Adesina Urges Nigerian Undergraduates to Embrace Entrepreneurship

Akinwumi Adesina

Dike Onwuamaeze

The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has urged Nigerian undergraduates to invest their talents on entrepreneurship development in order to secure a gainful economic future for themselves. 

Adesina, made the call when he delivered the convocation lecture at the Bowen University, at the weekend. He told the young graduates to become job creators and not job hunters, saying only three million out of 13 million graduates that enter the job market annually are employed.

He said: “In my days at the university, you got a job immediately after you graduated. Your future was set. No longer. The graduate today is graduating into a world of uncertainty. Africa will have the largest number of youths joining the labour market by 2030 than the entire world taken together. How many students here have taken courses on entrepreneurship? How many even know about venture capital or angel investors? ”  

He also urged Nigerian universities to shift away from routine teaching into allowing students to experiment, try things, put ideas to work, and innovate by evolving structured institutional arrangements for supporting innovations that would develop and commercialise innovations developed by universities. 

“The lesson is clear: universities must understand the needs of the private sector and look for how to drive technologies, innovation and entrepreneurship to meet those opportunities. That’s the kind of win-win partnerships that the private sector is looking for from universities.

“Developing patents is not enough. Patents must lead to business and that can only happen through supportive environments for them to thrive. Setting up university foundries is a good way to achieving this,” Adesina said, adding that they must press on to higher ground. 

“That higher ground is not to depend on others to employ you. The higher ground is for you to be job creators. The key to that is entrepreneurship,” he said.  

“To be a successful entrepreneur you need some attributes that you were not taught in school. The key one is perseverance. Perseverance is defined as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success,” he added.

Adesina, also said young female students deserved special entrepreneurship programs to unleash their potential. “No bird can fly with one wing. When women’s potential is fully unlocked, Nigeria will fly with two wings,” he said 

He stated that the AfDB was supporting entrepreneurship programs in African universities, citing the Rwanda Institute of Science and Technology. 

“With $40 million support from the Bank, the school is world class. And 100 per cent of their students get jobs even before they graduate, with many setting up their own ventures. 

“The university is linked to the Kigali Innovation City, a modern tech enabling hub linked to universities to help ideas grow, to turn ideas into innovations, and turn innovations into thriving businesses,” he added. 

The AfDB boss identified agriculture as one area that was ripe for entrepreneurship.

 “One of the young people in Nigeria I am very proud of is Dr. Tope Aroge. I met him when I was Minister of Agriculture and provided him a grant of N5 million. He is a medical doctor, now farmer. You may say wow! Yes, go ahead. 

“You are wondering why did he change from being a medical doctor to farming? That’s because you do not know that the size of food and agribusiness in Africa by 2030 will be worth $1 trillion. Yes, you heard me right: $1 trillion.

“Today, Tope has a 300 ha farm, and he has set up a high quality cassava flour/ industrial starch processing factory which has a 6,000 tonnes capacity. He is an agricultural entrepreneur. Some of you should be like him. Here is why: The future millionaires and billionaires of Africa will not come from oil and gas, but from agriculture sector. So, universities should move beyond agricultural science, to agriculture as a business,” he said.