Home Latest Insights | News “Nigerian Universities need productive, not subsistence entrepreneurship for axing unemployment”

“Nigerian Universities need productive, not subsistence entrepreneurship for axing unemployment”

“Nigerian Universities need productive, not subsistence entrepreneurship for axing unemployment”

Dr. Lukman Raimi is an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, School of Business and Economics, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei Darussalam. He has held positions across tertiary institutions in Nigeria. He was formerly Principal Lecturer at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. He was also an Assistant Professor at American University of Nigeria, Yola before proceeding to Brunei Darussalam. He has diverse experience in teaching entrepreneurship and mentoring entrepreneurs, startups and students. He had served as judge and mentor for Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme in 2021 and 2022 respectively. He is a well published scholar who combines both classroom and industry experience of 25 years. In this interview, he shared insights with Tekedia on the state of entrepreneurship education in Nigerian tertiary institutions. Here are the excerpts of this explosive and insightful discussion.

Tekedia: How would you describe the current state of entrepreneurship education in Nigerian tertiary institutions?

Raimi: The state of entrepreneurship education in Nigeria can be described as merely ambitious and aspirational. We haven’t started yet; We’re still scratching the surface. We are only introducing entrepreneurship education, although there are some ambiguities here and there regarding the teaching methodology/pedagogy, infrastructure, and adequacy of resources. Worse, the previous entrepreneurship education curriculum used in Nigerian tertiary institutions was pedagogically weak and had ambitious learning outcomes that were neither measurable nor achievable. As a result, in implementing the old curriculum, many universities confused entrepreneurship with vocational training by teaching university students tailoring, food preparation, and small puff-puff trading, among other things. Despite the positive intentions of the designers of the previous curriculum, it was implemented with an emphasis on creating livelihood ventures, something our parents have been doing for ages. We do not need to promote subsistence-type  start-up in the Nigerian university system. What we need is productive and impactful entrepreneurship education. There is a difference between the productive, impactful entrepreneurship that the US, UK and China focus on and the subsistence business creation that we have focused on. We need the former to combat unemployment and create numerous jobs, including products and services for the global consumer market, using digital platforms and digital payment systems. The latter teaches students in the fields of physics, medicine, pharmacy, accounting, agriculture, engineering, history, psychology, biology, data science, mathematics, economics, chemistry, and other subjects how to sell Indomie noodles, rice, drinks, and puff-puff on campus is a professional activity, not entrepreneurship. They should have an entrepreneurial mindset to identify gaps in society that they can fill with their academic and professional skills by creating value through products, services, and business solutions. If students want jobs in tailoring and food sales, why should they go to universities at all? These ancient professions are better taught outside of universities.

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As an educator with over 25 years of administrative, teaching, research and consulting experience, there is a difference between teaching entrepreneurship and training entrepreneurs. Universities should teach entrepreneurial education. The university startup centres, accelerators and incubators are intended to train entrepreneurs. The bitter truth is that we cannot all be entrepreneurs, but we can all be entrepreneurial in any career we pursue. This conceptual threshold should be the premise of entrepreneurship education in Nigerian universities. The role of universities is therefore to teach entrepreneurship education to instill an entrepreneurial mindset at the early stages. Subsequently, the knowledge acquired through teaching awakens the entrepreneurial intention and later stimulates the students’ entrepreneurial activities during or after graduation. Some of these students become entrepreneurs, some become intrapreneurs, and some become entrepreneurial leaders.

Tekedia:  Recently, the National Universities Commission (NUC) introduced a new curriculum tagged the Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standard (CCMAS) with a new approach to entrepreneurship curriculum. Do you see the new curriculum having impact?

