The first Nigerian Enterprise Research Workshop has, on Monday, been held by De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdoms (UK) in collaboration with the University of Ibadan.
The workshop was organised to bring scholars and practitioners across all disciplines to facilitate ideas on entrepreneurship research and practices in Nigeria.
The Convener, Mr Seun Kolade, a senior lecturer of Strategic Management at De Montfort University (DMU), in his opening address in Ibadan, said the emerging narrative to address underdevelopment in Africa and Nigeria, in particular, is entrepreneurship.
“Africa was once viewed by some as the ‘Dark Continent’ with a dominant narrative of poverty, wars, and under-development. Over the past decade, a new narrative of growth opportunities, value creation and inclusive development has taken hold, replacing the ‘heart of darkness’ image.
“While significant challenges remain, stakeholders are moving away from the old model of top-down interventions to embrace a new paradigm of partnership underpinned by the agency of African people. Entrepreneurship is at the heart of this drive to transform challenges into shared opportunities, and launch a new era of growth and prosperity in the continent.
“However, in order to actualise this grand vision of a prosperous Africa, three key stakeholders must work together. These are the scholars and researchers in academia, the practitioners in the industry, and the policy makers and executives in the government. For long, these stakeholders have tended to carry out their activities in isolation, and invariably at cross-purposes, to the detriment of public interest.
“At best, where and when there is contact among these stakeholders, it is often underpinned by top-down patronage and clientele orientation. This paradigm of interaction is outmoded and not fit for purpose in the 21st century. For one, the functional categories are not, and should not, be fixed,” he explained.
Speaking on the impacts of university scholars in the society beyond knowledge creation and the importance of the industry practitioners, Kolade said: “Scholars in the academia should not be seen only as producers of knowledge, but also as users and learners. In effect, university researchers should fully and unashamedly embrace the enormous opportunities to learn from industry practitioners, as well as share knowledge with them. For good measure, university scholars should not be viewed merely as producers of academic knowledge that is of little practical value.
“In the same vein, industry practitioners should not be cast only as knowledge users, or viewed as incapable of generating important theoretical and academic knowledge. Rather, they should be valued as equal and important partners in the co-creation of knowledge.”
He, however, called on the Nigerian government to fully embrace its role as the critical link between academic scholars and industry practitioners.
Speaking on Entrepreneurship research, policy and practice in Nigeria, the keynote speaker, Mr William Siyanbola- a professor at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife- explained entrepreneurship as an important process to understand the complex behaviour of entrepreneurs, the policy environment and the process of business development.
“Many prominent entrepreneurship research institutions have developed indicators to profile practicing entrepreneurs, including their demographics, motivations, ambitions, attitudes, abilities and business characteristics. These institutions have reliably developed global entrepreneurship index to monitor the strength of entrepreneurship ecosystem and other framework conditions with a view to improving them.
“Furthermore, empirical evidence abounds which shows that building high-quality entrepreneurs is more profitable to an economy, as they turn out to be better managers and can be more productive than those in the informal sector, whose productivity is generally low. The various initiatives and observations highlighted above put special demands on higher educational institutions (HEIs) to design and deliver appropriate curriculum for building entrepreneurship capacity among students and faculty. This is consistent with the ‘third mission’ objective of HEIs require them to contribute to economic activities of their region through knowledge generation and transfer as well as technology commercialisation. At the same time, strong entrepreneurship institutions, incentives and policy are necessary to create positive ambience for robust entrepreneurship ecosystem,” he elicited.
He decried the incoherent entrepreneurship policies and programmes operating in Nigeria as hindering the progress of an effective entrepreneurship ecosystem.
“We note, for instance, that the introduction of entrepreneurship education policy in Nigeria’s higher institution for more than a decade has not been supported with necessary practical entrepreneurship facilities which would have encouraged/stimulated actual practice among students and faculty. Fairly extensive literature review by notable authors showed that most entrepreneurship researches in Nigeria focus on skills, intention, practice and activities of small and medium enterprises while little attention has been paid to entrepreneurial mindset. Other areas of research gap in entrepreneurship in Nigeria include eco-entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, academic entrepreneurship and absence of interdisciplinary approach to entrepreneurship research in general.
“Entrepreneurship practices in Nigeria are also hampered by poor business climate, lowly venture capital, and poor reward/incentive system for academic entrepreneurs, ‘town-gown’ dichotomy, high corruption rate and huge infrastructural deficits among others. From the policy perspective, most entrepreneurship policies in Nigeria are largely deficient in the areas of formulation, monitoring, implementation and evaluation. This is reflected in the underdeveloped nature of small businesses and the attendant poor contribution to gross domestic products (GDP),” he said.
The Nigerian Enterprise Workshop: A Synergy between Institutions
The Director of Centre for Enterprise and Innovation, University of Ibadan, Mrs Ayotola Aremu has maintained that the workshop was put up to foster a synergy among institutions- private, public and academic institutions- for promotion of entrepreneurship in the society.
“The programme is collaboration between De Montfort University (DMU), Leicester and the University of Ibadan through Dr Seun Kolade. The whole idea is to foster the collaboration between higher institutions here represented especially UI. The entrepreneurship research network in DMU Leicester, so that we can work together to impact the society through entrepreneurship. We have researchers here from different universities, meeting together to talk about how entrepreneurship can be integrated in our universities and how it can be promoted in the society.
“One of the outcomes we expect from this programme is collaboration between the institutions that have attended, both private and public and academic institutions. When all of us come together to synergise, to affect the curriculum and to advocate concerning entrepreneurship, we know that there will be a great uptake from the society,” she said.
The moderator of the event, Mr Gboyega Adejumo, the Managing Director of Real Orbit Consulting described the programme as a welcome development.
“This is a welcome workshop that can easily take Nigeria and Nigerians forward. About this deficit, we discover there is a disconnect between the government, the researchers, the scholars, the people. Where is the literature to tell people what they need to do to be successful entrepreneurs? I hope we have been able to do something worthwhile today; I hope this won’t be the last of such,” he said.