Two figures convey dramatically Nigeria’s evolution of the
past 20 years – during which half of today’s population were born: employment
in farming dropped from two-thirds of the total to only about 20 percent, while
"self-employment” (in fact, mostly urban underemployment) soared from 23 to
about 60 percent. Only one in five "employed”
Nigerians earn wages.
Luckily, many Nigerians are "born business people.” Only in
Lagos have I seen ambulant salesmen offering drivers stuck in traffic camera
tripods! Therefore, entrepreneurship education falls on fertile ground.
Last week I took part there in a conference – "Exploring
Enterprise Education in Africa” - convened by an outstanding institution: the
Enterprise Development Center (EDC), which is part of the Pan-African
University. Lagos Business School, a member of GBSN’s Executive Board, is also part of
the Pan-African University. Faculty from GBSN member schools collaborated for
several years with EDC as they created a 6-months modular Certificate in Entrepreneurial
Management (CEM), which is now being replicated in other Nigerian cities as
well as elsewhere in Africa. EDC trained the first group of Goldman Sachs’s
"10,000 Women” scholars.
I came back elated, inspired, but also very sobered.
The good news is that a replicable model exists in Nigeria,
which teaches how to recognize opportunities, value propositions and take
advantage of these. Follow-up surveys of EDC alumni demonstrate that their
small businesses grew and so created jobs.
I was inspired by some of the alumni
I met in Lagos and in Abuja: a lady who grew a fruit juice stall into a
thriving small business ("Olivia’s Juices”); a veterinarian who, thanks to EDC,
added a small pet food and supplies store to his practice, and so is able to
keep improving animal care; a lady who runs a private school. An interior
designer said: "CEM has taught me that I just need stopping procrastinating,
and take action now and make sure that it happens;” another: "CEM has taught me
to think on my feet.”
I was especially
moved when I realized that EDC had actually spawned a movement for good. Not
only do alumni form a strong network and help one another’s businesses meet
challenges, they offer sound business advice to others, their
friends-and-relations, so extending CEM’s impact.
The sobering news is that most mainstream universities face
almost insurmountable challenges in teaching entrepreneurship. A host of
government regulations inhibit innovation, and few faculty have entrepreneurial
experience. Consequently, universities deliver mostly "warehouse courses” which
fail to impart entrepreneurial skills.
Last but not least, I was invited to EDC’s 10th anniversary
celebration, where I was dragged on-stage to take part in an exuberant Nigerian
dance (see us in the video below)!