Whose responsibility is it to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship amongst young people? I can submit without any shadow of doubt that entrepreneurship is a life blood of society. For citizens to prosper in any given territory, a country needs to offer itself as a supporting base and enabling environment for entrepreneurship. For this to happen, a society will need to reward innovative thinkers, identify mavericks and offer them all the support necessary for entrepreneurs to prosper in their quest.
Cameron Herold in a Ted Talk he delivered in Boston in 2009, he argues that parents must take it upon themselves to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship in their children. He couldn’t be further from the truth – just imagining the multiplier effect that would emanate from such a teaching, should every single household engage in it.
An article published by Finweek on the 14th of February, and titled “An academic role in fostering entrepreneurship”;Constant Beugre (cited) said that she is of the opinion that due to lack of entrepreneurship courses in African universities, these institutions should be involved in training people to create new ventures.
Now what I find rather fascinating about Beugre’s submission is that she holds a view that suggest that academic institutions should play a role in training new breeds of entrepreneurs. It is particularly interesting to me on two grounds, first, how do you convince young people to not join big companies and start their ventures instead; and secondly what form of support mechanism would these universities offer these young people for them to be successful as entrepreneurs in the face of great uncertainty.
There are obviously reasons that prevent any aspiring, young entrepreneur to enter the market. Factors such as the following springs to mind: stringent labour laws, government policy bottlenecks, lack of funding and lack of environment in which “a noble business failure” is celebrated and seen as a valuable learning experience.
I also hold a similar sentiment by Beugre that academic institutions should offer a training ground to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship. A leading research university In South Africa, The University of Stellenbosch is offering that pad where student entrepreneurs can test their ideas. To delve further into the Stellenbosch case, the university recently launched an initiative called the launchlab, an incubation hub where student entrepreneurs can make use of at a nominal fee.Furthermore, to prove that the University of Stellenbosch is indeed playing a role in fostering entrepreneurship, its technology transfer company in association with the university centre for leadership development (The FVZS) run a business idea competition on an annual basis where students are invited to enter the competition by submitting any ideas they have. They need not submit business plans, just plain ideas.
Moreover, three students, (whom I desire not to mention for anonymity reasons) started a pitch in event, where students are invited to pitch their ideas to panel of judges. The person with the best idea stands a chance to win cash prize to turn his idea into a tangible form. There is no reason to doubt that students making use of these initiatives will leave Stellenbosch University very equipped to run their own enterprises.
Let me invite you to ponder on this, South Africa has 23 public universities (and some of them do offer entrepreneurship courses), another two in the pipeline, and some 50 public Further Education & Training colleges, what would happen if all these institutions replicate the model employed by the University of Stellenbosch and its students? How many well-equipped risk takers can come out of universities year in and year out? I can only think of a snow-ball effect!
Are we then safe to conclude that the institutions of higher learning have a rather positive role to play in fostering the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship? I think so!
I dream of a South Africa where innovation and entrepreneurship is admired, business failure encouraged and government policy bottlenecks relaxed! I dream of an innovative country.
“Dare to innovate”