Local universities must focus more on entrepreneurship

Graduands at a past graduation ceremony at Egerton University. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Graduands at a past graduation ceremony at Egerton University. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

In the last decade, considerable attention has been paid by the government and higher education institutions on the creation of graduate entrepreneurs necessitated by a shrinking job market in Kenya.

Resources, including finances and moral support, have been channelled towards this goal but despite this spirited effort, according to the World Bank report (2014), the number of unemployed graduates and mostly youths between the ages of 18-25 continue to increase while the number of business failures especially at the start up stage remains high.

This begs the question whether the entrepreneurial training offered at the universities and other tertiary institutions is effective. A critical analysis of the training offered in Kenya shows some weaknesses that are important to discuss and fix if entrepreneurship has to play its role towards helping achieving Vision 2030.

First, very often the term entrepreneurship in Kenya is associated with small business, self-employment and owner managers. In fact, the argument here is that entrepreneurship is an activity that should be undertaken by the youth who are jobless or leaving college with no promise of getting a well-paying job opportunity.

But entrepreneurship is broader than this thinking based on its original definition and the many types of entrepreneurs discussed by various scholars.

These different entrepreneurs are all spread in our lecture rooms and because no single individual displays similar entrepreneurial attribute and personality, a narrow definition of entrepreneurship and also taking them through similar archetypal entrepreneurship training programmes leads to some getting lost on the way.

For instance an opportunistic entrepreneur will only need to recognise a business opportunity anywhere to start the process of venture creation, a craft entrepreneur will need to have a certain skill in order to start the process of venture creation while a corporate entrepreneur will need to carry out his or her entrepreneurial activity in an existing organisation.

Not everyone can be a craft entrepreneur and therefore, when we train our graduates that they can only practice entrepreneurship as craft entrepreneurs, we deny other types of entrepreneurs in our vicinity an opportunity to grow their entrepreneurial spirit within their space.

Second, a sneak preview of the course outlines and description developed in many of our business schools revels that majority of them train the graduates about entrepreneurship rather than for entrepreneurship.

For instance many of the courses emphasise either on entrepreneurship awareness, new enterprise creation and small business growth and survival.

While these are important areas in entrepreneurship, developing entrepreneurial skills, attributes and behaviour seem to be rarely focused yet entrepreneurship is about acquiring a given sets of skills, attributes or behaviour.

An inward look at our institutions , with the exception of the few that have developed innovation and business incubation centres , shows that this atmosphere tends to be lacking in many of them and their main goal seem to be producing as many graduates as possible.

Entrepreneurship is about identifying a gap or a problem in the market and developing a product to satisfy the market or solve the problem.

Kabata Githinji is entrepreneurship lecturer at Kirinyaga University.