LET US IGNITE AN ENTREPRENEURSHIP REVOLUTION IN NIGERIA !
Global development is entering a phase where Entrepreneurship will increasingly play a more important role. An analysis of sources of economic growth by the World Bank( 2013), finds that the biggest differences between developed and developing economies are in innovation performances. It emphasizes that while Entrepreneurship and Innovation are very critical for economic growth,they have also become increasingly important for addressing major development Challenges, such as the ones related to poverty, inclusion and sustainability.
According to the World Institute for Development Economics Research( United Nations University), it is expected that Entrepreneurship will continue to make significant contribution to growth and employment generation in advanced, emerging and least developed economies alike. This is a reasonable expectation- one that is supported by recent findings of historians, economists and management scientists.
In the highly industrialized West, economy of the 1970s-2000s, characterized by reliance on big business and mass production has given way to an ' entrepreneurial economy'. In the emerging countries, most notably the BRICS countries, impressive growth has been driven by a veritable ' entrepreneurial revolution'. Even in the least developed countries, where aid dependency is high, donors have been shifting the emphasis in development cooperation towards private sector development.
Unfortunately the developments in this sector in LDCs, Nigeria inclusive,remain a far cry from the quantity and quality required to effectively fire up the economies. Issues of infrastructural inadequacy,weak funding,and unaffordable financing, low entrepreneurial capacity, corruption and the surfeit of cheap foreign-made goods that choke locally made goods out of the market, coupled with a barrage of policies, like multiple taxes and difficulty in acquiring property, that appear insensitive to the existence of these challenges, particularly at the sub-national levels, all combine to militate against meaningful progress in this sector.
World Bank statistics shows that, as at 2012, Nigeria had a new business density( a measure of the growth of Entrepreneurship) of 0.91. Though this represents an appreciable growth from its rating in 2004, when it had a new business density of 0.32, the country is still significantly behind such developing economies as Uganda (1.17), Tunisia (1.52), Malaysia ( 2.28), South Africa ( 6.54), and Singapore ( 8.04).
There is therefore a crying need to conscientiously transform the structure of Nigeria's economy by propelling positive industrial trends through growth in the small and medium scale industrial groups and eventually in the large scale manufacturing sector. This must involve a major and revolutionary effort to galvanize and motivate the entire citizenry to adopt the Entrepreneurial mindset. And to do so will require a holistic review of the Policies and incentives on ground to promote enterprise development.
First, we need to rethink our educational philosophy, to graduate students who are solution providers and job creators. The current preparation for seeking jobs and carriers in employment can no longer handle the volume of products from our institutions of higher learning, hence the unacceptably high level of chronic unemployment and underemployment, with its consequences on our social milieu. Thank God, the Government has taken some initiative in this direction but what is on the ground is only symbolic. Theoretical teaching only will not do it, we need a lot of experiential impartation and mentoring.
Second, we need strong, consistent and carefully structured awareness creation. This must be run as a campaign, not propaganda and tokenism. Every person must know what is in place to promote entrepreneurship. The objective should be to make enterprise development a first option for young Nigerian graduates, not a fall back option when nothing else is forthcoming. For many young graduates today, their first option is political appointment, because that is where it is 'happening'.The few who are lucky to be employed in companies still depend on their parents, five years post graduation whereas the councillor, Local government Chairman's PA or Party youth leader achieves financial independence within 18 months with Jeep and house to booth.
Third, we must maintain an unceasing focus on building capacity in all ramifications of the Entrepreneurial pursuits. It must be emphasized that possessing technical or vocational skills does not translate to entrepreneurial skills. The financial,the business management skills, the ability to measure and manage risks are critical skills for enterprise development and we must develop an integrated capacity building scheme that will enable our young business men and women build successful businesses .
Fourth, we need to ensure that we have, develop and adopt appropriate technologies that will leverage product and service delivery. In the global competitive market environment of the 21st century, Technology has become a major differentiating competitive phenomenon. If we drive on the left when others are driving on the right, we may be the only ones who will buy our automobiles for example. The World has gone digital and the Nigerian business culture must therefore be run on this 21st century technological platform. Luckily our youth are highly adaptive to this new technology, all we need is to create generous access.
Fifth, there is a crying need for enhanced access to Venture capital. In Nigeria there is a deficit of entrepreneurial 'promotive'capital. Some reasonable efforts are currently being made with the support of the Central Bank and the Federal Ministry of finance. As much as this is important and most welcome, private venture capital is more sustainable. Given the attractiveness of our market, we need to get other elements of competitiveness in place to build confidence and attract a lot more of venture and equity capital from the global private sector to complement the domestic public-sector supported initiatives.
And sixth, we need to be deliberate in promoting Innovation and innovative entrepreneurship. Most of our current entrepreneurial pursuits are directed to meeting basic human needs-raw materials, cocoa, flour, sugar, cereals, cement,crude Petroleum, importation of refined fuels, trading, banking services,tele-communications etc. Most of these are commodities with global price ceilings. But in the innovative realm which is essentially creative destruction of what exists and creating new or bringing what only exists in the imaginary realm into present reality. Here, the inventor and creator determines his margin and can quickly ramp up wealth. Most of the wealthiest men in the developed world come from the knowledge and innovation realm- Microsoft,Apple, Yahoo, Goggle, and Alibaba.
The truth is that these can be achieved only through strategic partnerships among key stakeholders- governments( and their agencies), Research centers, educational institutions and well-meaning private sector organizations( including NGOs) and individuals to form a network that can drive the movement for revolutionizing our entrepreneurial land scape. The current efforts by the government must be widely promoted and supported. I believe that it is in the pursuit of this need to form a coalition, that will ignite the Entrepreneurial revolution in Nigeria that the African Centre for Business Development, Strategy & Innovation ( ACBDSI) has organized the National Summit on Entrepreneurship & Innovation (NSEI) which will hold 20/21November at the Lagos Sheraton Hotel.
This summit with the theme: Entrepreneurship, Job creation & Poverty Reduction will bring together Policy Makers,Financial intermediaries, Industry Leaders,Business Promoters, Business Researchers, Professionals and budding Entrepreneurs in Nigeria and the West African sub-region to network, share ideas,question paradigms, challenge status quo and generate creative solutions to contemporary issues revolving around the use of entrepreneurship & innovation to stimulate economic renaissance. My hope is that the expected generous presence of the older and successful Entrepreneurs will motivate,stimulate and mentor the younger and struggling Entrepreneurs with their stories. This in my view will show that so much is possible in our country and help change the narrative.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR