Across Africa, there is a growing trend of programs promoting entrepreneurship as the silver bullet to many of the continent’s challenges. Pitch competitions are many and varied, each one targeting a different demographic or segment of industry: youth, women, creatives, inventors, agro-processors and so on.
The expectation and intention is to identify, breed and groom young people who have developed ideas that can have a catalytic impact on the continent, and to nurture their dreams and businesses to scale.
However, the pipeline to produce the kind of entrepreneurs that can succeed in enterprise creation that yields proportionate returns in expected areas such as job creation, reduced unemployment and food security is not yet fully developed.
Africa’s schools are still prioritizing rote learning, theory over practice, and outdated curricula that do not respond to the changing needs of the job market, and few to no schools teach entrepreneurship to young people.
Across Africa, as the economies fail to create enough jobs for the over 10 million young people entering the workforce each year, enterprise development remains the best pathway to creating employment and ensuring sustainable livelihoods, yet few governments have mainstreamed entrepreneurship education into their curricula.
Mainstreaming entrepreneurship education holds a key to job creation, not just through self-employment, but as a small enterprise employing others. If each young entrepreneur establishes an enterprise that creates at least five new jobs, that can move the needle on youth unemployment across the continent.
In order to do that, we need to focus on curricula that are practical and practice-able. We need to teach young people not just how things are made but how to make things. They need to learn not just how things are done, but how to do things.
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Mass entrepreneurship, a concept which has been experimented within India, has had some success.
Delivering this kind of change in education systems needs a systematic overhaul of existing educational approaches.
After all, the question remains: can teachers successfully teach entrepreneurship? And if so, can they do it effectively?
Few models exist on the continent or elsewhere that can be replicated. Theoretical learning is still a dominant pedagogy, whereas evidence exists that experiential education is the most effective approach.
Business education predominantly begins at the tertiary level, even though less than 10% of Africa’s high school graduates go on to university, according to the World Bank.
If students are entering the job market after high school and becoming entrepreneurs by default rather than by design, they need to be equipped earlier on how to run businesses in order to increase their chances of success.
The word ‘entrepreneurial’ still mystifies many young people. The notion that all youth will start and run a business is largely a false premise.
Redefining what it means to be entrepreneurial can be a key lever of change; being entrepreneurial is not just about enterprise-creation but about mindset change.
It is about thinking entrepreneurially and being solutions-oriented. Reorienting young people from a foundation of profit-making to that of problem-solving is what sets apart successful entrepreneurs from day dreamers.
Starting that education early, systematically and at scale, is key.
– Elizabeth Bintliff the Accra-based CEO of Junior Achievement Africa, an organization focusing on youth empowerment.