Universities have to contribute more to startup ecosystem


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

This comes from a publication called Nigeria Startup Ecosystem Report 2022 published by Disrupt Research in September.

The report presents local ecosystems through an analysis of active startups, local support networks, and funding over the past seven and a half years.

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

Start-up Context

As of September 2022, the report found that at least 481 tech startups were active across Nigeria, employing more than 19,000 people with fintech being the most populous sector, accounting for more than a third of all companies. active tech startups.

Nearly 50% of tech startups in Nigeria have gone through 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 taking an even bigger leap in 2022.

At least 383 individual Nigerian tech startups raised a total funding of US$2,068,709,445 between January 2015 and August 2022, more than any other country. other during that period.

A large number of Nigeria’s top universities offer entrepreneurship-focused courses and have established hubs for entrepreneurship and innovation, according to the report.

These include the universities of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo, Nigeria, Lagos, Port Harcourt, as well as Covenant and Pan-Atlantic universities and the Federal University of Technology Akure. According to the report, Nigeria’s most successful business founders have attended these institutions disproportionately.

This is consistent with the October 2020 report. West Africa Decade of Entrepreneurship Report published by Techpoint Africa, which indicates that several Nigerian universities are making progress in developing innovative and entrepreneurial thinking.

“The Nigeria Student Entrepreneurship Award, established in 2019, works to promote and showcase unique business ideas and entrepreneurship among university students, as well as help eliminate the gap between gap between the academic world and the business community,” the report highlights.

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Low startup activity

Not only in terms of government and corporate involvement, but Nigerian startups lack the support of their peers in markets such as Egypt and South Africa. When it comes to startup support from Nigerian universities, the level of activity is also relatively low.”

“This low level of activity is in contrast to universities like the American University of Cairo in Egypt, or the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University in South Africa, which all have incubators or accelerators. exclusively for student-founded external startups. Some of them and others are also investing in – and getting shares in – startups through their technology transfer office,” the report pointed out.

“Sadly this level of participation is lacking in Nigeria and as with government and business levels, more needs to be done if the entire ecosystem is to produce the right quality of projects for the number of people. capital poured into it,” the report concluded.

Start-up skills

Stephen Oluwatobi, founder and chairman of the board of directors of the Hebron Startup Lab at Covenant University in Nigeria, says University World News: “I believe there are three categorical skills that universities must ensure their students master before they graduate, including technical skills (economics, engineering, and all that they do). offered as a degree); life skills (leadership, negotiation, communication, work attitude, resilience, etc.); and business skills (allowing students to see problems as an opportunity to create prosperity, rather than another thing to complain about). “

“Nigeria desperately needs graduates with business skills to create prosperity from its problems. However, if universities can’t see that, they will only add to the number of unemployed graduates who have only ‘mild’ technical skills, but lack business and life skills. to surpass the world,” said Oluwatobi, who is also the co-founder of Quanta Africa-Innovative Tech Social Enterprise Innovation.

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“So, in order to enhance the role of Nigerian universities in establishing an innovative and productive startup ecosystem, universities and their leaders need to be students first. They need to learn how to ‘create’ 21st century graduates who will fit into today’s digital and business age. If they cannot get this, they will still produce graduates for a world that no longer exists,” added Oluwatobi.

“A number of Nigerian universities are working and trying to develop innovative and entrepreneurial thinking through strategic moves; but not many people get it (right),” he said.

The relationship between university and industry

Oluwatobi proposes: “Nigerian universities must also aim to foster sustainable university-industry relationships.

This leaves educators and students with today’s problems that will challenge their business thinking instead of ‘old textbooks’, he explains.

“Such relationships will also give faculty members the opportunity to intern and take their vacations in industry where there is a real problem.

“When they return to the classroom, they will challenge their students to spark entrepreneurial minds as well as raise better students.

“It takes a king to raise another king; Slaves cannot be kings. Teachers and lecturers need to have an entrepreneurial mindset to help their students develop,” emphasized Oluwatobi.

Mentoring process

“My experience directing the Center for Entrepreneurship Development Studies at Covenant University also shows how important it is for entrepreneurs to facilitate business classes instead of teachers reading to teach, ‘ Oluwatobi pointed out.

“We have also made great use of our network of alumni entrepreneurs, who have helped facilitate startup classes and mentor aspiring entrepreneurs. Part of the mentoring process involves interning directly with entrepreneurs and founders during their long vacations,” he notes.

“I founded the Hebron Startup Lab in 2016 to enable Covenant University students to show and exercise their entrepreneurial muscles and prowess and assist in bringing their validated ideas from concept to product, to market,” explains Oluwatobi.

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Over the years, a plethora of viable companies have been founded by Covenant University graduates, from Softcom to PiggyVest, Korapay to Revenipay to ThriveAgric, he said.

University success metrics

Oluwatobi said Nigerian universities should rethink how they measure their success: whether it should be based on the number of students they graduate (who cannot secure jobs) or whether it should be based on numbers first-class students (who are still struggling in life) ?

According to him, the success of Nigerian universities should be based on the extent to which their graduates are being employed and how many of their graduates are launching fast-growing startups. to solve problems, provide jobs and create wealth.

“The success of universities in Nigeria should also be based on the percentage of graduates’ contribution to overall gross domestic product, or GDP – the total monetary value or market value of all finished goods and services produced within the borders of a country during a specific period of time,” added Oluwatobi.

Oluwatobi concludes: “If Nigerian universities cannot see real indicators of success and if they cannot see beyond graduation, then they are not only void of entrepreneurship but also fail. failed,” concluded Oluwatobi.

Oluwatobi is the lead author of a 2019 study titled ‘Entrepreneur Ecosystem Matrix (EEM): A Proposed Framework for Nigerian Universities to Be Factory for Startups’, in It states that “universities can often weed out startups by establishing a foundation for creating value from the knowledge (ideas, concepts, prototypes, and products) developed by developed by the university community; confirm that the value created is a viable, effective, and applicable solution; develop the entrepreneurship of the university community; and establish a enabling environment, defined by incentives, institutional quality, infrastructure, capital, market access, workspace, labs for testing, technology transfer offices , as well as industry support and linkages”.


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