Raising next generation of entrepreneurs
Before colonization, men and women were taught traditional skills such as sculpting, fishing, blacksmithing, farming, dressmaking, these were skills passed on from their ancestors. These were skills that had been developed over time and traditional innovation had improved the techniques from generation to generation. When they had produced more than they could consume, they used the surplus in exchange for products they required, and this was the bedrock of entrepreneurship in Nigeria. However, these sorts of entrepreneurial skills were never institutionalized when Nigeria was colonized, leaving the society to believe that entrepreneurial/vocational skills, like the ones mentioned, are not of true value. Unfortunately, this idea ingrained in us by the colonialist is still very apparent today.
Nigeria has a sizable number of small-scale enterprises who are employers of 75% of the labour force in the country, however, It is important to note that starting a small scale enterprise does not always equate to entrepreneurship, although, a small scale enterprise can create a good platform for entrepreneurship. A more elaborate interpretation of entrepreneurship by Adidu and Olannye states that entrepreneurship could be described as a process that involves the transformation of innovative and creative ideas into profitable activities, especially outside an existing organization. Entrepreneurship is essentially about thinking out of the box and solving existing problems, it involves a passionate individual or group with the enthusiasm to identify a gap in the society or market as a business opportunity. After conceiving the idea an entrepreneur would need to evaluate their business idea/plan, execute the plan, cultivate the business to grow to maturity, maintain the stability of the business growth, expand the business and improve standard/quality till business decline.
In Nigeria today most of the individuals called “entrepreneurs” have been forced into starting a small-scale enterprise due to the pandemic unemployment issue in the country, not because they desired to start a new business or to be an entrepreneur. Most of them would have preferred a white-collar job that comes with a regular income and job security if given the opportunity. Bearing this in mind, it would be difficult for a person who has turned to their last resort, or their second-best option to be passionate or creative to undertake true entrepreneurship. Some new-age entrepreneurs are starting trends in the market and exemplifying what true entrepreneurship is about such as pioneers of Lifebank, Gokada, FarmCrowdy, PiggyVest, Kobo360 to name a few. The concepts of each of the businesses mentioned have created new ways of doing business in Nigeria.
For example, Gokada created a platform that allows its customers to order motorcycle taxi, fondly called “Okada”, to their exact location from their smartphone. It also allows Okada riders to connect with customers much easier, which increases their daily income stream. Also, Lifebank has created a digital blood bank application that links hospitals to blood banks, all the hospital needs to do is enter the blood type that is needed and lifebank delivers in under two hours, saving someone’s life. These are the entrepreneurial spirits we need in Nigeria to fill market gaps and institutional voids innovatively. The major issue with innovation is the risk factor, which diminishes the enthusiasm of people to pursue new ideas, but this is where government influence is important.
The government has a huge role to play in entrepreneurial development. Although there are a number of institutions that have been set up to develop entrepreneurship in Nigeria such as Small & Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), National Open Apprenticeship Scheme (NOAS) and N-Power, because of bureaucracy, nepotism and policy instability the impact of these programmes and initiatives is not noticed in the society. To be innovative citizens need to be assured by the government that they can still live a decent life for themselves and their children even if their idea fails; if innovators have a soft platform to land on at a failed attempt they will still be determined to try again and again. Some people in Nigeria believe that if they go through with their great idea and it does not work out, they have mortgaged their future and, their children’s future and this affects the level of creativity and innovation we have in our society. In conclusion, what do we do to develop entrepreneurship? As the saying goes, charity begins at home. Parents need to encourage their children to think more creatively and explore new skills.
By exposing youths to a variety of activities, it expands the mind and broadens their thinking techniques. Some parents focus their children exclusively on conventional academics, and have a set plan on how their children will follow a specific career path that will align them to their idea of success, which is what our colonialist had taught us decades ago, but even they have evolved passed this way of thinking and we need to do the same.
Secondly, educational institutions need to encourage creative thinking and teach new skills to broaden their students’ abilities. Extracurricular activities are a great way for the youth to explore what they are passionate about. Schools need to introduce idea incubators and entrepreneurship hubs, this will help to evolve the thinking of students and get them into the attitude of thinking outside of the box to solve problems. Thirdly, according to Sheik Mohammed of Dubai, the responsibility of any government is to make its citizens happy. If citizens are confident that the government has a system that protects their livelihood and as a result citizens are happy, they will be more risk-loving to innovate. If the Nigerian government can provide basic infrastructure such as roads, electricity, healthcare, education, they can leave the creativity and innovation to their citizens who are traditionally great entrepreneurs.
Wabara is currently a doctoral student of entrepreneurship at Ebonyi State University.
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