World Bank calls for more entrepreneurial education and training to reduce graduate joblessness
A new World Bank report has identified entrepreneurship education and training as a catalyst that could stimulate innovation and generate jobs among university graduates, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where graduate unemployment rates are high. The burning question is whether entrepreneurship can actually be taught.
The report, Entrepreneurship Education and Training: Insights from Ghana, Kenya, and Mozambique, suggests that skilled entrepreneurship offers potential rewards across the socio-economic spectrum and could be used to reduce graduate joblessness.
The main problem lies in whether entrepreneurial success can be taught, taking into account that business education researchers and experts are divided and currently there is no unified curriculum on subject content.
Entrepreneurial education and training is populated by a variety of programmes designed to reach a range of different populations, and their goals vary just as widely.
“The landscape of what is being taught is poorly known,” says Dr Alexandria Valerio, a senior economist in the Education Department at the World Bank and coordinator of the report that was released last month.
According to Valerio, the situation is further complicated by most programmes being delivered in mixed educational and cultural frameworks.
“For instance, some courses emphasise socio-emotional skills that include leadership, psychology of planning, personal initiative, persuasion and negotiation, while others concentrate purely on development of business acumen and mind-sets,” says Valerio.
Dr. Alicia Robb, a senior fellow with the Kauffman Foundation and a key member of the team of experts that wrote the report for the World Bank, said that despite thin evidence on outcomes, “there is still high optimism of benefits that could be accrued from entrepreneurship education”.
In Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique, policy-makers feel there are potential spillovers from entrepreneurship education and training programmes that could be useful in curbing graduate unemployment.
According to the report, as many as 50% of graduates who leave Ghanaian universities and polytechnics fail to find jobs for two years after their national service, and 20% do not find jobs for three years.
The situation is similar in Kenya and Mozambique, where the majority of university graduates rely on work in the informal sector, which is considered vulnerable employment.
Amid efforts to tackle such problems, several universities in the three countries have established entrepreneurship education programmes that target both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
“While some of these universities claim to prepare students for careers as entrepreneurs, they also aim to prepare them for careers in entrepreneurship promotion as entrepreneurship facilitators,” says Valerio.
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Kenyatta University have integrated entrepreneurship concepts into most of their academic programmes while Mount Kenya University, which is a private institution, has begun training all faculty in all disciplines in entrepreneurship and management.
Apart from infusing entrepreneurship and innovation concepts across most of its academic programmes Strathmore University – another leading private university in Kenya – offers full academic programmes in entrepreneurship in its school of commerce and management.
The universities of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenyatta and Strathmore have linked their academic entrepreneurship agendas to incubator programmes that offer a range of services, from networking and mentorship connections to access to potential funding from the private sector.
Jomo Kenyatta is regarded as a pioneer of entrepreneurship education at the higher education level, being the first university in East Africa to offer a PhD in entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship education is increasingly entrenched in tertiary institutions in Mozambique, notably in Eduardo Mondlane University, the Higher Institute of Science and Technology of Mozambique, and the Pedagogical University.
According to the report, the Higher Institute of Science and Technology of Mozambique hosts the Empresa Junior programme, which includes workshops and a business plan competition to provide exposure to entrepreneurship among students.
The Pedagogical University has established a partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation to expose teachers to entrepreneurship.
At Eduardo Mondlane University, all students are required to undertake entrepreneurship modules, regardless of their area of study. The university recently opened an Entrepreneurship Higher Education School, which runs courses on business management and leadership.
In Kenya and Mozambique, entrepreneurship programmes in higher education are delivered in a mix of stand-alone degree courses and entrepreneurship education units integrated across disciplines.
“But whereas Kenya and Mozambique show signs of entrepreneurship education and training being integrated across all the universities, in Ghana entrepreneurship education programmes are mainly concentrated in private universities,” says Wilberforce Owusu-Ansah, a lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and a key member of the research teams that prepared the countries’ case studies.
For instance, while the private Entrepreneurship Training Institute in Accra offers both a full degree programme and a postgraduate diploma in entrepreneurship, in public universities entrepreneurship education tends to come in the form of a one-semester core course for undergraduate students, Owusu-Ansah explained.
Indicators from Nigeria and Uganda also show that there is commitment by universities and other tertiary institutions in many African countries to promote entrepreneurial skills as an option to create jobs.
“The International Labour Organisation-backed Student Training for Promoting Entrepreneurship Programme in two Ugandan universities and entrepreneurship diploma at Auchi Polytechnic School of Business in Nigeria are two such examples, where limited evaluations show desire by students to set up small-scale businesses after graduation,” says Alicia Robb.
Unfortunately, in the landscape of global research on entrepreneurship education and training, there is little evidence to indicate that such programmes could resolve unemployment crises through self-employment and creation of small-scale enterprises.
According to the report, global monitoring studies have identified corruption, prohibitively high taxes and burdensome regulatory regimes as serious impediments to small-scale business ownership in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Crime and insecurity also remain a very large concern, especially for those in the informal sector,” adds the report.
Local and cultural factors
The researchers also raised concerns about local and cultural barriers to entrepreneurship that are related to discouragement by family and peers and lack of access to finance. In most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, among the most frequently cited barriers to entrepreneurs’ success is local attitudes towards entrepreneurship.
Several potential graduate entrepreneurs interviewed by University World News in Nairobi for this story noted lack of acceptance of entrepreneurship as a respected career path.
There was also fear of venturing into self-employment as a result of cultural attitudes, especially towards familial financial obligations: it becomes hard to deny goods or credit to extended family members or relatives.
In Ghana, prospective student entrepreneurs described to researchers how prejudice, a ‘pull him down’ attitude and superstition can compromise entrepreneurs’ willingness to persevere. In Mozambique, entrepreneurs cited deep-rooted cultural values that thwarted entrepreneurial success.
But as researchers pointed out, there is a need to evaluate whether entrepreneurship has any capacity to reduce the graduate employment crisis in Africa.