Universities must step up to the plate in promoting entrepreneur-ship to help diffuse the “ticking time bomb” that is youth unemployment in East Africa, estimated at between 40 and 60 per cent. The challenge is which model of entrenching entrepreneurship the region should adopt.Professor Peter Rosa, Makerere University Business School visiting don, recently delivered a public lecture on this subject at the Mount Kenya University (MKU) main campus in Thika.
In a presentation titled, New Directions for Entrepreneurship Development and Education in East Africa, Prof Rosa explored the region’s unemployment challenge and analysed possible solutions to it.
Focusing on the Kenyan situation with some reference to Uganda, he argued that the region’s universities had much to do to tackle the unemployment challenge.
He noted that while Kenya had witnessed a rapid expansion of universities (now numbering more than 70), the large number of graduates who ended up jobless was a matter of grave concern. The visiting professor interpreted this to mean that as much as youths were generally positive towards entrepreneurship, given a choice, many would rather have a “good, secure job in a large organisation”.This, he said, was the result of the system of university education in East Africa.
It is geared to match skills with careered jobs, not self-employment, he observed. He said for instance, that business schools in the region are generally geared to create management professionals and CEOs, not entrepreneurs.
This is a paradox, the professor noted, in the sense that despite desiring employment, youths tend to look up to prominent entrepreneurial millionaires as role models.
Prof Rosa then went on to discuss three models that have been employed in different times to promote entrepreneurial culture in universities.
One model, adopted in the 1980s to the 1990s, sought to create entrepreneurship centres attached to business schools.A model that dominated the late 1990s sought to embed entrepreneurship into core university degrees.
The third model, which emerged in the 2000s and is still in use, promotes entrepreneurship and innovation systems that help to commercialise university science and research discoveries and inventions.
All methods have advantages and disadvantages, but Prof Rosa’s over-all observation is that: “The most prosperous countries are those that produce the most scientific innovations and richest self-made billionaires, and have ‘ecosystems’ and infrastructures capable of commercialising them.”
Prof Rosa is also a George David Emeritus Professor of Entrepreneurship and Family Business, University of Edinburgh Business School.