EDUCATION FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP:
Experience at the University Benin
Benin City, Nigeria
Dr. A. U. Inegbenebor
Department of Business Administration
University of Benin
A paper presented at the Inaugural Conference
of the Academy of Management Nigeria.
held at Abuja on November 22nd and 23rd, 2005.
The response of students is generally positive. Many students affirm
that the course is off immense value to them. As at this moment however,
no formal evaluation has been done with respect to this course.
Nigeria faces a major problem of graduate unemployment. Young
men and women leave the Universities and Polytechnics every year with
very little hope of securing jobs. Dabalen, Oni and Adekola (2000) studied
the labour market prospects of University graduates in Nigeria and found
the unemployment rate for graduates to be around 25% while their
prospects for employment have worsened over time. Hoping to improve
their chances of employment, some recycle themselves into postgraduate
programmes. Others who do not see any hope of self-sustainance outside
the University, devise ways of remaining within the system but engage in
various anti-social activities such as cultism.
The problem is exacerbated because private sector organizations
have found that they can only survive the fierce competition resulting from
globalisation by adopting new technologies and processes, and
reorganising themselves so that they can become more flexible and light-
footed. This reorganization, re-engineering or right-sizing has resulted in
massive less of jobs in the private sector. The public sector has also been
infected by the virus of reorganization and repositioning following global
imperatives. First, public policy has positioned the private sector, in place
of the public sector, as the engine of growth of the economy. Second, to
achieve efficiency which is assumed to be correlated with private sector
model of management several public sector organizations have been or
are being privatized or commercialized. The net effect of these changes is
that the public sector which, historically, absorbed the bulk of graduates of
tertiary institutions could no longer play this role (Dabalen, Oni and
Adekola, 2000). Perhaps the most significant factor that has complicated
the problem of graduate unemployment is the slow growth of the economy.
Between 1995 and 2002, GDP grew at an average of only 3.3% per
annum (OECD, 2002). Thus, the capacity of the economy to absorb the
products of an over expanding tertiary institutions is severely limited.
Even though these fundamental and unprecedented changes are
occurring and are obviously irreversible, Universities continue to mass
produce the same standard products for the labour market. According to
Yesufu (2000), “most Nigerians are being educated out of context” (p.343).
Universities have paid very little attention to the changing labour market
conditions inspite of promptings by pubic officials and international
agencies urging them to do so. Rather than being at the forefront
proactively converting these changes into opportunities for innovative
programmes, the University system in Nigeria seem to have assumed a
production orientation oblivious of the needs of the economy.
Recently, Nigeria evolved the National Economic Empowerment and
Development Strategy (NEEDS) which is described as a home grown
medium term development and poverty reduction plan. NEEDS rests on
four key pillars one of which is “Growing the Private Sector”. Under
NEEDS, the private sector is positioned as the engine of growth of the
economy. It is in this context that Nigerian Universities under the aegis of
the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) committed themselves to
produce entrepreneurial graduates for the stimulation of private sector
growth in Nigeria (NUC, 2004).
Through NEEDS therefore the education and training of
entrepreneurs in Nigeria became a national agenda. Before NEEDS
however, the National University Commission had incorporated
entrepreneurial development as a compulsory course to be taught in
undergraduate programmes of administration and management under its
approved minimum academic standards for Nigerian Universities (NUC,
1989). The aim of the Commission was to have a curriculum that will
“encourage self reliance in the individual and of the nation” (Ibid, p.1).
The University of Benin has had about twenty-five years of
experience teaching entrepreneurship to undergraduate and postgraduate
students in the Department of Business Administration. Subsequently and
following the requirement of the NUC minimum academic standards, he
course also became compulsory for undergraduate students in the
Departments of Accounting and later Banking and Finance (2003/2004). In
1999, the Senate of the University of Benin approved that a 2-credit course
in entrepreneurship be offered by all undergraduate students of the
University irrespective of discipline. The aim of this paper is to share the
experience gained at the University of Benin in teaching entrepreneurship
in the last twenty-five years and to encourage discussion on strengthening
entrepreneurship education in Nigerian Universities.
