For far too many years we have come to convince ourselves that education and entrepreneurship cannot happen at the same time. Entrepreneurship is a process of taking an initiative to start a new business, and similarly education is the process of learning, and acquiring new skills. Developed countries around the world invest greater resources on programmes that focus on entrepreneurship. We cannot dispute the fact that entrepreneurship is a cornerstone to a stable economic growth. It is for this reason that entrepreneurship, innovativeness and competitiveness is the paradigm we must embrace.
Many upcoming entrepreneurs or start-up entrepreneurs show the determination, the will, innovativeness, energy and drive to start world-class businesses that will offer world-class products and services. These are indeed good qualities and prowess to have as an entrepreneur. However, the worrying factor is that many tend to discount the value of education [academic education]. With education one can learn invaluable skills that cannot be acquired anywhere other than the institutions of higher learning.
The maxim that exists among most start-up entrepreneurs is that education and entrepreneurship are mutually exclusive events; they in fact believe that entrepreneurship is the only way out. People like Dr Mdu Gama and Adrian Gore invalidates the myth that “education and entrepreneurship is a mutually exclusive event”. These two entrepreneurs are highly successful in their businesses, (with Gore at the helm of Discovery and Gama running his own investment firm) and yet they are very educated.
On the other hand, as aspiring entrepreneurs, we might convince ourselves that education is not a necessary route to be a successful entrepreneur. They use worn-out examples of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, to support their claims without acknowledging the fact that such entrepreneurs are the exception. Dr Mdu Gama says that the number of entrepreneurs who have made it without formal education has been decreasing over the past two decades.
In the knowledge economy we are now living in, education has become an imperative commodity in society. It is a knowledge economy because many things are centered around the accumulation of knowledge, information and generation of new ideas. This was further supported by Dr Ntokozo S Mthembu, when delivering his commencement address at Tshwane University of Technology, he said then that:
Some of you must define your niche in this global community. It means you must by necessity adopt an entrepreneurial approach. Be a visionary, be a leader. Create Value! View life as education, education as life and grab the opportunities available to you. Take advantage of those initiatives established by government to further your ideas, your education and entrepreneurship.
As an aspiring entrepreneur and you ignore the reality that education may give you the competitive advantage, would be irresponsibility of the highest order. Whatever you do, however you do it you dare not stand still lest you be overtaken! Or in the words of Nelson Mandela – “I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended”.