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 startup ecosystem – and they lag behind institutions in Egypt and South Africa.

It came out of the publication of the title Nigerian Startup Ecosystem Report 2022 Published by Disrupt Research in September.

The report presents local ecosystems by analyzing active startups, local support networks and funding over the past seven and a half years.

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

Startup scenario

As of September 2022, the report found that at least 481 tech startups were operating in Nigeria, employing more than 19,000 people with fintech being the most populous sector, representing more than a third of the total active tech startups.

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

Nigerian startups are supported by a strong investment ecosystem and total investment has quadrupled between 2020 and 2021, and is on track for another big leap in 2022.

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

Major Nigerian universities run entrepreneurship-focused courses, and have established entrepreneurship and innovation centers, according to the report.

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

According to this October 2020 report, West African Startup Decade Report Published by Techpoint Africa, which indicated that some Nigerian universities are making progress in developing an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset.

“The Nigerian Student Venture Awards, established in 2019, works to promote and showcase unique business ideas and entrepreneurship among university students, as well as help bridge the gap between the academic world and the business community,” the report highlighted.

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Less entrepreneurial activities

The report said: “It is not only in terms of government and corporate involvement that Nigerian startups lack the support of their peers in markets such as Egypt and South Africa. When it comes to entrepreneurial support from Nigerian universities, the level of activity is also relatively low.”

“This grassroots activity contrasts with the likes of the American University in Cairo, Egypt, or the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University in South Africa, all of which have dedicated in-house incubators or accelerators for student-founded external startups. are investing in startups through offices – and taking equity stakes,” the report pointed out.

“This level of engagement is sadly lacking in Nigeria and, both at the government and corporate levels, more needs to be done if the ecosystem as a whole is to produce the quality of enterprises that justify the amount of capital flowing into it.” The report is finished.

Entrepreneurial skills

Dr. Stephen Oluwatobi, Founder and Board Chairman, Hebron Startup Lab, Covenant University, Nigeria, said. University World News: “I believe there are three categories of skills that universities teach their students before they graduate from school: technical skills (economics, engineering, and all they offer as degrees); life skills (leadership, negotiation, communication, work attitude, flexibility, 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 entrepreneurship to create prosperity out of its problems. But, if universities fail to see that, they will only add to the ranks of unemployed graduates, who have only ‘light weight’ technical skills, but lack the life and entrepreneurial skills to pull in the world, ” he said. Oluwatobi, who is also the co-founder of Quanta Africa-Innovative Tech Social Enterprise Innovations.

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“Therefore, to enhance the role of Nigerian universities in establishing an efficient and innovative startup ecosystem, first, universities and their leaders need to be students. They need to learn how to ‘create’ 21st century graduates who will be relevant in the current digital and entrepreneurial era. If they do not achieve this, they will still be producing graduates for a world that does not exist,” Oluwatobi added.

“Many universities in Nigeria are striving and striving to develop an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset through strategic moves; but many have not got it (right),” he said.

University-Industry Relations

“Nigerian universities should also work to drive strong university-industry linkages,” suggested Oluwatobi.

“It exposes teachers and students to current issues that challenge their entrepreneurial minds, rather than ‘stale textbooks,'” he said.

“Such relationships should also give faculty members opportunities to intern and get their break in an industry with real problems.

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

“One king must be made another king; A slave cannot make a king. Teachers and lecturers need an entrepreneurial mindset to help students develop,” Oluwatobi stressed.

instruction process

“My experience directing the Center for Entrepreneurship Development Studies at Covenant University also revealed the importance of entrepreneurs facilitating entrepreneurship classes rather than reading-teaching teachers,” Oluwatobi pointed out.

“We also leveraged heavily on our alumni network of entrepreneurs, who helped with entrepreneurship classes and mentoring to aspiring entrepreneurs. Part of the mentoring process included face-to-face interviews with entrepreneurs and founders during their long vacations,” he noted.

“I established the Hebron Startup Lab in 2016 to enable Covenant University students to express and exercise their entrepreneurial muscles and abilities as well as to provide support to take their recognized ideas from concept to product, to market,” Oluwatobi explained.

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Over the years, Covenant University graduates have launched a number of viable companies, from Softcom to PiggyVest to CoraPay to ArniPay to ThriveGric, to name a few, he said.

Indicators for measuring university success

Oluwatobi said Nigerian universities should rethink how they measure their success: should it be based on the number of students they graduate (who cannot secure jobs) or should it be based on the number of 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 employed and how many of their graduates are launching high-growth startups that solve problems, offer jobs and create wealth.

“The success of a Nigerian university should also be about the percentage of their graduates’ contribution to the overall gross domestic product, or GDP – the total monetary or market value of all finished goods and services produced within the country’s borders in a given period of time,” Oluwatobi added.

“If Nigerian universities cannot see real indicators for success and if they cannot see beyond graduation, they are not only void of entrepreneurship, but they have failed,” Oluwatobi concluded.

Oluwatobi is the lead author of a 2019 study titled, ‘Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Matrix (EEM): A Proposed Framework for Nigerian Universities to Become Factories for Startup Companies’, which states that “universities can frequently churn out start-up companies by establishing platforms. Knowledge developed by the university community (ideas , concepts, prototypes and products) to create value; verify that the value created is an efficient, effective and applicable solution; the development of entrepreneurship of the university community; and incentives, institutional quality, infrastructure, capital, access to markets, scope, laboratories for use , establish an enabling environment defined by technology transfer offices, as well as industry support and contacts.”


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