Entrepreneurship Development in Nigeria
Current research evidence indicates that the establishment of new
small and medium businesses is associated with job creation, innovation
and enhanced productivity in the economy. To stimulate rapid economic
development especially in developing countries, it is important to focus on
preparing the entrepreneurs who would start new businesses or expand
existing ones. Stevenson (2001:6) suggested that preparing future
active promotion of entrepreneurship
integrating entrepreneurship in the educational system
reducing regulatory and administrative barriers to business entry
providing business supports that help people through the pre-
nascent, nascent and early venture stages of the entrepreneurial
Efforts to stimulate economic development through the strategy of
entrepreneurship development is not new in Nigeria. Several institutions
and government agencies have been engaged in different aspects of
fostering entrepreneurship in Nigeria since the seventies. The Centre for
Management Development whose mandate included entrepreneurship
development (Williams, 2003) attempted to develop a model to facilitate
the identification, selection and training of potential entrepreneurs.
Institutions such as the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), the
defunct Nigeria Industrial Development Bank (NIDB) and the Nigerian
Bank for Commerce and Industry (NBCI) and the Nigerian Youth Service
Corps (NYSC) have had programmes for entrepreneurship development.
However, these efforts have almost always been short-lived and have had
minimal impact on the Nigerian economy. The delivery of the programmes
were poor, ad hoc and uncoordinated. According to Ekpeyong (1988:139)
the delivery of entrepreneurship development programmes in Nigeria is
poor as “… a variety of teachers are hurriedly assembled and given
materials also hurriedly written…”. The period of training is often
inadequate and follow-up activities are neglected. Nevertheless,
participants of Entrepreneurship Development Programmes (EDP) rate
them positively (Imanyi, 1990).
Government-sponsored EDP have had the tendency to emphasize
the provision of capital on the assumption that the limiting factor inhibiting
the assumption of entrepreneurship role by Nigerians is lack of capital
(Osoba, 1985). Several organs of government have been established to
channel funds to small and medium scale industries with limited results
(Inang & Ukpong, 1992). Edo and Dimowo (2001) studied the operations of
the NDE programme in Edo and Delta States between 1987 and 1997 and
found that of the 81 new businesses established by beneficiaries of the
scheme, 74 failed (ceased to exist) within the same period. A voluntary
initiative of the Bankers Committee in 2001 led to the creation of the Small
and Medium Enterprises Equity Investment Scheme (SMEEIS) to facilitate
the flow of funds to small and medium industries (SMIs) in the real sector.
The scheme requires banks to set aside 10% of their pretax profit for
equity investment in SMIs. However, while a total of N22.3 billion had been
set aside by various banks between 2001 and 2004, only N7.71 billion or
35% had actually been invested in SMIs (Sanusi, 2004).
A variety of companies, NGOs, the Nigerian Employers Consultative
Association (NECA), international institutions such as the International
Labour Organisation (ILO) the United Nations Development Programme
(UNIDO) etc, engage in entrepreneurial development activities including
the training of EDP trainers.
However, while these efforts have created awareness of the role of
entrepreneurs in a private sector-led economy, the scope of the
programmes are unlikely to ever reach the critical mass of the Nigerian
population. Neither are they sufficient to create an entrepreneurial culture
in the society and change the orientation of youths from that of a job
seeker to that of job creator. Integrating entrepreneurship in the
educational system, has great potential in achieving these goals.
By the turn of the 21st Century, as many as 1600 Universities in
North America were offering courses in entrepreneurship compared to
merely two dozens in the 70s (Kuratko, 2003). These courses fairly easily
penetrated the curricula of business schools but less easily in engineering
schools except in departments where students had training in accounting,
economic analysis and other business areas (Vespar, 1982). In the view of
the latter, the penetration of entrepreneurship into University curriculum in
North America was aided by three factors. First, students liked the course
and the demand for it was high. Second, Universities that benefited from
federal government grants to establish innovation centers introduced
courses in entrepreneurship because they found that such courses were
central to innovation. Third, Universities that participated in the Small
Business Administration Programme had to introduce courses in small
business management and entrepreneurship if they were to obtain the
funds offered by the programme.
