Entrepreneurship Development in Universities – The Namibian

MEIKE NEITZ

A STUDY by an American-African research group paints a bleak picture of the higher education sector in Africa, saying current curricula are failing to train the younger generation in entrepreneurship and critical thinking.

Currently, it does not prepare and encourage young people to be entrepreneurs, i.e. job creators themselves, but rather paves the way to seek employment mainly in the public sector. .

Behind the study is the Alliance for African Partnership (AAP), a collaboration between Michigan State University and partner universities across the African continent.

The report criticizes the curricula of many African countries for leaving “little room for innovation and creativity”.

The report, titled “The Young Entrepreneur Ecosystem for Sustainable Development in Sub-Saharan Africa”, was conducted in nine African countries: Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.

He found that: “Entrepreneurship education is a common challenge. Although universities, vocational schools and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) contribute to entrepreneurship education, there is a notable skills gap in each participating country.

In his foreword, Richard Mkandawire, Director of the AAP Africa office, says, “This work provides critical insight into the intense obstacles facing young people, thousands of whom have dropped out of school systems prematurely, as well as the identification of opportunities to support young people to overcome these obstacles. . .

“It helps African higher education institutions re-examine the approaches they have honed over decades of engagement in teaching and researching youth in Africa.”

The 180-page report does not whitewash the major challenges that African countries are currently facing.

“Empowerment is not just a word; strategies and resources should accompany it. This study reveals that lack of access to funds, technology, land, information and communication technologies and markets hinders youth entrepreneurship. Information sharing and access to valuable resources and services are as important as training to empower young people in Africa,” he said.

An interesting finding of the report is that not only is there a lack of an entrepreneurial mindset, but also simple self-promotion tools for job seekers.

“Young Africans still face unemployment because the skills they acquire are often incompatible with the job market. It has been found that young people often lack the marketing skills to sell their talent to potential investors or employers.

“Communication and business management run parallel and need to be developed in entrepreneurship education.”

Giving a glimpse of hope, the report points out that graduates of technical and vocational education and training institutions in many countries were often better equipped for corporate jobs and self-employment, which can mainly be attributed to their practice. more practical. oriented training and development of skills received in the establishments.

The report, released this month, not only highlights shortcomings, but also gives concrete recommendations: “Ecosystem actors, including government as a key stakeholder, should create an enabling environment by promoting youth-specific financing mechanisms, access to markets, policies, infrastructure and support programs contributing to sustainable youth entrepreneurial activities within and across local borders.

It suggests dedicated entrepreneurship programs for graduates and recommends integrating entrepreneurship education from the earliest stages of education.

The authors go on to say that higher institutions’ development of the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” should ideally be done in close collaboration with external stakeholders, including NGOs and the private sector.

The study also highlights that entrepreneurship cannot be taught effectively if its teachers only have a theoretical understanding of it.

“They need to have some form of entrepreneurial experience in order to improve their teaching methodologies, and there needs to be a program to support ongoing teacher development. Therefore, coordinated efforts to bridge the gap between theory and practice must be undertaken,” he says.

Higher education institutions are advised to work closely with other players in the entrepreneurship ecosystem to avoid duplication of activities or the creation of silos.

One recommendation is “to have intermediary institutions or agents that coordinate entrepreneurial activities towards a common goal”.

The report further states: “Universities could bring in local alumni and experts to serve as mentors, coaches and funders of student entrepreneurial activities.

Finally, as many large companies are based on a customer-centric approach, this should also be the case for the development of entrepreneurship: “The entrepreneurial ecosystem should be built from the point of view of the entrepreneur, focusing focusing on the enrichment of entrepreneurial mindset and skills, and towards entrepreneurial activities aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.

In Namibia, the situation has not been much different in recent years, but that is about to change.

Developing more entrepreneurs within universities is one of the aims of Anicia Peters, pro-vice chancellor for research, innovation and development at the University of Namibia.

She says university principals have realized that the traditional curriculum falls short of the demands of rapidly changing economies, where entrepreneurs are the backbone of the economy and the engine of innovation.

“We have launched more entrepreneurship training and incubation programs through our Chancellor’s Innovation Fund and the IA Agriculture Incubator. We are also expanding our partnership with local and international entrepreneurship ecosystem players like Dololo, StartUp Namibia, Gen Namibia and Ambitious Africa, which we are extremely excited about.

“I’m sure we’ll see more successful entrepreneurs coming out of Namibian universities in the near future,” she says.

The full report can be viewed on the African Partnership Alliance website.

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