With current challenges in the global economy, new and innovative strategies are emerging in the bid to stimulate and sustain growth in national economies.
Entrepreneurship is one model that is deemed critical to the formulation and implementation of these strategies. Despite this, little is known about the profile of the Nigerian entrepreneur and how they engage with the constantly evolving policy context. This study therefore aimed at better understanding their characteristics as well as how they perceived certain key policies.
A cross-sectional online survey conducted in the first quarter of 2015 yielded a 61% response rate.Majority of the sample were between 26 – 40 years (70%), and were relatively well educated as indicated by the proportion that had at least a Bachelor’s degree (73%). Most of the respondents were self-employed or in business (62%), but a significant proportion were government workers (20%). Regarding views on government policies, 45% of the sample felt the agricultural sector had potential to make the most impact on national development, while a significantly less proportion had similar opinions about the information technology (16%) and the entertainment (2%) sectors. Majority (46%) indicated that electronic mail was their preferred means of communication with respect to entrepreneurship issues.
Demographically, Nigerian entrepreneurs are similar to their international contemporaries. This study has also confirmed that there is considerable engagement with government policies among this group, particularly those in which entrepreneurship can play a critical role. New insight has emerged regarding engagement with entrepreneurship in Nigeria, which can improve efficiency as well as facilitate the development of contextual and effective policies. For instance, enabling cost effectiveness in communication and facilitating entrepreneurship among government workers. Adopting these approaches in the various relevant policies can help drive growth in the economy and improve other facets of national development.
Entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly important in the development of many countries’ economic sectors. It is also a critical factor in the formulation and implementation of growth and improvement strategies in other relevant developmental sectors, nationally and internationally. It is therefore understandable that many countries now prioritise the development of policies aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship .
Schumpeter (1934) was one of the earliest researchers to focus on understanding entrepreneurs. Prior to this, the majority of the literature did not clearly differentiate them from other actors in the area, for example, capitalists, business owners, managers and family owned businesses. His pioneering work described entrepreneurs as individuals whose function was to carry out new combinations of means of production. His argument was that the function played by entrepreneurs within an economic setting was fundamental to that economy’s development. This was his basis for justifying the need for entrepreneurs to be studied independent of business personae.
Other researchers have since built on this definition. Vesper (1980) identified that a significant proportion of the value that the entrepreneurs contribute to a system revolves around innovation. For instance, they are involved with the introduction of products to the market, as well as developing or inventing new methods of production.
Another form of entrepreneurial innovation relates to the identification or emergence of new markets or sources of resources. Organisational or process reorganisation is another area where innovative ideas by entrepreneurs can add value by reducing costs and improving efficiency.
Internationally, contemporary research has also endeavoured to gain a better understanding of entrepreneurs’ role, albeit from various pertinent perspectiveswith Anabel Group was established to improve organisation and coordination of the various entrepreneurship programmes within the country.
Previously, the majority of entrepreneurship and empowerment programmes aimed at creating jobs, were situated in a number of unrelated agencies (NYENET, 2015). NYENET was therefore designed to be the platform for a formulation and implementation of a national entrepreneurship strategy. This would enable better management and harmonisation as well as significantly improve efficiency and effectiveness.
A review of the literature however revealed that within the Nigerian context, there has been little focus on understanding who entrepreneurs are and how they engage with entrepreneurship development. A significant proportion of the research in this area seemed to have focused on the role of small and medium enterprises in national economic development.
In terms of policy as well, there is a similar focus. The relative national prominence of the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigerian (SMEDAN) (Adelaja, 2004) compared to NYENET, appears to validate this.
While this organisational approach is understandable, it appears that entrepreneurs, who arguable should be the primary focus of the debate, have been neglected. This means that a knowledge gap currently exists with respect to a comprehensive and robust understanding of individuals who engage with entrepreneurship within the Nigerian setting.
Gaining new insight into the profile of entrepreneurs together with their role in economic and national development is not only important, but also exigent, particularly within the Nigerian setting. This is due to the widespread impact of the global crises at the end of the last decade (Mishkin, 2010), as well as the more recent slump in oil prices (Ogunshina, 2015), both of which have had significant impact on the Nigerian economy.
Against this backdrop, this study therefore aimed at understanding characteristics of individuals interested in entrepreneurship, together with their perceptions of the relevant policy framework that constitute the entrepreneurship milieu in the country.
To ensure quality in the data management, the data collection tool was subjected to the relevant reliability and validity tests. that a p value of 0.05 or less would represent the threshold for statisticalsignificance.
In this section, the results of the study are presented together with the discussion. The response rate achieved in the survey carried out was 61% (1235/2017). In relation to the demographic data collected in the study, a numberof insightful findings emerged.