Vyakarnam (2003) attributed the introduction and growth of
enterpreneurship education into the curricula of Universities in the United
Kingdom to the need of Universities to serve the innovation needs of
businesses, to produce graduates with transferable skills for businesses
and to be able to access funding from the Higher Education Funding
Universities and Entrepreneurship Education
The traditional role of Universities in society is the advancement of
the frontiers of knowledge, accumulation and dissemination of knowledge
for the overall development of society. In recent years, Universities have
sought to make themselves more relevant to society. Drawing upon their
major strength which is the availability of a large pool of technical expertise
and creativity, Universities have assumed a new role of being at the
forefront in promoting technical change and innovation (Stankiewicz,
One of the areas where Universities have responded to the needs of
society is in the area of entrepreneurship research and education.
Whereas earlier scholars merely recognized the entrepreneur as a factor
of production, they did not see it as a significant area of teaching and
research. Recently however, entrepreneurship has been described as “a
discipline requiring its own fairly simple roles” (Drucker, 1985:x) and a
behaviour that can be learned (Ibid, page 23). In the last three decades,
entrepreneurship has emerged as an area of study by economists,
sociologists, anthropologists and management scientists. It has developed
worldwide as an academic discipline with journals, books, symposia and
international conferences and has been acclaimed as “the business
discipline of the 21st Century” (ICSB, 1999: 9).
While the gospel of entrepreneurship education in Universities is
spreading rapidly across the world, the question that has not been
adequately answered is how to teach entrepreneurship more effectively?
What should be taught and how should it be taught? (Kuratko, 2003).
Since knowledge regarding these questions remains relatively
underdeveloped, teachers of entrepreneurship in Universities are left on
their own to experiment on topics to teach as well as ways to teach them
(Blenker, et al, 2004).
What to teach and how to teach it depends on the overall aim that a
given entrepreneurship education programme seeks to achieve. Broadly,
the choice is between seeking to improve students ability to perform
entrepreneurial functions with a strong practical bias or developing
students conceptual about entrepreneurship. Most successful
entrepreneurship education programmes make the choice after carefully
assessing the needs of students, the community, the strengths and
interests of faculty as well as the strategic focus of the University (Upton,
2003). This explains why different Universities have uniquely different aims
and approaches entrepreneurship education. What to teach: At the initial
stages of entrepreneurship education, Loucks (1982) was of the opinion
that the best that can be achieved by educators was to seek to change the
perception of students by making them aware of the nature and scope of
entrepreneurship, the characteristics and role demands of entrepreneurs
and the impact of social, economic and political environment on new
ventures creation. Reviews of best practices of leading entrepreneurship
education centers by Kuratko (2003) and Blenker, et al (2004) show that
entrepreneurship education has progressed with more specific aims such
show students how to behave entrepreneurially;
build skills in negotiation, networking, technological innovation,
etc. to facilitate success in entrepreneurial career;
create awareness of barriers to initiating entrepreneurial career
and how to overcome them.
These indicate that entrepreneurship education has taken a form
and occupied a nitche that is quite different from that of management even
though they are related.
Henderson (1995) identified the winning strategies of successful
entrepreneurs which potential entrepreneurs can use to create a moneymaking
business to include:
(a) conceptualising a product or service to meet a defined need;
(b) evaluating the potential of the business idea by analysing the
trends in the economy which may influence the fortunes of the
(c) developing a credible business plan;
(d) assembly the needed resources to implement the plan;
(e) launching the business;
(f) expanding the business;
(g) developing capacity to manage atrocity and crises when they
(h) managing the successful venture.
This suggests the key issues on which potential entrepreneurs can be
educated and trained to sharpen their skills. [From various studies
reviewed by Kuratko (2003), entrepreneurship education includes skill
building in negotiation, leadership, new product development, creative
thinking and exposure to technological innovation. Other areas highlighted
as important for entrepreneurial education are sources of venture capital,
idea protection, characteristics of entrepreneurs, challenges of each stage
of venture development and awareness of entrepreneurial career options.
