I am of the opinion that perhaps the ugly, unfortunate and regrettable incident where many young Nigerians lost their lives in a stampede during the Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment exercise could have been avoided if the government had taken youth unemployment a bit more seriously and as a top priority over the years.
This recent disaster is only reminding us ones again that youth unemployment is a big issue that calls for urgent attention and pragmatic solutions. One of the things we need to look at is how to create more jobs through youth entrepreneurship. With this in mind it all starts by tackling the problems that hinder entrepreneurship in Nigeria some of which are: lack of finance for aspiring entrepreneurs, infrastructural deficiency in Nigeria, inadequate business support for young entrepreneurs, skill and talent gap. The earlier the government begins to create an enabling environment for youth entrepreneurship to thrive the better for us as a nation.
It therefore becomes important that we also begin to look at the trends and what is happening in other economies, how technology is leap-frogging developments. This will direct government’s effort at fostering entrepreneurship in Nigeria. The right types of businesses should be encouraged. Put simply, Nigerian youths should be encouraged to go into tech-based businesses.
According to the Journal for Sustainable Development entrepreneurship generally and technological entrepreneurship in particular are now considered as the engine for economic development. Most emerging economies and developing countries have adopted Technology Business Incubation to fast-track the creation of new technology-based enterprises because of its more than 80% success rate of new venture creation, and have consequently benefited from its multiplier effects such as technology/knowledge transfer, employment generation and wealth creation. Technology-driven and knowledge-based developments not only exhibit tremendous business potential, but also offer a range of innovative applications beneficial to various sectors of the society.
As this opportunity has been identified, for Nigeria to reduce this high rate of youth unemployment and to build a great economic backbone for the future, entrepreneurship education should be part of the university curriculum. Not only that, the strength of our youths in the Nigerian universities should be channeled towards Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation. This is the time to empower the Nigerian academic community to play key roles in fostering entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
The key to building such an ecosystem is in understanding that the triangle of innovation around the world is held together by the cooperative endeavor of the Government, the academic Community, and the Technology Industry. A deficiency or disconnect in any of these key drivers of innovation will definitely bring an imbalance in the innovation ecosystem. This makes the role of the academic community in driving innovation very critical.
The importance of this collaboration of the academy, the industry and government is crucial for creating a fostering entrepreneurial ecosystem. The industry funding experience and networking; the academy human resources and R&D capabilities; and the government policy – all combined together creates an effective way of promoting and developing business, education and technology for a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Am also aware that several approaches and projects have been undertaken by the government to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria. Perhaps it is time for a new method, it is time to critically look at what other nations like Israel and the US are doing in the area of technology entrepreneurship and the role of the academics.
For example, the contribution of Technion-Israel Institute of technology to the technological development of Israel and the world clearly shows how relevant the academic community could be in leading innovation in a nation. The story of Israel’s transformation as a Technology giant cannot be complete without mentioning the contributions of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology which has graduated over 67,000 tech entrepreneurs and professionals that are adding great value to the Start-up Nation and the world at large.
As documented in the book Technion Nation, the story of how Technion Graduates are contributing to the development of Israel’s economy, the over 67,000 graduates, holding over 90,000 degrees, indeed became the foundation for Israel’s start-ups, basic research, applied technology, high-tech industry, global management expertise, export sector and economic growth.
Specifically, the Technion’s aeronautical engineering department has spurred key breakthroughs for Israel’s defense. Its electrical engineering and Computer science departments have provided the talented graduates who drive Israel’s electronics and software industry, which generates $20billion of Israel’s $40 billion in annual exports. Its architecture and Civil Engineering departments built Israel’s roads and infrastructure. And three of Technion’s talented faculty have won Nobel Prizes in the past eight years. This is just the contribution of one university!
Others like Tel Aviv University, Israel has contributed in making the city of Tel Aviv a leading innovation hub in the world after Silicon Valley. In the US, the likes of Harvard University, MIT, Stanford, Geogiatech are a few of higher education communities that have conquered their environment and are extending their tentacles to other countries and helping them develop innovation around research and development of innovative products and services.
My view is that there is urgent need for our universities to set up Technology Entrepreneurship centres to groom and support young graduates . A Technology Entrepreneurship Centre in the Nigerian universities with the support of the Nigerian Government, the Technology Industry and the University community will help form a great synergy that will ensure the development of entrepreneurship in Nigeria, help tackle youth unemployment which has become hydra-headed.
Such tech centres will serve as an incubation platform for young entrepreneurs who are undergraduates, graduates, researchers and the academic community. The center in its first year of establishment should be capable of supporting the building of at least 100 technology focused businesses out of the university community in Nigeria. These businesses will focus on using science, Technology and Innovation to solve real problems in the society.
The tech centres will provide business support services and the technology needed, to undergraduates, graduates, researchers and the entire academic community. This support will help them launch, nurture and grow their own businesses thereby reducing the high unemployment rate in Nigeria.
The centres will also help in the commercialization of ideas, inventions, and projects from the academic community – To tap into the potentials of renowned and distinguished professors and other academics to build world class businesses. This will be a catalyst that will drive innovation from the Nigerian Universities. It will provide a platform that will foster collaboration in research and development between Israel, the US and Nigeria.
Through an exchange program, Entrepreneurs from such centers will have opportunity to visit Israel, Silicon Valley and also learn from the culture of entrepreneurship in those countries.
The Technology Innovation centres will be a channel to introduce Nigeria young tech entrepreneurs and their businesses to the international market and expose them to Venture Capitalists, partners etc. that will scale their businesses.
In conclusion, am happy some Universities in Nigeria are beginning to think in that direction. In other to start off such discussions around technology entrepreneurship in Nigerian Universities, EduNet Conference 2014 (www.edunetconference.com) will be hosted by the ICT centre and the Institute for Entrepreneurship Development Studies of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in May. This conference will provide the platform for discussions with the Government, Nigerian Universities, Funding organizations and the Technology industry in collaboration with Tel Aviv University Entrepreneurship Centre (StarTAU) Israel on how to foster Technology Entrepreneurship in Nigerian Universities. This is surely the right way to go in other to secure the future of our dear country and the time is now!