By Peter Osalor
Emerging out of a urbulent past, Nigeria is in the process of building a prosperous economy through business endeavors aimed at creating new opportunities all over the country.
Much of its focus has been at the college level, where future entrepreneurs are being trained and instructed on the steps to building viable businesses. Great strides are being taken in this direction through local and aided programmes such as the Exxon Mobil and International Finance Corporation partnership that resulted in the Support and Training Entrepreneurship Program (STEP).
Nigerians wishing to build their own businesses would do well to learn from the bottom-up and equip themselves with the skills necessary to meet the creative challenges of entrepreneurship. The skills necessary to take the local economy into overdrive are simultaneously as simple as stock_taking, marketing, and accounting; and as complex as creating joint ventures that grow to be hugely successful business.
Entrepreneurship education, which has been made mandatory for Nigerian college students of all disciplines, is the key first step to creating and sustaining a valuable business. Due to the countryâ€™s booming informal economy, there is a substantial population that is already conversant in entrepreneurial dynamics by virtue of apprenticeship or involvement in family business.
From a historical perspective, Nigeria is still in its infancy. The return of democracy in 1999 after almost half a century of bitter conflict and political turmoil paved the way for political stability and a revival of national aspirations.
The government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo unveiled the nationâ€™s ambitious 2020 campaign to take the country to the top 20 world economies by that year. An extensive and ongoing reforms programme has helped recover some lost ground, and the country currently ranks 41st in global GDP rankings. More importantly, it achieved a fourfold increase in the size of its economy in a ten-year period from $36 billion in 1997 to $165 billion in 2007, making it the second largest economy in the continent after South Africa.
However, there is a persistent and disturbing underside to these achievements. Nigeriaâ€™s human development indices remain abysmal, with more than half of its 148 million people living on less than $1 per day.
More than anything, these facts indicate huge economic imbalances largely attributable to the countryâ€™s prolonged overdependence on oil and gas exports to the detriment of local enterprise and non-industrial sectors. The success of the countryâ€™s renewed economic goals is contingent to a large extent on entrepreneurship development that adequately harnesses its abundant natural and human resources. Promoting business development from the micro-level onwards is the only way for Nigeria to achieve its long-term goals.
The first step towards building a viable business empire is developing an entrepreneurial temperÂ through formal training and the acquisition of skills relevant to Nigeriaâ€™s local realities.
That the federal government places a premium on entrepreneurship training is evident from the fact that it made it a mandatory part of college education across all disciplines. The opportunity for vocational and practical skills_development training is a prerequisite for emerging entrepreneurs.
The second step is the application of this training to a viable business model. Unemployment is a critical handicap for Nigeria, with more than 40 million of its people jobless according to the World Bankâ€™s latest figures.
The corollary to this has been a proliferation of the informal economy that has traditionally sustained the countryâ€™s urban and rural poor.
Activities in the informal economy cover an extremely wide spectrum of products, services and financial operations from machineshop manufacturing, through utility services to contributory funding that account for an estimated 65% of Gross National Product. These traditional activities provide the backdrop against which emerging enterprises can flourish, by drawing from their collective experience and combining them with new business procedures.