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Good News and Bad for Teaching Entrepreneurship in Africa

Posted By Page Schindler Buchanan, Friday, January 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013

Guy PfeffermannTwo 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)!

Tags:  Entrepreneurship 

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