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The Rise of Entrepreneurship education in Nigeria

Nigeria has witnessed a significant surge in entrepreneurship education across its universities.
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Nigeria has witnessed a significant surge in entrepreneurship education across its universities. This portrays the growing recognition of entrepreneurship as a critical driver of economic growth and development by the government and the society at large. With a youthful population estimated at 210 million of which about 70% of the population are under 30, Nigeria’s unemployment rate surged to 5.0 percent in the third quarter of 2023 from 4.2 percent in the previous quarter, the latest Labour Force Survey in 2024. This facilitates the need to equip students with entrepreneurial skills and mindsets has never been more urgent.

Before entrepreneurship education was taught in schools, entrepreneurial activities in Nigeria were primarily driven by traditional practices and apprenticeship systems. Furthermore, formal educational institutions during the colonial and early post-independence periods were largely oriented towards producing civil servants and professionals, with little emphasis on entrepreneurship.

However, the shift towards entrepreneurship education began to gain momentum in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This change was majorly influenced by economic challenges, and a recognition of the limitations of traditional education in addressing unemployment and underemployment. As Nigeria grappled with economic restructuring and the need for diversification, policymakers, and educators began to see entrepreneurship as a viable solution. As a result of this, the Nigerian government put in more effort in promoting entrepreneurship education through various policies and initiatives. Key among these is the National Policy on Education, which emphasises the development of entrepreneurial skills at all levels of education. Additionally, in 2004, the National Universities Commission (NUC) incorporated entrepreneurship courses into the curricula of Nigerian universities as part of its efforts to reform higher education. This initiative aimed to produce graduates who are not only jobseekers but also job creators. The NUC’s framework outlines the objectives, content, and delivery methods for entrepreneurship education, ensuring a standardised approach across institutions.

As a result of this, many Nigerian universities have established entrepreneurship centers or units dedicated to fostering entrepreneurial skills among students. These centres provide a range of services, including training, mentorship, incubation, and access to funding. Notable examples include the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (CED) at the University of Lagos and the Centre for Entrepreneurship Studies at Covenant University.

Entrepreneurship education has been integrated into the curricula of Nigerian universities in various ways. Some institutions offer it as a compulsory general studies course, while others have developed specialised degree programs in entrepreneurship. This ensures that all students, regardless of their major, are exposed to entrepreneurial concepts and practices as well as hands-on trainings.

By encouraging a culture of entrepreneurship, Nigerian universities contribute to reducing unemployment. Graduates who can create their own businesses become self-employed and generate employment opportunities for others. Furthermore, entrepreneurship drives economic development by stimulating innovation, creating jobs, and contributing to the overall economic growth of the country. Entrepreneurial activities often address societal needs by providing goods and services that improve the quality of life. There is always a big difference between a university graduate who is an entrepreneur and someone who just picked it up on their own. By learning entrepreneurship in schools, students can tackle pressing issues and make a positive impact on their communities.

Challenges of Entrepreneurship Education

One of the major challenges facing entrepreneurship education in Nigerian universities is the lack of adequate funding and resources. Establishing and maintaining entrepreneurship centers, providing training materials, and supporting student ventures require significant financial investment which the Nigerian government cannot provide for adequately. Furthermore, developing a curriculum that effectively balances theoretical knowledge with practical skills can be challenging. There is also a need for continuous review and adaptation to keep pace with the rapidly changing business environment. Qualified and experienced lecturers and trainers are essential for effective entrepreneurship education. However, many universities struggle to attract and retain faculty with the necessary entrepreneurial experience and expertise. Cultural attitudes towards entrepreneurship can also pose challenges. In some cases, societal expectations only favor traditional career paths, and students may face pressure to pursue jobs in established professions rather than entrepreneurial ventures. In fact, parents are likely to frown at their wards telling them they are going to the University to take an entrepreneurship course for four years.

Regardless of the setbacks, entrepreneurship education is significant in Nigeria Universities. By equipping students with the skills, knowledge, and mindset entrepreneurship education has the potential of eradicating unemployment totally.

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