Nigeria’s education for entrepreneurs needs to keep it real, not just in the classroom

Africa is home to more than 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24, according to UN data. The continent has the largest youth population in the world.

This should be a sign of great productivity. Unfortunately, growing unemployment and underemployment have stalled productivity, resulting in slow growth in Africa.

Shortly after the “Arab Spring”, when youth movements helped overthrow the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, the African Development Bank predicted that the lack of good job opportunities in Africa could damage social relations and political stability.

In Nigeria, the EndSARS 2020 protests showed that youth unemployment has become an emergency that needs urgent attention.

The highest unemployment rate recorded in Nigeria in 2020 was among young people between the ages of 15 and 24. In that year, 40.8% (13.9 million) of Nigerian youths were unemployed.

Even education is not a guarantee of a good job. Unemployment among people with a doctorate degree stands at 16.9% in 2020. Many PhD graduates are still roaming the streets and online spaces looking for good jobs that match their qualifications.

More than ten years before the EndSARS protests, the Ministry of Education in Nigeria in collaboration with the National Universities Commission introduced the Business Skills Development Course in Nigerian universities making it a compulsory course for undergraduates.

Funding was provided for the establishment of entrepreneurship centers where students and teachers could develop the capacity for entrepreneurship. These institutions are also meant to serve as centers of advice and support for faculty and student entrepreneurs.

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The goal is to support the emergence of a university environment where students and teachers create value that will attract financial returns. This will also give Nigerian graduates more opportunities in their working life – not just competing for white collar jobs.

Ten years later, the graduate unemployment rate is still rising. This begins to reveal the need to rethink design, delivery and collaboration for the implementation of Nigerian entrepreneurship education programmes.

My PhD research aims to contribute to this by exploring students’ experiences of business education in the universities of Lagos and Ogun states.

I noticed that the participating students have high marketing skills, but they don’t really want to use them. They do not understand business as a way to achieve their goals in life, and still expect white jobs. The solution, I believe, is for the curriculum and teaching support to be realistic about business – part by drawing real entrepreneurs as a resource.

A place to focus for impact

I administered questionnaires to 2,394 students and interviewed six CEOs of business development agencies in Lagos and Ogun state.

One thing I want to understand is the part of the marketing program that can quickly produce a significant impact. Student engagement, student support, teaching quality and teaching resources are areas I looked at. Among these, teaching behavior showed the strongest ability to make an impact quickly.

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What it means is that teachers and business educators need to know what to teach, what not to teach, and how to teach.

In short, teachers who are traders themselves will be good teachers of trading. Their personal stories will make a big difference.

The findings also provide evidence that effective business education programs require support.

When it comes to supporting students, only one university in my study has a structured process to help students develop their startups. Other universities offer access to lenders and investors to support student businesses.

Procedures should be put in place for student grants, competitions, seed money, mentoring, software and other opportunities that support student businesses. It is up to the university administration to do this.

Support from external stakeholders will be an additional resource rather than a pillar supporting university programs.

One of the leaders of the entrepreneurship and skills development agency pointed out that entrepreneurship education is not cheap to provide but the government does not provide enough education and training opportunities. Large classes of over 600 students also made it difficult to teach effectively. Students should be able to work in small groups and groups.

Tools to use

Government funding appears to be shrinking, as evidenced by the recent teacher strike. So there may be a need to attract external stakeholders to support competitions, clubs and student organizations.

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The learning experience of students should include direct contact with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs. It doesn’t just involve reading about, hearing about, talking about, or writing about marketing.

Those who conduct such courses should provide students with activities that connect them to the world of entrepreneurs.



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Not every part of the curriculum can be taught by academics. There should be a link that allows entrepreneurs to become teachers, mentors and funders of business students.

Sometimes a street vendor, a street worker or a street vendor is the best person to teach students about starting a business.

Other useful types are those who have years of experience succeeding and succeeding as an entrepreneur.

Explains the way forward

A sustainable business skills development program requires a collaborative process of universities, entrepreneurs, successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs and participating students.

The university authorities should provide a system that will open the university for collaboration with businessmen and companies to provide support in terms of seed money, equipment, human resources and technical skills.

Universities should base decisions about engagement and collaboration on data about the most relevant factors.

Marketing of products and university production should be supported. Business coaches should be valued. The system should accept the hand between theory and practice.

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