Comprehensive Mapping and Assessment of the Entrepreneurial and Higher Education Ecosystem in Sub-Saharan Africa

Report of Findings from Nigeria

The findings of the Comprehensive Mapping and Assessment of the Entrepreneurial and Higher Education Ecosystem in Nigeria are summarized in this report. The research is a comprehensive mapping of the tertiary education sector and the entrepreneurial/innovation ecosystems of Nigeria, with outcomes including the nature and extent of existing initiatives, entities, policies, and structures that facilitate and support entrepreneurship development in various forms, university entrepreneurship engagements, stakeholders in both university and entrepreneurial ecosystems, current trends in innovation and their connections to curricula, among other significant points. The research ended with viable recommendations based on the research’s outcomes.ย 

The Higher Education Ecosystems were mapped using a sectoral analysis methodology with emphasis on the three sector ligaments ( Knowledge and Technology, Actors and Networks, and Institutions). Through a literature review, focus group discussions, and in-depth interviews, Qualitative Data was collected, whereas Quantitative Data was collected via a survey. Using tools for analyzing ecosystems such as SWOT, Problem Tree analysis, and Conflict Sensitivity analysis, the assessment of current trends in the innovation and youth entrepreneurship ecosystem with a focus on the capability, suitability, influencing factors, governing rules/regulations, and catalysts capable of supporting the sustainable growth of sectors yielded the final results.ย 

Examining the perception of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Nigeria, the results indicated that the Nigerian entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem is strong and enjoying rapid growth due to the increased number of tech and acceleration hubs across the country. The rapid growth in the ecosystem is largely attributed to access to the internet & the ease of access to tools that allow youngsters to create ideas and take them to market in real time. However, the ecosystem is believed to have some degree of disconnection between the players in the industry.

Further analysis using the SWOT analysis model revealed that the availability of Tech & Incubations hubs to nurture ideas, access to a large talent pool and availability of a large market for products are among the ecosystem’s most significant strengths. Some of the identified weaknesses impeding the growth of the ecosystem include, but are not limited to, unfavorable government policies and regulations, disconnect between key players in the ecosystem, lack of a definite structure, Lack of access to start-up inclined legal services, disconnect between the curriculum and industry needs & trends among others. Despite the identified weaknesses, the Nigerian Entrepreneurship and Innovation Ecosystem have opportunities to dialogue with the government to find solutions to contentious issues and create policies that foster the growth of the ecosystem. The ecosystem was identified to be the current leading Hub for entrepreneurs in the continent and therefore provides a perfect opportunity for linkages and networking among the ecosystem players e.g. Universities, Investors, and entrepreneurs. From an internal perspective on the ecosystem, key identified threats to the growth of the ecosystem include the government’s ban on cryptocurrency thus limiting innovators with crypto-based ideas, limited laws that protect innovations as well as loss of talent due to high emigration rates.ย ย 

Notably, there are a few policies that were identified to offer a conducive environment for entrepreneurial development and innovation in Nigeria such as the startup bill (currently in development); a joint initiative by Nigeriaโ€™s tech startup ecosystem and the Presidency to ensure that Nigeria’s laws and regulations are friendly, clear, planned and work for the tech ecosystem. There is also low taxation on small businesses that are only needed to pay for companies’ income tax, value-added tax, and personal income tax. However, the Nigerian policy environment was identified to have a number of red tapes that hinders the growth of the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem and such include the ban on Twitter making it difficult for innovators and entrepreneurs to network and access the community of experts and commentators in the social space, ban on cryptocurrency transactions which have made it impossible for Nigerian fintech companies to facilitate crypto transactions, Okada bike-hailing services ban; ban on the use of motorcycles and tricycles on major highways within the state resulting in higher cost of logistics for small businesses as well as high taxation on fintech and tech startups making it expensive to run startups.

In terms of University-Industry linkages and collaboration in Nigeria, there is a lack of a clear strategy for internship placement which is attributed to students’ attitudes toward their industrial training and the University’s reluctance to engage with organizations to find solutions. The research findings indicate no MOUs with companies for most Nigerian Universities. There are, however, gentlemen’s agreements with some companies in Nigeria like Softcom, Pertinence Group, and others. Further examination of the curriculum revealed that the current university curriculum does not reflect industry trends. This is due, in large part, to the Nigerian University Commission’s inability to modify school curriculums to reflect current trends. Many entrepreneurs and innovators believe that most Nigerian schools don’t use research in teaching. The curriculum is restrictive with some universities having to get creative to deliver research-based lectures.

Nigerian tertiary education curriculum and current trends insights include cloud computing, mobile apps, AI, Blockchain, cyber security, contactless payment options, financial literacy, digital-only banking, and on-demand healthcare among others. Universities are responding to these trends by creating and supporting fintech-related training, and information technology expertise.

Gender inequality has been a major and active topic of research and discussion in the tertiary education and entrepreneurship ecosystem over the past decade, and this study found that gender inclusiveness is low with key drawbacks such as low womenโ€™s workforce participation rate with only 13.2 percent of working-age women active in the workforce. Also, the ratio of female to male students in tertiary-level education is low at 0.69 (2021) indicating significant educational attainment disparities between males and females. Several pieces of legislation potentially favorable to women and girls have been passed, but to date, they have had little positive impact due to low awareness, enforcement, and implementation

In light of the aforementioned findings, the Nigerian tertiary education and entrepreneurship ecosystems have the potential to interact and scale due to the country’s leading tech and entrepreneurship hubs, active startup ecosystem, and a large number of startup support organizations. With the identified limited industry-academia collaboration in Nigeria, there is an opportunity and need to strengthen academia-industry collaboration which will eventually be a win-win situation for both academia and the industry; academia will have the opportunity to test the practical application of their research, gain insights on research, access funds for academic research and further their outreach mission whereas the Industries will have the opportunity to solve specific technical or design problems, develop new products and processes, conduct research leading to new patents and improve product quality. With the current large network of technology hubs such as National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)ย  ICT centers located in the Universities of Lagos and Port Harcourt, Bayero University Kano, Federal University of Technology Minna, and Gombe State University, there is an opportunity for university-industry linkages to equipping Nigerian youths with the necessary digital literacy skills that can facilitate Nigeriaโ€™s transition to the Digital Economy.

In light of the foregoing, the study suggests the following; 

University and Industry Linkages  

  1. The gap between the employers of labor and the managers/administrators of tertiary institutions must be bridged through the collaboration of efforts.
  2. The private sector should provide students with exchange programs in form of industrial attachment,ย 
  3. Review the present curricula to meet modern globalization and technological dynamics;ย 
  4. There should be concerted effort and policy towards adequate funding and massive investment in entrepreneurship education;ย 
  5. Entrepreneurship education should be introduced as a compulsory credit load course for all new entrants;ย 
  6. Overhaul the tertiary institutions in terms of the provision of modern infrastructure, equipment, materials, and maintenance;ย 

Equipping Students to be Entrepreneurs and Innovators

  1. A curriculum that includes industry trends should be introducedย 
  2. Lecturers should go and experience the industry firsthand during sabbaticals to get a more vivid pictureย 
  3. Entrepreneurship and Innovation should be taught in all universities
  4. Students should have access to Incubation labs in their schools to develop ideasย 
  5. Industry experts should be more involved in the education sector
  6. Students should have access to online courses on Udemy or Coursera
  7. Government should provide enabling environment (facilities and equipment)