To Blenker, et al (2004), the central problems in entrepreneurship are how
to discover opportunities, how to evaluate the opportunities, how to
assemble the needed resources and how to create a competitive
advantage. Review of the curriculum of leading entrepreneurship
education centres indicate that venture initiation, entrepreneurial skills and
behaviour, venture financing, managing growth and field studies are core
areas in entrepreneurship education (Upton, 2004).
How to teach: How to teach entrepreneurship addresses the issues
of how best to stimulate students interest in entrepreneurship, how best to
transfer information, skill and attitudes relevant for successful venture
creation and sustainance. Researchers have found widespread use of
experiential learning in entrepreneurial education in most Universities
(Streeter, Jaquette and Hovis, 2002; Blenker, Dreisler, Paergemann and
Kjeldsen, 2004; Sandercock, 2001; Kuratko, 2003). Experiential learning
This is an effort to integrate real world experiences with conceptual
learning. It involves various techniques as “live” case analysis, business
plans, consulting with practising entrepreneurs, interviews of entrepreneurs
by students, use of entrepreneurs as guest speakers, internship in
entrepreneurially-run businesses, student involvement in product
development teams, simulation, field trips, use of video and films etc. The
major advantage of experiential learning is that the student is actively
involved in the learning process.
Also widely used is the lecture method which is suitable for providing
information, explaining concepts and theories where necessary.
Entrepreneurship Education at the University of Benin
Long before NUC prescribed entrepreneurship development as part
of the minimum academic standards for undergraduate degree
programmes in Business Administration and Accounting in 1989, the
University of Benin had started its pioneering activities in entrepreneurship
education in Nigeria. In the early eighties, the University introduced a 3-
credit course in entrepreneurship development as a core course for
undergraduate, postgraduate diploma and MBA students of the
Department of Business Administration. Entrepreneurship development
also became compulsory for Accounting students following the NUC
approved minimum academic standards. In the recently introduced M.Sc.
programme, entrepreneurship development featured as an integral part.
Students also have the option of doing their doctoral work in the area of
In 1999, the Senate of the University of Benin approved a 2-credit
course in entrepreneurship to be offered to all non-business and
accounting undergraduate students of the University.
The objectives of the programme were to:
(a) Create an entrepreneurship culture among students of the
University of Benin and the society in general;
(b) Ensure that all undergraduates of the University of Benin are
knowledgeable about entrepreneurship and motivated to
establish their own businesses on completion of their degree
(c) Assist students identify opportunities and the avenues for
acquiring resources required for successful entrepreneurial
pursuits (Senate paper 12/03/04).
This was a significant innovation in the Nigerian University System.
To coordinate and facilitate the new University wide programme, a Centre
for Entrepreneurship Development was established.
Mission and Goals of the University: The mission of the University of
Benin as contained in the Strategic Plan (2002-2012) is
To develop the human mind to be creative, innovative, research
oriented, competent in areas of specialisation, knowledgeable in
entrepreneurship and dedicated to service. (University of Benin,
Among other goals, the University of Benin seeks “to strengthen the
creative and innovative values and entrepreneurial capacities of the
humanities, education and law so as to make them more relevant to the
national development process “(University of Benin, 2002:15).
These show clearly that entrepreneurship education occupies a
strategic position in the University of Benin. What has now been articulated
in the Strategic Plan of the University is the accumulation of several years
of experience in entrepreneurship education in the University.
Entrepreneurship Development Centre: The primary role of the
Centre is stimulation of entrepreneurial competencies among students,
staff and the community. The Entrepreneurship Development Centre is
Develop and offer courses, seminars, workshops and
conferences to advance and propagate entrepreneurship.
Offer a 2-credit course to penultimate/final-year students.
Provide clinics in entrepreneurship to students, staff and
members of the public.
Serve as a National Centre for the training and development of
experts in entrepreneurship.
Promote research and experimentation in entrepreneurship.
Another important role assigned to the Entrepreneurship
Development Centre is the commercialisation of innovations and
innovations. The Centre is expected to:
Identify all innovations and inventions in the University for the
purpose of assisting the innovators/inventors to commercialise
them and establish contacts with potentials business partners.
