Saturday, 23rd September 2023

Unlocking hidden potential in youths with entrepreurship studies

By  Eno-Abasi Sunday, Deputy Editor
30 April 2023   |   3:17 am
Parfait, a type of dessert, which originated in France around 1890, is made by boiling cream, egg, sugar, and syrup to create a custard-like or meringue-like puree, which is thereafter frozen.

Akeju on duty! Inset: One of her handmade pinafores

Parfait, a type of dessert, which originated in France around 1890, is made by boiling cream, egg, sugar, and syrup to create a custard-like or meringue-like puree, which is thereafter frozen.
Over the years, the parfait has undergone modifications leading to it repackaging as a layered dessert served in transparent glass cups or containers. In cozy eateries and restaurants located in cosmopolitan centres where they are sold across the country, they carry N2,000 to N3,000 price tags depending, of course on the outfit.
With the country’s economy being on life support for the better part of the last eight years, this amount is considered princely for a cone of dessert. Twenty-two-year-old Maureen Nneoma Emenike, a student of Abia State University, Uturu, Abia State, trended for over 48 hours as a result of her creative way of packaging what she has named “Garfait,” her brand of parfait made from garri. Garri is a flour derivative from the fresh starchy cassava root.  

Presently, Garfait, which is on sale on the campus of Abia State University, Uturu, and beyond is arranged in the transparent cup as follows- groundnut, sugar, milk, and garri in descending order.
Introducing the latest addition to her products via her ME_Foods Twitter handle- @Nne_diya, Miss Emenike wrote: “Garri in high esteem. I believe garri deserves more respect. Which is why I have decided to crown it King! Ladies and gentlemen, behold Garfait! A rich combination of garri, milk, sugar, and toppings. Your saving grace when hunger comes knocking. Just add water! Garfait…”
Before now, Emenike’s outfit was majorly into snacks and allied stuff. And in summarising her trip into the business world, she told The Guardian: “My journey into the business world has been quite challenging. While I understood how to run my business and the Unique Selling Point (USP), I was terrible at finances, and within seven months, I was broke. I had to borrow to sustain my business at a point.
“It was also a beautiful experience for me because I started learning more, and I had to focus on developing myself. I took courses to help my business on social media and it paid off. My business started thriving once again, and I got better at managing my finances and it has only gotten better. I do not intend to end small and I am ready for whatever comes with it,” she stated. 
Emenike is one of those that have got inspired or benefited from the introduction of entrepreneurship studies into the Nigeria University Education (NUC), a development that was aimed at letting loose the creativity, and business instincts that are bottled up in Nigerian youths. 
She confessed: “The introduction of entrepreneurship education has been more than helpful to me. I took the course in 200 Level and that was the first time that I learnt about Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and Unique Value Proposition (UVP), which are very important aspects of entrepreneurship. It was difficult when I learnt of it the first time, but I was already invested in the business, so I took my time to clearly understand it and apply it in my business.” 
She added: “A lot of businesses suffer because they’re not able to understand these concepts and define their markets. Nigerian students who take this course are lucky enough to learn this, when they eventually begin their businesses, they’ll have a background knowledge of what to expect and what to do.”

Entrepreneurship Education’s Journey Into Nigerian Universities
ON November 19, 2014, the National Universities Commission (NUC), and the Association of Business Executives (ABE) of the United Kingdom, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was aimed at promoting entrepreneurship education in Nigerian universities.

