Why aren’t young people in the developed countries queuing up for jobs as is the norm in developing places like Africa? There is certainly a broad scheme within the educational system of the developed world that encourages the spirit of entrepreneurship. Business education has been made an integral part of the learning architecture in these climes, and pupils, especially the young minds, are exposed to the desirability and prospects of becoming an entrepreneur.
What can we do?
Africa in general and Nigeria in particular, can revamp and efficiently fund its vocational institutions. Aba, Abia state, in Nigeria, for instance, has a thriving cache of highly gifted artisans and innovators. State governments through public, private partnership initiatives can develop and optimise such technology or vocational hubs within their major commercial enclaves. These centres would provide minimal literacy skills as foundation to the elaborate vocational skills they hope to absorb.
The Small medium Enterprises (SME) scheme floated by the Nigerian government some time ago suffered massive systemic challenges and couldn’t deliver on its primary charter. The microfinance Banks set up to supplement the economic activities of commercial banks likewise suffered major systemic abuse. They soon were turned into privately owned assets, siphoning assets by a network of closely-linked proxies. This brought about frustration and collapse of many budding upstarts.
Young people should know that it would be waste of time to have a long stay in the tertiary institutions if they already have a “steaming passion” for something outside the walls of a white or blue collar job.
Nigeria’s institutions of learning are far too many, yet could hardly live up to the bill of providing efficient manpower. Entrepreneurship should be taught as a creative-tool, and made to become a natural option in the social and vocational life of the people. Africa’s curriculum must begin to incorporate business education into its modes of learning, and should encourage its young talented innovators by offering them opportunities to harness their creative potentials. Major scholarships should go into jump-starting star innovators to further grow their talents.
Africa at the moment has crippling economic environment which makes it technically unviable to seed and sustain innovations. For instance, how would an upstart grow a dream business enterprise when the family is so poor and raising the initial seed money to start up is near impossible?
The population of young people migrating from their rural dwellings, hustling to eke a living in cities like Lagos is amazing. This presents a very grave demographic challenge. There are already an alarming number of young people, jostling for space and competing for few and often limited facility and infrastructure in the cities.
What more can we do?
Patents and intellectual properties can further be protected by the government on behalf of the individuals who conceived them. Some of the “local” technical minds Nigeria had in the eighties, who were frustrated by lack of patronage and institutional neglect were happily absorbed and reintegrated in other climes where their talents have long blossomed.
A case in point was the famous Mbaise born technician - Damian Anyanwu, who spurned lots of personal inventions, ranging from transmitter radios using herbs, television Antennaes and makeshift-helicopter. I was stunned to later read about him, how he was snapped up by an American firm, and now turned into a techno-geek.
Government through its institutions must seek to validate Nigeria made products through its cultural and social orientation agencies. Who says the Aba-made garments cannot compete favourably with other fabrics made elsewhere in the world?
By Steve Orji