Provide inventors/innovators technical and professional expertise
to patent and further develop their inventions/innovations
(University of Benin, 2002:54-55).
Of these programmes, only the 2-credit University-wide
entrepreneurship course has taken off. It started in the 2000/2001
academic year in the Faculty of Law. As at the 2004/2005 academic year,
the course had been incorporated into the curriculum of the Faculties of
Agriculture, Arts, Education, Law, Science and Social Sciences (except
Business Administration, Accounting, Banking and Finance which operates
the 3-credit compulsory course administered by the Department of
University-wide 2 credit Course: The aim of the course is to introduce
students who do not have accounting or business background to the basic
concepts and practice of entrepreneurship. The course objectives are to
enable students to be able to:
(a) explain the nature and responsibilities of an entrepreneur in
starting and running an enterprise;
(b) identify and analyse business opportunities;
(c) develop a business plan
(d) identify, secure and manage resources effectively.
Topics discussed include generating and developing business ideas,
conducting market survey, preparing a business plan, legal aspects of
entrepreneurship including business registration formalities and simple
elements of contract, financing a business venture, record keeping, export
operations and marketing products or services.
The teaching method at present tends to emphasize lectures due to
the class size. The average class size is in excess of three hundred
students. In addition, students are required prepare and present one
assigned exercise in groups.
There are strong indications that students have a positive attitude to
the course. A sample survey of the reactions of students to the University-
wide entrepreneurship programme shows that 47% of the 187 respondents
strongly agreed that the course had positive impact on them while 33%
said it had some impact. Only 13% felt it did not have any impact.
On respondents rating of the content of the course, 42% said it was
very good while 40% said it was good. Only 5% said it was poor or very
poor. In terms of the usefulness of the reading materials provided to the
students, 77% said they were useful while 11% said they were not useful.
As much as 65% felt that the course provided them significantly new
information while 27% said the information gathered was fairly new.
Respondents were asked to make suggestion on ways of improving
the impact of the entrepreneurship course. As high as 41% suggested that
the course should be made more practical and another 14% suggested the
use of teaching aids. Reduction of class size was suggested by 10% of the
respondents and another 10% felt the course should be introduced at an
earlier level instead of the penultimate or final year at which it is currently
taken. The major source of complaints are the course being too theoretical
(33%), inadequate reading materials (21%), non-conducive learning
environment (19%) and class-size too large (13%). These responses
suggest the need to adopt experiential learning in teaching the course to
smaller-size classes and the use of teaching aid. It means the present
tendency to use the lecture method may not lead to desired results.
Entrepreneurship Course for Business, Accounting, Banking and
The assumption in this course is that students have adequate
background knowledge of business, accounting and management
concepts. The aim of the course it to develop entrepreneurial orientation
and skills in students, to explore the nature and opportunities for
entrepreneurship and to encourage them to address themselves to the
possibility of employing the abundant resources of the country in the
capacity of an entrepreneur.
The first aspects of the course is a general survey of the nature,
roles and functions of entrepreneurship, types and characteristics of
entrepreneurs. The focus here is to show, through discussions and student
interaction with active entrepreneurs, that anyone who is sufficiently
motivated, can learn the behaviours associated with successful
The second aspect of the course focuses on the processes of
starting a business, identifying business opportunities, market survey and
choosing opportunities, selecting appropriate technology, location and site,
business planning, financing the business, managing growth and
managing succession. This section of the course attempts to be as
practical as possible. Students are required, as part of their evaluation, to
identify, study and write a business plan on any business opportunity of
their choice in groups of at most five. At the postgraduate level, students
are in addition; required to read assigned texts and make oral
presentations in class. Occasionally, if the conditions permit, practicing
entrepreneurs are invited to “tell it as it is” to the class.
The third component focuses on developing negotiation skills and time
management skills. This is done largely through lectures, and discussions.
