How incubation hubs can change entrepreneurship teaching

The incubation centres are designed to facilitate students to develop innovative ideas and translate them into practical businesses. Representative image Image Credit/ Flickr

What you need to know:

It’s not uncommon to find a fresh graduate, grim-faced, walking the streets, submitting job applications here and there, but not even making the shortlist for applicants to be interviewed for a job

A university degree is arguably one of the most celebrated academic successes in Uganda. On a typical graduation day, parents flock the university grounds to celebrate their child’s academic success. They even hold a graduation party for their child. Yet for many graduates, the excitement that comes with this academic success evaporates shortly after the graduation parties as the jubilation gives way to despair following fruitless job searches.

It’s not uncommon to find a fresh graduate, grim-faced, walking the streets, submitting job applications here and there, but not even making the shortlist for applicants to be interviewed for a job. But a new pilot initiative called Sharing Innovations and Experiences from Korea for Higher Education Transformation in Africa (SIKET) is seeking to change this.

Through a $100,000 grant from the African Development Bank (AfDB), business incubation centres have been established at two universities in Africa, including Uganda’s Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) to transform the method of teaching entrepreneurship course to promote job creation. The other university is USSEIN in Senegal.

The initiative is informed by the fact that universities currently teaching entrepreneurship are producing job seekers instead of job creators. Yet this course is expected to produce creative and innovative entrepreneurs. The initiative is being implemented by the Makerere University based Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture ((RUFORUM), which is a network that brings together 129 African private and public universities.

Dr. Anthony Egeru, the programme manager in training and community development at (RUFORUM) says the incubation centres are designed to facilitate students to develop innovative ideas and translate them into practical businesses.

Egeru envisages that students will have functional enterprises of their own within eight to twenty four months of utilising facilities in the incubation hubs at the universities.

“By that time, they should have registered businesses that have created a minimum of three jobs so that, as they graduate, they will not only be graduating with academic documents, but with working businesses,” he explains.

Just like other subjects, Egeru notes that, the entrepreneurship education curriculum followed by African universities today is built on the model designed by the colonial governments to produce white collar employees for the public sector like clerks.

While the public sector was a major employer in the past in many parts of Africa, as the population exploded in the recent decades, it could no longer guarantee employment. As a consequence, millions of young people produced by universities each year are jobless.  

A 2016 AfDB study shows that 10 to 12 million youth enter the African job market each year, but only 3.1 million jobs are created.

The SIKET initiative, which is part of AfDB’s Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy 2016-2025 to create 25 million jobs for the young people and train 50 million youth to become entrepreneurs, is built on a model that South Korea deployed to deal with the challenges of oversupply of graduates and skills mismatches.

The two universities are serving as the nucleus for the transformation of the delivery of entrepreneurship training through the use of business incubation hubs. It’s hoped that this intervention will allow universities to produce job creators instead of job seekers on a continent which is already struggling with youth unemployment. The International Labour Organization estimated youth unemployment at 10.7% in Africa and 13.6% worldwide in 2020.

The AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina observes that, with the population of young people in Africa projected to reach 830 million by 2050, government should scale up efforts to create more jobs now to prevent the unemployment crisis from escalating.

“The job crisis is the biggest problem that we have in Africa,” he adds.

Before the start of the implementation of the project last year, a study was conducted on the South Korean education model and the contribution of universities to national economic development to guide its execution. The study was funded by Korea Africa Economic Cooperation.

Its findings show that specialisation of higher education and entrepreneurship training as well as alignment of education with national development goals formed a key component in South Korea’s transformation agenda.

South Korea, which was at the same level of development as many African countries in the 1960s, recorded remarkable economic growth between 1980s and 1990s, and is now one of the most advanced economies globally.

The study shows that the industry-academy cooperation policy South Korea passed was instrumental in transforming education because it directed training to the needs of the industries. This, coupled with practical teaching of entrepreneurship helped the country address mismatches between the knowledge provided by universities and the job market needs.

Dr Florence Nakayiwa, the RUFORUM deputy executive secretary for planning, resource mobilisation and management says COVID-19 pandemic makes SIKET timely and that this initiative will go a long way in making universities part of the solution to joblessness.

Eng. Anke Weisheit, a senior lecturer, who is overseeing the incubation centre at MUST, said the grant and the facility are a major boost to herbal products research and job creation.

Hillary Nahurira, a graduate and an entrepreneur, who is benefiting from the incubation centre, said, “This is an eye-opener and the emphasis on the need for a country like Uganda to introduce the youth to the businesses early and groom them as job creators is vital in addressing unemployment,”



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