One of the products of Sola’s Prince Collections

Specifically, the initiative entailed every undergraduate undergoing relevant general and specific programmes in entrepreneurship, which was expected to help them set up profitable business ventures along their professional lines, or on a new different idea entirely after graduation.
ABE, a not-for-profit skills development specialist, and The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual)-regulated awarding organisation provides internationally recognised qualifications, learning, credentials, and quality assurance in the fields of business, entrepreneurship, and employability.
Founded in 1973 as The Association of Business Executives, by Dr. Lyndon Jones, the outfit later metamorphosed into ABE, even as it was built with a clear social purpose – to improve business education for aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries, a mission that required courage, resilience, and the determination to make a difference.
The MoU signing ceremony was after the ABE, through a letter by its then chief executive officer, Mr. John Goldup, requested to partner with the NUC to promote entrepreneurship education in Nigerian universities.
An October 2, 2014, dated letter with the reference NUC/ES/306/Vol.5, signed by then executive secretary of the NUC, Prof. Julius Okojie, and addressed to Goldup, conveyed the commission’s endorsement and formal approval to ABE’s request.
It read in part, “The commission in consideration of your pedigree as a reputable international organisation and professional body, wishes to convey its formal approval of the proposed ABE international certification programme for delivery in Nigerian universities. Please accept the assurance of the executive secretary’s highest regards.” 
Over the years, education experts and stakeholders have expressed worries that most varsities in the country were producing graduates that are best suited for white-collar jobs only, and with scant basic skills of any other vocational relevance. This theoretical inclination, many considered a major defect in the country’s educational system.
Expectedly, this “defect” added to the litany of problems plaguing the country, which include, but are not limited to worsening insecurity, graduate unemployment, grinding poverty, and sundry societal challenges. 
As the long-drawn debate on whether entrepreneurs can be trained in the classroom/school rages, many commentators seem to agree with the fact that entrepreneurship studies are replete with favourable social and economic consequences.
They also maintain that entrepreneurship education can aid national transformation through the provision of employment opportunities, improve under-dependency on white-collar jobs by varsities graduates, as well as bring about an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) among others. 
Years after entrepreneurial studies debuted in the curriculum of the Nigeria University System (NUS), the present leadership of the NUC insists that the initiative remains a laudable one and deserves commendation.
The Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, while kick-starting a two-day brainstorming session with Directors of Entrepreneurship Centres of Nigerian universities, aimed at achieving a more productive university education system, stressed that the development of entrepreneurship education in the NUS would make students fit-for-purpose in the labour market. The session was in partnership with the British Council (BC). 
Rasheed pointed out the need to embed entrepreneurship education in the curriculum of all programmes taught in universities because of its potential to unlock hidden potential in students, helping them identify skills that could prepare them for the labour market.
Initiative As Step In The Right Direction 
SOME entrepreneurship education beneficiaries are of the view that the initiative has so far been successful, despite the challenges besetting it.
Said Emenike: “The introduction of entrepreneurship education is a very laudable initiative considering the lack of entrepreneurial spirit in most Nigerian youths, who would rather wait for white-collar jobs than create something for themselves. 
“The few who decide to venture into business lack the knowledge needed to sustain them. I’ve seen a lot of youth entrepreneurs who know nothing about running their businesses or taking advantage of social media, which is terrible. 
“So, the introduction of entrepreneurship education has created more awareness and provided the privilege of learning basic entrepreneurial principles without having to pay for courses online,” she stated. 
Twenty-three-year-old Adeyemi Emmanuel Sola is another youth that has taken advantage of the scheme to improve his lot and become an employer of labour. He specifically stressed that the introduction of entrepreneurship studies has exposed beneficiaries to both practical and theoretical aspects of business, “giving us a direction regarding what to do after graduation, and how to go about it. It has helped in the birth of our brand, and brand positioning for growth.”
Recalling his foray into the business world, the chief executive of Prince Collections said: “In my early years, I sold clothes, wristwatches, bags, and shoes up until the second semester of my first year in Landmark University, Omu-Aran, Kwara State, when I got the inspiration to venture into men’s footwear. Having found myself in an environment where there was no access to a lot of trending things for students, I moved to provide a solution to that. Upon resumption, I started by retailing good and stylish slippers and that was how the brand grew from. Prince Collections started as a brand in April 2016, and a couple of years after, we started production. Today, we have our shoe factory, and we are poised to become the leading handmade leatherwear factory in the country. By so doing, we will achieve our larger goal, which is to get as many to embrace made-in-Nigeria products thereby impacting the economy positively, and empowering youths to embrace skills acquisition.”
He continued: “From retailing shoes that I brought in from Cotonou, Benin Republic, I engaged people to produce shoes during my stay in school. After graduation, I enrolled myself in a programme at the Covenant University Lifelong Learning Centre, and that was where I acquired the knowledge of shoemaking, obtained my Basic Certificate in Shoemaking, and improved my skills daily with YouTube videos and tutorials. From there, I got my first workspace, and I started with just one staff. Today, to the glory of God, we have 11. Our production rate has increased from five pairs a week to 25-30 pairs weekly. I feel blessed every day to be an employer of labour. Although there are challenges, seeing the business grow gives me so much joy despite these challenges. 
“Presently, we have customers in over five countries and over 20 celebrities have worn our products. Our clients’ base has over 3,000 just as we have churned out over 8,000 pairs of footwear to date. We also have three walk-in stores, and one factory despite the challenging business environment. Some of the challenges that we face are in the areas of staffing, source of raw materials, and lack of funds for needed expansion,” said Sola, who hold a Bachelor of Science (Crop Science), and an MBA (Marketing) from Landmark University.

Opeyemi Odeniran Akeju, who studied Agronomy at the Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH), is another youth who described as laudable, the introduction of entrepreneurship education into the education system. Having learnt crocheting in senior secondary school and even gifting her products to friends and relatives, she fell back to the skills shortly after she got married as an undergraduate, and was also exposed to entrepreneurship education.