Frankly, the new curriculum called Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standard (CCMAS) developed by the National Universities Commission (NUC) for implementation is commendable, detailed and the best thing that can happen to the university knowledge ecosystem. It is more comprehensive, better, and more pedagogically sound than the previous curriculum. Congratulations to NUC; The new curriculum highlights the need to make entrepreneurship a practical education. Instructors teaching various course-specific entrepreneurship courses in the new curriculum should consciously engage with students in direct exchange of experiences, collaboration, demonstration, and experimentation using practical techniques. This action-based method with a series of specific practices improves their KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities), problem-solving skills, values, innovation, and creativity to become entrepreneurs or act entrepreneurially. I used the old curriculum for this. Over three years, I also learned about several international entrepreneurship education curricula in the US, UK, India, and Southeast Asia, which gave me a basis for comparison. The new curriculum is very good and as mentioned, one of the best things to happen to entrepreneurship education in Nigeria. However, frankly, and obviously, it may have minimal impact, not because it is deficient, but because effective entrepreneurship education requires qualified entrepreneurship educators who have received training in action learning, experiential learning, problem-solving learning, and competency-based learning methods. I am aware that NUC does this. More importantly, there is access to good entrepreneurship education books, case studies, educational videos, and podcast materials to reflect classroom reality using PowerPoint features. Financing is also an important success factor. Most universities still teach entrepreneurship in theory, like economics and business management, and lack access to infrastructure facilities, teaching materials and stable electricity supply. Apart from Pan Atlantic University, Covenant University and Afe Babalola University with a clear roadmap for entrepreneurship education, I am not sure there is any university in Nigeria that aligns its entrepreneurship education with an ecosystem. Recently, the Opolo Global Innovation Hub sought to spark impactful entrepreneurship and innovation in some universities in Nigeria and Tekedia Mini-MBA also serves as a valuable knowledge-bridging measure. I attended the latter’s training and received the certificate.

Tekedia: In your opinion, what are the most critical skills and knowledge areas that entrepreneurship education should impart to students, especially in a developing economy like Nigeria?

In the new curriculum, the NUC has beautifully captured the critical skills and knowledge expected at the end of the learning experience. As an educator, I believe that entrepreneurship education in Nigeria must be practical, action-oriented, context-specific, and oriented towards local challenges and a supportive entrepreneurial environment. It aims to teach students independence, motivation, and self-employment skills and to promote economic growth and innovation through value creation, value delivery and value capture. This practical training begins by teaching fundamental business concepts in entrepreneurship, allowing students to identify opportunities while understanding customer needs and preferences. Entrepreneurship requires dealing with complex challenges as well as sophisticated problem-solving and critical thinking skills. For students who want to become entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs, problem-solving education prepares them to overcome obstacles and make informed decisions. While business planning and strategy are important, not all students excel at financial matters. Therefore, teaching them to develop comprehensive business plans using the “Economics of One Unit of Sales” approach can provide a solid foundation. This method helps students present their business goals, strategies, and financial projections. A holistic entrepreneurship education program should include financial management, budgeting, obtaining financing, and effective cash flow monitoring. Additionally, students must be familiar with marketing principles to reach customers and expand their customer base using both online and offline marketing strategies. Risk management is an essential part of entrepreneurship and involves taking, calculating, and limiting risks. Students must understand risks in the context of legal and regulatory requirements, recognize the benefits of insurance, and apply risk mitigation strategies. Additionally, networking and relationship building are crucial as they provide students with valuable support and opportunities. Therefore, entrepreneurship training also includes instruction on networking and relationship management. In today’s dynamic landscape, technology and digital skills are essential.  These enable students to explore opportunities in e-commerce, social media marketing, AI, and data analysis and to optimize business processes. Equally important are emotional intelligence, resilience, and adaptability, especially in crises and periods of emotional stress. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances and persevere in the face of adversity is an important resource skill for entrepreneurs. Finally, entrepreneurship education should provide students with practical experiences anchored in a global perspective. In an increasingly connected world, hands-on involvement through internships, projects, and the hands-on experience of starting small businesses is invaluable. Understanding global markets, trade and opportunities is beneficial even for companies that focus on local markets. Essentially, Nigerian entrepreneurship education must provide practical, comprehensive training to prepare students for the diverse world of entrepreneurship.