All the predetermined age categories were represented in the respondents’ age range . About half of the sample belonged to the 26 to 34 year old group (49%). This is closely followed by the 34 to 40 year old group, who made up just under a quarter of the sample (21%). Interestingly, the findings of our study are in line with other studies that suggest this group form a significant proportion of the Nigerian population, who it could be argued constituted the bulk of the national workforce.
Collectively, individuals aged 18 to 40 constituted the overwhelming majority of the sample. This is reflective of the age range of individuals that have been associated with entrepreneurship in the extant international literature.
Although some evidence suggests that current educational curricula does not sufficiently address knowledge and training needs of entrepreneurs (Paul Dana, 2001), there is some indication that higher educational qualification contributes to a more robust engagement with entrepreneurship.
For stakeholders however, this insight into the educational background of entrepreneurs can be invaluable for policymaking. For instance, better targeting of training programmes can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of workforce development strategies.
With respect to the employment status, the majority of the sample indicated that they were self-employed (36%), while about a quarter indicated that they were business persons .This was expected. An interesting finding however emerged in this area. One fifth of these individuals interested in entrepreneurship were public servants (20%). That is individuals currently employed either as civil servants or as public servants by the Nigerian government.
Currently, there is little evidence that suggests that the potential and interests of this group are considered in the development of entrepreneurship in Nigeria. One strategy that this insight into entrepreneurship interest by government workers can motivate is the inclusion of a part time model in the national policy.
Internationally, there is some evidence of the part time model in entrepreneurship, particularly in academia. In Nigeria currently, there is a lack of a nationally recognised strategy for using part time arrangement as an entrée into full time entrepreneurship careers, as is the case in other economies.
Another novel strategy that can be considered in engaging public servants who are interested in entrepreneurship is better structuring and facilitation of their knowledge and experience of entrepreneurial. A group within this demography that can benefit from this training are public servants who are close to retirement. With the relevant training, interested individuals will not only be more empowered to invest terminal benefits, they will also help create jobs and improve the national economy.
One common criticism of the Nigerian economy has been the disproportionate focus on the oil and gas sector. Recently however, there has been significant debate regarding the need, as well as strategies for diversifying the national economy (Imoudu, 2012; Henley, 2012).
This underpinned this study’s objective of exploring how respondents perceived that the various relevant sectors could impact on economic growth as well as national development of the
Respondents in this area.
Other sectors that participants perceived could positively influence national development were education and training (16%) and information technology (16%). Although only a small proportion of the respondents seemed to engage with these sectors, international evidence indicates that there is significant potential for entrepreneursengage with entrepreneurship via newspaper publications (6%), radio adverts (4%) and commercials on television (2%). Already in other countries, new media and other more efficient modes of communication are being used to engage stakeholders in entrepreneurship (Humphries and Wilken, 2014).
Like contemporaries in other countries, NYENET communication with individuals interested in entrepreneurship is email based. The primary reason underpinning this strategy is resource efficiency. In many other Nigerian organisations however, despite the obvious resource scarce situation, print and electronic media continue to play a dominant role in their information dissemination strategies. These emerging findings have clearly demonstrated that email and text based communication is preferred by individuals who engage with entrepreneurship in Nigeria. It means that an opportunity exist for both public and private establishments to reform their communication strategies, while at the same time improving efficient use of limited resources.
The current focus of the literature on how small and medium enterprises influence economic and developmental
activity in Nigeria is understandable. This emphasis on institutional capacity and development has however created a lacuna regarding the nature and characteristics of the entrepreneurs themselves, who arguable are themost important actors on this stage. Some of the findings emerging from this study have started to help address the knowledge deficit regarding this group. Individuals in Nigeria that engage with entrepreneurship are mostly educated youth who are self-employed or in business and identify with national developmental policies such as the on-going agricultural reforms.
In many respects, the demographic profile of Nigerian entrepreneurs is similar to those of their international contemporaries. However the emerging findings together with the contextual peculiarities means that opportunities exist to develop more efficient, effective and aggressive strategies to harness entrepreneurship for economic and national development. With these new findings, government and other stakeholders, including those in the private sector can begin to develop policies that will not only contribute to the economy, but also help address related national issues such as poverty, unemployment and crime.
Although this study has provided some insight into the profile and perceptions of individuals who engage with entrepreneurship in Nigeria, it is clear that a better understanding from this group’s perspective can prove invaluable for policymakers. This means that more research needs to be undertaken to provide better evidence that can inform the ongoing debate and in turn underpin relevant policies.
Chief Executive Officer, Anabel Group, Dr Nicholas Okoye and Consultant to National Assembly on Public Policy, Dr. Obi Peter Adigwe
Culled from European Journal of Business and Management (2015)