“I started crocheting professionally in 2015 when I decided to monetise my products, and that was shortly after my first child was born. I was still an undergraduate and my school was on a long strike. So, each time I took my daughter for immunisation at the health centre, I saw people bringing wares to sell there. I thought of using what I learnt in secondary school to make money and that was crochet. My husband was against it at first, saying that my wares would be underpriced. He even asked how much I would make from it to be worth the stress, the chief executive of Desire Crochets said.

“After I told him not to worry about all that as there was no harm in trying, I borrowed N1,000 from my mum and bought a pack of wool- different colours- and I made hairbands, and took them to the hospital on my daughter’s next appointment date. After the usual health talk, I brought out the hairbands and showed the women that we sat on the same bench. To my greatest surprise, they started passing it around, and guess what? I sold all the 12 pieces, and some were even fighting over it. My husband even helped me in attaching buttons and flowers to the crochet works.

“From there,” Akeju said, “despite the ups and downs, including prospective buyers pricing her products poorly, she moved to three other health centres and schools, where she designed head and hand bands for their pupils and students during inter-house sports competitions.

“The fact that my products are handmade made them unique, and made the schools fall in love with them. I started getting better offers both online and offline. I also moved from crocheting only hairbands to making dresses, cardigans, and caps for all ages, and both genders. By God’s Grace, I have been able to train many people physically, and I am working towards having online classes for those interested.”

Like Sola, Akeju said: “I will love to see people appreciate Nigerian-made items more because people tend to believe that foreign-made items are better than their local counterparts. People also tend to underprice once they know that your product is Nigerian made. That said, the government should make grants and funds available for artisans and other such start-ups.”

Replacing Problem Analysts With Solution Catalysts 
SINCE the advent of entrepreneurship studies, individuals and corporate organisations have been contributing their quota to ensuring the catalysation of its impact given its expected benefits to the larger society.
That notwithstanding, experts are of the view that the widespread deficiency of creative mastery education amongst Nigerian youths is the principal factor that has made most of them become problem analysts rather than solution providers.