Challenges of Entrepreneurship Education in Nigeria Universities
Various tertiary institutions in Nigeria are gradually incorporating
entrepreneurship education into their curriculum. The Olabisi Onabanjo
University, Ago Iwoye may be the first University in Nigeria to offer
Entrepreneurship as a Degree programme. Entrepreneurship education is
provided in different universities in different forms. There are major
challenges which need to be discussed and addressed if entrepreneurship
education is expected to attain the desired goals in this country.
a. Orientation of Student: it is important to note that
entrepreneurship is not yet a popular vocational choice among
young people in Nigeria. The dominant culture at the moment is a
wage-earner culture. In many ways, the socio-cultural environment
does not favour entrepreneurship given the collectivist values of the
society. There is a need therefore for entrepreneurship education to
have a significant promotional content to stimulate and sustain the
interest of students in the programme.
b. Orientation of University Administration: Many University
administrators are largely ignorant of the value ad potential of
entrepreneurship education in national competitiveness and
development. Entrepreneurship education in such institutions may
not have the level of support that it needs to gain acceptance among
students and staff. It is important that university administration seek
to educate themselves on entrepreneurship education. The National
Universities Commission (NUC) should go beyond prescribing the
minimum academic standards with respect to entrepreneurship
education to organizing seminars and workshops with the aim of
enhancing the knowledge of University administrators in this area.
c. What to teach and to who: Our discussion in this paper points to
the need to study the entrepreneurship educational needs of
students, the community and society in designing entrepreneurship
programmes. There is need to understand that there is a difference
between entrepreneurship and small business management. It is
suggested that NUC provides a forum for entrepreneurship teachers
and educators to brainstorm for the purpose of generating ideas for
use by universities. This is not to suggest that a standard
programme should be forced on universities.
The question of who is to be target entrepreneurship is important.
While everybody can benefit from entrepreneurship education, the
constraints of large class size for teaching effectiveness makes it
imperative for this question to be addressed. Should
entrepreneurship be an elective or a compulsory course? Should
students be allowed to self-select themselves for entrepreneurship
education. Whatever the answer to these questions, it is important
that entrepreneurship is promoted heavily among young people.
d. Who is to teach entrepreneurship: At the moment, teaching
entrepreneurship is an all-comers game. As the programme
becomes more popular, many more academics who do not have the
required preparation are bound to jump into the train. Yet teaching
entrepreneurship requires special training and experience. Once
again the National Universities Commission (NUC) and each
university, polytechnic and colleges of Education need to build
capacity in this area to have meaningful results.
One technique that can be useful in improving of teachers
entrepreneurship to encourage the educational institution involved to
share resources, knowledge and experience in this area through
seminars, conferences and workshops. Indeed the Nigerian
Academy of Management can provide a platform for such
collaboration among universities, polytechnics and colleges of
e. Lack of teaching Materials: There is a dearth of teaching materials
especially case materials that are suitable for teaching
entrepreneurship in Nigerian Universities. It is suggested that
entrepreneurship teachers in the various institutions should embark
on producing real cases, projects of entrepreneurs, and exercises
that are suitable for experiential learning among students. In this
regard, I want to command the efforts of Professor Albert J. Alos of
Lagos Business School who recently published the Pains and Gains
of Growth: Case Studies on Entrepreneurship for his pioneering
work in this area.
f. Un-co-ordinated and weak institutional support for
entrepreneurship education: Government and its agencies
responsible for entrepreneurship development has not started to
address the problem of entrepreneurship education at all levels of
the educational system. Our review of the literature indicate clearly
that the stimulation and sustenance of entrepreneurship education
and small business management training can be traced to carefully
articulated government policy and funding. Agencies such as the
Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDA)
needs to address this issue with the aim of providing funds to the
universities and other institution for entrepreneurship education.
The university of Benin has pioneered entrepreneurship education in the
country. Many other universities have established entrepreneurship
development centres and programmes. The issues on what to teach how
to teach and with what materials are being experimented within each
institution. The time has come for Nigerian universities to collaborate,
share knowledge, experience and resources in order to enhance the
quality of entrepreneurship education available in our universities. It is also
time for the Federal government, the NUC and other agencies such as
SMEDA to assist universities to deepen entrepreneurship education for the
benefit of national competitiveness and development.