Universities have to contribute more to startup ecosystem


Nigerian universities are not doing enough to encourage and support the entrepreneurial development needed to contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem – and they lag behind institutions in Egypt and South Africa.

This is from a Nigeria Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Report 2022 Published by Disrupt Research in September.

The report showcases the local ecosystem by analysing active startups, local support networks and funding over the past seven and a half years.

This is the third country-focused publication following October 2021 Egypt Startup Ecosystem Report and July 2022 South African Startup Ecosystem Report.

Entrepreneurial Landscape

The report found that as of September 2022, there were at least 481 tech startups operating in Nigeria, employing over 19,000 people, with fintech being the most populous sector, accounting for more than a third of the total number of active tech startups.

Almost 50% of Nigerian tech startups have experienced some form of acceleration or incubation, although diversity is an issue as less than 15.6% have female co-founders.

Nigerian startups are backed by a strong investment ecosystem, with total investment more than quadrupling between 2020 and 2021, and a further big leap is expected in 2022.

Between January 2015 and August 2022, at least 383 Nigerian tech startups raised a total of $2,068,709,445 in funding, more than any other country during the same period.

According to the report, many of Nigeria’s leading universities have offered entrepreneurship-focused courses and established entrepreneurship and innovation centres.

These include the University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University, the University of Nigeria, the University of Lagos, the University of Port Harcourt, as well as Covenant University and Pan Atlantic University and Akureyri Federal University of Science and Technology. Nigeria’s most successful business founders disproportionately study at these institutions, the report said.

This is in line with the October 2020 report, West African Entrepreneurship Decade Report Published by Techpoint Africa, it shows that some Nigerian universities are making progress in fostering innovative and entrepreneurial thinking.

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“The Nigerian Student Entrepreneurship Award was established in 2019 to promote and showcase unique business ideas and entrepreneurship among university students, and to help bridge the gap between academia and business,” the report emphasized.

little entrepreneurial activity

“Not only in terms of government and corporate engagement, Nigerian start-ups lack the support of their market counterparts in Egypt and South Africa,” the report states. “The level of activity is also relatively low in terms of entrepreneurial support in Nigerian universities.”

“This low level of activity is in stark contrast to the likes of the American University in Cairo, Egypt, the University of Cape Town, and the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, all of which offer dedicated internal incubators or external startups for student-founded startups. Accelerators. Some of these and others also invest in and take equity stakes in startups through their technology transfer offices,” the report states.

“Sadly, Nigeria lacks this level of engagement and, like the government and corporate levels, more work needs to be done if the ecosystem as a whole is to generate the quality of venture capital that justifies the amount of capital going into it,” End of report.

Entrepreneurial skills

Dr. Stephen Oluwatobi, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Hebron Entrepreneurship Lab, Covenant University, Nigeria told University World News: “I think universities must ensure that students have three categories of skills before they graduate, including technical skills (economics, engineering, and all the degrees they offer); life skills (leadership, negotiation, communication, work attitude, resilience, etc.) ); and entrepreneurial skills (which enable students to see problems as opportunities to create prosperity, rather than just another thing to complain about).”

“Nigeria desperately needs graduates with entrepreneurial skills to create prosperity from its problems. But if universities fail to see this, they will only increase the number of unemployed graduates who have only ‘lightweight’ technical skills but Lack of life and entrepreneurial skills to get through tough times in the world.” Oluwatobi is also co-founder of Quanta Africa-Innovative Tech Social Enterprise Innovations.

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“Therefore, in order to strengthen the role of Nigerian universities in building efficient and innovative entrepreneurial ecosystems, firstly, universities and their leaders need to be students. They need to learn how to ‘create’ 21st century graduates relevant to the current digital and entrepreneurial era If they can’t do that, they’re still producing graduates for a world that no longer exists,” Oluwatobi added.

“Many Nigerian universities are striving and trying to foster innovative and entrepreneurial thinking through strategic initiatives; but not many are getting it (right),” he said.

University-Industry Relations

“Nigerian universities must also strive to foster strong university-industry relationships,” Oluwatobi advises.

“This exposes educators and students to today’s issues that will challenge their entrepreneurial thinking, not ‘outdated textbooks,'” he explained.

“The relationship should also give faculty the opportunity to do internships and sabbaticals in really problematic industries.

“When they go back to the classroom, they challenge students to be entrepreneurial and develop better students.

“One king is needed to raise another king; slaves cannot be kings. Teachers and lecturers need entrepreneurial thinking to help students develop their own minds,” Oluwatobi emphasizes.

Mentoring process

“My experience directing the Center for Entrepreneurial Development Studies at Covenant University also revealed the importance of having entrepreneurs promote entrepreneurship courses rather than reading instruction,” Oluwatobi noted.

“We also leveraged our network of alumni entrepreneurs who have helped facilitate entrepreneurship courses and mentor aspiring entrepreneurs. Part of the mentoring process involved interning directly with entrepreneurs and founders during their extended vacations,” he noted.

“I founded the Hebron Entrepreneurship Lab in 2016 to enable Covenant University students to express and exercise their entrepreneurial muscles and abilities, and provide support to take their proven ideas from concept to product, and then to the market,” Oluwatobi explained.

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Covenant graduates have founded many viable companies over the years, from Softcom to PiggyVest to Korapay to Earnipay to ThriveAgric and more, he said.

Metrics to measure college success

Oluwatobi says Nigerian universities should rethink how they measure their success: whether it should be based on the number of students they graduate (who can’t find jobs), or the number of first-class students (who are still struggling in life) ?

According to him, the success of Nigerian universities should depend on the extent to which their graduates are sought out for employment and how many graduates start high-growth startups that solve problems, provide employment opportunities and create wealth.

“The success of Nigerian universities should also be related to the percentage of graduates’ contribution to the overall gross domestic product (GDP) – the total monetary or market value of all finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders during a given time period,” Oluwa Toby added.

“If Nigerian universities don’t see real indicators of success, if they don’t see after graduation, then not only are they not entrepreneurial, they are failing,” Oluwatobi concluded.

Oluwatobi was the lead author of a 2019 study titled “Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Matrix (EEM): A Proposed Framework for Nigerian Universities to Become Startup Factories,” which noted that “universities can often sprout startups by building platforms to develop from the university community.” create value from knowledge (ideas, concepts, prototypes and products); verify that the value created is an efficient, effective and applicable solution; foster entrepreneurship in the university community; and create an enabling environment, driven by incentives, Institutional quality, infrastructure, capital, market access, work space, experimental laboratories, technology transfer offices, and industry support and linkages.”


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