The academia, policymakers and practitioners have been urged to work together to facilitate entrepreneurship towards birthing an era of growth and prosperity in Africa.
This theme engaged participants on Monday at the first Nigeria Entrepreneurship Research Workshop (NERW), convened by a UK-based Nigerian academic expert, Seun Kolade, at the University of Ibadan (UI).
The workshop was organised by the De Montfort University (DMU), Leicester, UK, in collaboration with the UI. It brought together scholars and practitioners from across disciplines to facilitate ideas on entrepreneurship research and practices in Nigeria.
Mr Kolade said that over the past decade, a new narrative of growth opportunities, value creation and inclusive development was taking hold in Africa, replacing the ‘heart of darkness’ image.
“While significant challenges remain, stakeholders are moving away from the old model of top-down interventions to embrace a new paradigm of partnership underpinned by the agency of African people. Entrepreneurship is at the heart of this drive to transform challenges into shared opportunities, and launch a new era of growth and prosperity in the continent.
“However, in order to actualise this grand vision of a prosperous Africa, three key stakeholders must work together. These are the scholars and researchers in academia, the practitioners in the industry, and the policy makers and executives in the government. For long, these stakeholders have tended to carry out their activities in isolation, and invariably at cross-purposes, to the detriment of public interest.
“At best, where and when there is contact among these stakeholders, it is often underpinned by top-down patronage and clientele orientation. This paradigm of interaction is outmoded and not fit for purpose in the 21st century. For one, the functional categories are not, and should not, be fixed.”
Mr Kolade, a senior lecturer at DMU, also spoke on the impacts of university scholars in the society beyond knowledge creation, and the importance of the industry practitioners.
“Scholars in academia should not be seen only as producers of knowledge, but also as users and learners. In effect, university researchers should fully and unashamedly embrace the enormous opportunities to learn from industry practitioners, as well as share knowledge with them. For good measure, university scholars should not be viewed merely as producers of academic knowledge that is of little practical value.
“In the same vein, industry practitioners should not be cast only as knowledge users or viewed as incapable of generating important theoretical and academic knowledge. Rather, they should be valued as equal and important partners in the co-creation of knowledge.”
He called on the Nigerian government to embrace its role as the critical link between academic scholars and industry practitioners.
Speaking on entrepreneurship research, policy and practice in Nigeria, the keynote speaker, Willy Siyanbola, a professor at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, emphasised the need for a process to understand the complex behaviour of entrepreneurs, the policy environment and the process of business development.
“Many prominent entrepreneurship research institutions have developed indicators to profile practising entrepreneurs, including their demographics, motivations, ambitions, attitudes, abilities and business characteristics. These institutions have reliably developed global entrepreneurship index to monitor the strength of the entrepreneurship ecosystem and other framework conditions with a view to improving them.
“The various initiatives and observations highlighted above put special demands on higher educational institutions (HEIs) to design and deliver appropriate curriculum for building entrepreneurship capacity among students and faculty. This is consistent with the ‘third mission’ objective of HEIs which requires them to contribute to economic activities of their region through knowledge generation and transfer as well as technology commercialisation. At the same time, strong entrepreneurship institutions, incentives and policy are necessary to create positive ambience for robust entrepreneurship ecosystem.”
He decried the incoherent entrepreneurship policies and programmes operating in Nigeria as hindering the progress of an effective entrepreneurship ecosystem.
“We note, for instance, that the introduction of entrepreneurship education policy in Nigeria’s higher institution for more than a decade has not been supported with necessary practical entrepreneurship facilities which would have encouraged/stimulated actual practice among students and faculty.
“Entrepreneurship practices in Nigeria are also hampered by poor business climate, lowly venture capital, and poor reward/incentive system for academic entrepreneurs, ‘town-gown’ dichotomy, high corruption rate and huge infrastructural deficits among others. From the policy perspective, most entrepreneurship policies in Nigeria are largely deficient in the areas of formulation, monitoring, implementation and evaluation. This is reflected in the underdeveloped nature of small businesses and the attendant poor contribution to gross domestic products (GDP),” he said.
The Nigerian Enterprise Workshop: A Synergy among Institutions
The Director of Centre for Enterprise and Innovation, University of Ibadan, Ayotola Aremu, said the workshop was put up to foster synergy among institutions – private, public and academic institutions – for the promotion of entrepreneurship in the society.
“The programme is a collaboration between De Montfort University (DMU), Leicester and the University of Ibadan through Dr Seun Kolade. The whole idea is to foster the collaboration between higher institutions here represented especially UI and the entrepreneurship research network in DMU Leicester so that we can work together to impact the society through entrepreneurship. We have researchers here from different universities, meeting together to talk about how entrepreneurship can be integrated into our universities and how it can be promoted in society.
“One of the outcomes we expect from this programme is a collaboration between the institutions that have attended, both private and public and academic institutions. When all of us come together to synergise, to affect the curriculum and to advocate concerning entrepreneurship, we know that there will be a great uptake from the society,” she said.
DMU had in the past week organised entrepreneurship boot camp for budding student entrepreneurs across Nigerian universities, including UI, Lead City University, Ibadan, and Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State.