Experts seek varsity for enterprise development
Entrepreneurship is the the activity of setting up a business or businesses and taking up the associated financial risks in the hope of a profit. It’s sometimes driven by pursuit of individual intuitiveness, talent and deliberate efforts in learning. But mostly, it is started small and nursed through stages, to become Small and Medium Enterprise, possibly, a large entity at last.But Professor Stephen Ocheni said Nigeria had a potential of becoming one of the major players of global economy but it could not attain this height before now, except for neglect of a core segment of the economy- entrepreneurship and over-dependence on oil.He made the assertion while presenting the Lead Paper, titled: “Entrepreneurship Education for Sustainable National Development”, at the 2019 yearly National Conference and Home-Coming of the Institute of Education, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) on Wednesday.
Ocheni, who received an Award of Excellence on Academic and Human Development as a Distinguished Alumnus of the university, having graduated with a doctorate degree in Financial Management, reinstated his firm believe in entrepreneurship as panacea to ongoing economic issues.
The former Minister of State for Labour and Employment, lamented that the economy had been import-dependent and un-diversified, saying that the conference was meant to address the next step toward economic recovery with entrepreneurship education as one of the strategies for achieving sustainable economic development.
Economists and financial analysts have maintained that the major obstacle to economic growth of poor nations is lack of educated entrepreneurs, who are able to mobilise and coordinate production inputs.
In Nigeria, it is a risk for financial institutions that are able to give loan to do so, when viable businesses are classified bad due assessed lack of managerial experience. To them, such loan advance is as good as “throwing money away.’’Of course, notable among the challenges of entrepreneurs in Nigeria are inadequate financial resources for start-ups, expansion, irregular power supply, lack of unity and mutual trust among Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and poor product developments.
In many cases, there is complete absence of books of accounts, engagement of unskilled and cheap labour and inadequate infrastructure leading to very high production/operational costs.There is also lack of patronage of their products by government agencies, use of obsolete technology for processing, lack of succession plan, inaccessibility to international markets and competition with cheaper imported products.Ocheni said it has been established that despite the critical role of entrepreneurs in the economic development of a nation, African countries are yet to fully develop strategies to tap the inherent resource endowment, leading to backwardness.
The professor of Public Sector Accounting, therefore, called on the Federal Government to consider the establishment of an Entrepreneurship University that would focus mainly on research and development, as well as literacy training of entrepreneurs, extendedly an introduction of a Bachelor’s Degree programme in Entrepreneurship Development for all universities.
“Equally, the curricula of existing polytechnics should be restructured to promote entrepreneurship education and the production of skilled manpower in line with their traditional roles.“Potential entrepreneurs among students can be found in all disciplines and not limited to the economics or business students alone. Since these talents can be found in all disciplines, it becomes imperative that appropriate curricula should be developed to accommodate all,’’ Ocheni said.
As a strategy for evolving homegrown solutions to challenges, it has long been suggested that tertiary institutions in the country be modeled in form of hands-on, such that graduates are equipped for what they can do for themselves, as opposed to the current “job hunt” after school.But with the will, the National Universities Commission (NUC) can as a matter of policy, enforce the teaching of basic entrepreneurial courses in all universities as a compulsory course.
He said that in the areas of instructional facilities and qualified lecturers/technicians/instructors, universities were advised to collaborate with the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) which had sufficient manpower in vocational training.“NUC should, specifically, develop appropriate benchmarks for assessing the standard of entrepreneurial education programmes offered in Nigerian universities. “The National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) should do same for polytechnics and technical colleges with equipped technical laboratories,’’ he said.
The Keynote Presenter, Prof. Ismail Junaidu, who is also the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), noted that countries that deliberately invested in entrepreneurial education tend to demonstrate a higher regime of sound economic and technological development.
“It was recommended that for us to tap into the opportunities available in entrepreneurship, we must inculcate the elements of entrepreneurship into teachers’ education programmes to enable the them deliver lessons capable of unleashing the creative ingenuities in the learners and make our youths the hub for development and progress,’’ he said.The Director of the Institute of Education, UNN, Prof. Kay Onyechi, said that attention to entrepreneurship would create room for youth employment and sustainable economic development.
Noting that the conference was in fulfilment of the statutory vision of the founding fathers and mandate of the institute to provide world-class education, she said the event was a clear testimony that the institute is rising to the socio-economic challenges facing the nation.President Muhammadu Buhari had introduced the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) to address three major areas- accelerate growth, investment in human development and building a globally competitive economy. These were to address the country’s challenges and lay the foundation for economic diversification, inclusiveness and sustainable growth.
Ocheni commended Buhari for demonstrating the political will and determination to reduce unemployment rate among the youth through job creation and skills acquisition training of the National Directorate of Employment, Social Investment Programme and other policies.But to promote entrepreneurship, he recommended that friendly bank interest rates should be applied on loans to entrepreneurs and be encouraged to open business bank accounts distinct from personal/family accounts, a simple condition for advancing loan to an applicant which many could not satisfy.
He said it is time to invest more in the provision of infrastructure facilities, which is the base of any thriving entrepreneur, as easy access to a reliable and quality infrastructure increases productivity and efficiency, lowers the market costs, increases access to available markets and sustainable growth.
“Government should avoid tougher business regulations, which discourage business take-off, but rather a simplified business regulation required to unleash the entrepreneurship potential of a nation.“Keep tax rate at a reasonable level for small and medium sized enterprises which contribute more significantly to job creation and economic growth than they do to tax revenue,” he added.