Tekedia: How can Nigerian universities enhance collaboration with industry and startups to provide real-world experiences for students interested in entrepreneurship?

The question of educating people to think and act entrepreneurially was raised several times. Entrepreneurship education is not taught in isolation; It requires universities to build an ecosystem that uses the Triple Helix or Quadruple Helix models. Improving collaboration between Nigerian universities and industry/start-ups to provide practical experience to students interested in entrepreneurship can be mutually beneficial in several ways. Below are some recommended strategies that can facilitate this collaboration. First, it makes sense to set up incubation centres and innovation centres on campus where students can work on their entrepreneurial projects. These hubs can also serve as spaces where industry experts and startup founders can mentor and collaborate with students. Second, public and private universities must actively seek partnerships with local industries and successful startups through joint research projects, guest lectures, workshops, internship opportunities, and sponsored entrepreneurship programs. When it comes to guest lectures and workshops, universities should invite industry experts and start-up founders to share their experiences, insights, and practical knowledge with students on campus, providing real-world perspectives on entrepreneurship. Collaborative Research Projects (CRPs) should be developed to address real-world challenges and create innovative projects with commercial potential. These CRPs can attract resources and funding for entrepreneurial initiatives on college campuses and engage students and faculty in opportunities for innovation and practical problem-solving. The role of internships and external programs in entrepreneurship education cannot be underestimated. Universities must enable internships and external internships for students at industrial companies and start-ups. These hands-on industrial learning experiences provide students with direct insight into entrepreneurship and help them build valuable networks. Universities also need to develop mentoring programs to connect students with experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts. Industry mentors can support students in developing their startup ideas and overcoming the challenges of entrepreneurship. In the UK and other advanced learning ecosystems, entrepreneurship competitions, hackathons and business plan competitions are recognized in collaboration with industry partners. These events offer students the opportunity to present their ideas and receive feedback from industry experts. The annual NUC-EDC Business Plan Competition is a commendable development. The impact of alumni engagement is enormous. Universities should use the alumni network to connect current students with graduates who have gone on to become successful entrepreneurs. Alumni can provide mentorship, investment opportunities and networking connections. Alumni, in collaboration with universities, can conduct joint workshops and training programs with industry partners on topics such as business development, marketing and technology to equip students with practical skills needed for entrepreneurship.

Tekedia: Are there successful case studies or examples of Nigerian universities effectively integrating entrepreneurship education into their academic programmes? What lessons can we learn from them?

The few successful case studies of Nigerian universities that I know of that effectively integrate entrepreneurship education into their academic programs include Pan Atlantic University, Covenant University, Afe Babalola University, and the American University of Nigeria, among others. For example, Pan Atlantic University’s Center for Enterprise Development Services (EDS) teaches entrepreneurship and trains entrepreneurs to address the shortage of creative businesspeople and business managers. It provides professional business development and support services to small and growing businesses in Nigeria. Another model is Covenant University’s Center for Entrepreneurial Development Studies, which empowers the university’s graduates and the host community to become entrepreneurs to transform them into productive wealth creators who can contribute significantly to national socio-economic and human development. The centre operates and coordinates the Entrepreneurial Development Studies (EDS), a tailor-made program of the university. Entrepreneurship Education (EE) is a semester-long program and a required course for all students, regardless of major. The EDC is responsible for coordinating and communicating the theoretical perspectives of entrepreneurship, coordinating practical demonstrations in selected entrepreneurial areas, and facilitating community impact and capacity-building initiatives. Meanwhile, entrepreneurship at Afe Babalola University is a dynamic and integral part of the educational experience, reflecting the institution’s commitment to fostering innovation, creativity, and self-reliance in its students. The American University of Nigeria also follows a similar model to Covenant University.

 

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