But the prevalent adverse socio-economic conditions do not only make the country a land of severe economic adversity, but also a land of untapped economic opportunities.  It is in this light that the partnership between the Bank of Industry, and Dream Advantage, initiators of the Commerce By Nature (CBN) Masterclass deserves a mention. The bank has been sponsoring undergraduates in Lagos for the CBN creative entrepreneurship masterclass.
The CBN Masterclass is designed as a special-purpose vehicle for entrepreneurial creative mastery education that will spur Nigerian students/youths to rise above excuses and take advantage of the country’s infinite potential for economic breakthroughs. It is also tailored to activate youth’s potential for intellectual, industrial, and entrepreneurial creativity.
Recently, nine Nigerian youths with exceptional creative-entrepreneurship exploits were honoured with the Commerce by Nature Awards, at the 2023 Lagos Edition of the Commerce by Nature Masterclass, for choosing to conquer the multitude of excuses that make others give up on Nigeria’s infinite potential for economic prosperity. 
Participants at the event were drawn from the University of Lagos; Trinity University, Lagos; Lagos State University; the Yaba College of Technology, and the Lagos State Polytechnic.
Shedding light on what prompted the CBN Masterclass, its programme director, Samson Adah Paul said: “Ten per cent of business capital is money and 90 per cent of it is mastery. Without mastery, even a billion US dollars will not be enough to enable an entrepreneur to start up and launch a successful business. Without mastery, an entrepreneur with huge startup capital will end up a captive of industry, rather than a captain of industry. Mastery enables man to conquer adversity, and without mastery, man will be conquered by adversity. With mastery, man will mine breakthroughs from adversity.
“Nature is the mother of mastery, hence, nature does not cave into excuses. Plants and trees flourish in Nigeria despite the adversity that makes citizens write off Nigeria. Mango trees, orange trees, and cocoa trees despite the country’s adverse conditions are still 100 per cent productive. So, if an entrepreneur cultivates creative mastery as nature does, he will certainly become as predictively productive and unstoppably successful as nature. It is the need to empower entrepreneurs to cultivate creative mastery as nature does that engineered the Commerce by Nature Masterclass, in partnership with the Bank of Industry.
Challenges Hampering Smooth Execution Of Scheme
SHOLA, the chief executive of Prince Collections, like many others believe that the introduction of entrepreneurship education into the NUS is a welcome initiative that will bolster the nation’s economy and productive capacity, by making graduates job creators and employers of labour.
“Indirectly, it reduces the rate of unemployment in the country, while the job creation that it brings about helps in reducing the crime rate among youths and students. We at Prince Collections are beneficiaries of this initiative, as the seed for this outfit was sown via entrepreneurship education. Having said that, I want to appeal that a lot of attention should be invested in entrepreneurship studies, and the package made more practical, funding improved, while more experienced hands should be engaged.
The initiative is plagued by many challenges, including inadequate trainers, little knowledge of entrepreneurship by the universities’ lecturers, and inadequate funds allocated for the programme by the universities’ administrators.
Miss Emenike agrees with Shola that lecturers’ capacity to deliver on the curriculum must be improved: Hear her: “Truth be told, some of the lecturers handling the entrepreneurship course are not well versed in entrepreneurship. Either that, or they do not know how to pass the knowledge effectively. 
“Also, the time frame is too short to effectively pass the knowledge. In my school, Abia State University, Uturu, the theoretical part of the course is done in the first semester while the practical aspect is done in the second semester. Coupled with the strike and the rush to meet up with the academic calendar, the knowledge is not well imparted resulting in half-baked entrepreneurs. I believe if more time is allocated to the course, it’ll get better.”
On his part, the CBN Masterclass programme director, Adah, said that introducing entrepreneurship education at the university level appears to be rather late. “It should be introduced as early as Primary 3. Languages, for example, are best learnt in childhood, not in adulthood. Entrepreneurship culture is better mastered in childhood, not in adulthood.
“The second challenge facing entrepreneurship education is that its syllabus is not thorough enough, but is simply designed to produce ‘captives of industries entrepreneurs,’ rather than ‘captains of industries entrepreneur. The syllabus is also designed to produce personal-survival entrepreneurs,’ rather than those with the capacity to transform the nation. It is in the realisation of this that the CBN Masterclass syllabus is made of the quintessential creativity multivitamins that will make entrepreneurship education offered to Nigerian youths wholesome.”
With entrepreneurship becoming a topical issue in our national discourse, especially with the large army of young school leavers that cannot find paid employment, the programme director said: “The hardship in the Nigerian environment makes Nigeria a very good place to succeed in business. As I noted in my book Dream Vacancy, ‘Business success is not a product of a land without problems, business success is rather a product of providing solutions to the problems of a land.
“The adverse social and economic conditions in the country do not make her a land of severe economic captivity. Rather it makes the country a land of untapped economic opportunities. As an author and a poet, one of my poetry books titled, Nigerian Dream, in its first four years of publication quietly sold over a hundred thousand copies in a place alleged to have a ‘poor-reading culture.’ If Nigeria lacked the social challenges that poems in the book were born to solve, there wouldn’t have been a need for Nigerians to buy the book. 
Snail’s Speed Adoption Of Entrepreneurship Studies Into Curriculum Worries BOI
THE Bank of Industry is, among other things, set up to facilitate the transformation of the industrial sector by providing financial and advisory support for the establishment of large, medium, and small projects/ enterprises, and the expansion, diversification, rehabilitation, and modernisation of existing enterprises. This much can be gleaned from its past and present engagements. Asked to assess strides recorded by entrepreneurship education since its debut in tertiary institutions about a decade ago, the bank in an emailed response said: “The pace at which many Nigerian institutions are adopting entrepreneurship into the curriculum is quite slow. Nonetheless, private universities are at the forefront of equipping young people with the requisite skills to effectively establish and run small businesses. The bank will continue to partner with institutions across the country in the establishment of entrepreneurship hubs to foster the empowerment of young people and change their mindset from job seekers to job creators.
On specific steps that the bank has taken to encourage more undergraduates and young school leavers to appreciate the beauty of being wealth creators and employers of labour, the bank said it has “increased collaborations with higher institutions of learning; established entrepreneurship hubs to foster creativity and skill acquisition; developed tailored products/programmes to cater for young people and organised capacity building programmes in partnership with enterprise development centres.
Regarding incentives that it has put in place to attract and retain the attention of young persons, the bank said: “We offer competitive interest rates, comparable only to the biggest Development Financial Institutions (DFIs) in Africa. The Bank has created and launched youth products/ programmes that are targeted at tackling youth unemployment through capacity building, and financial support to actualise their business ideas. We have also developed programmes such as the Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund (GEF) at 0 per cent interest rate and the Youth Entrepreneurship Support Programme at 9 per cent interest rate, and favorable security conditions, which have impacted the lives of many young entrepreneurs.

The introduction of entrepreneurial education has created more awareness and provided the privilege of learning basic entrepreneurial principles without having to pay for courses online

If an entrepreneur cultivates creative mastery as nature does, he will certainly become as predictively productive and unstoppably successful as nature. It is the need to empower entrepreneurs to cultivate creative mastery as nature does that engineered the Commerce by Nature Masterclass, in partnership with the Bank of Industry