very important in all business. Government agencies should provide access to low interest loans as well as the financial education to make well thought-out use of the capital.

The writer is of the opinion that if the above strategies are implemented Nigeria will be on a part to economic recovery propelled with employed youth. There will also be a reduction in rural urban migration which will be supported by a more extractive agricultural and service oriented sector with less dependency on government and paid white collar jobs. According to a British council report, 42% of Nigeria’s 180million population is under 14, engaging this important class of the national demography will reduce poverty rate in the country and empower a good proportion of the population to achieve the vision 2020 plan.

Nigeria is a land of opportunities where every citizen is an independent leader with patience to survive. The federal government policy should focus on Entrepreneur First in the young population so as to discourage graduates going into low paying jobs where they get stuck in a difficult to change situation.  A lot of start-ups require low capital to initiate. Although the hot spots sector of ICT services, digital mobile communication services and e-commerce are springing up, there are a lot of opportunities in health-care, education, financial services and entertainment sectors. The current explosion of idea in Nollywood is a good example which has potentials for further expansion.

Once a wide culture of entrepreneurship is established there is big window for venture capital seed investors to tap into the readily available wide market.

Zaid O Olanrewaju
Middlesex, UK

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