How does entrepreneurship education thrive at the university level, and how could it flourish in Angola? We’ll tell you this much – it’s not going to happen within business departments.
I recently finished reading Brad Feld‘s book titled Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City and, since I’m a computer science professor at one of the most recognized universities in Angola, I paid special attention to Chapter 9: University involvement. In this chapter, Feld argues that universities are the best place to foster entrepreneurial activity since they have one of the most important assets: students.
Students are fresh blood. They have a different way of thinking, lots of time, energy and passion to innovate. With proper mentorship, often provided by professors or members of the startup community, students can become entrepreneurs while they’re still in college. This by itself doesn’t guarantee overnight success. It’s necessary that other supports are put in place, such as facilities (laboratories), entrepreneurship education programs, technology transfer offices and, of course, investment. The benefits can be astonishing: profit creation, new jobs creation, student and professor retention, economy diversification (Angola’s GDP is mainly based in oil), and innovation.
Consider the top two most entrepreneurial universities in the world:
- Stanford University: Professors and students founded companies such as Google, Yahoo and HP
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Students founded more than 130 companies and helped create more than 2,500 new jobs
Angolan entrepreneurial activity is still too informal, with an annual success rate around 3.3% in 2012. The government started a nationwide project called EmpreendeAngola to develop entrepreneurial ambitions in high school students. Diassala André, coordinator of “Programa Nacional de Empreendedorismo no Currículo Secundário” (National Program for Entrepreneurship in the Secondary Curriculum) explained the project in his TEDxLuanda talk.
The secret behind integrating entrepreneurship successfully into a university’s curriciulum
Some of Angola’s universities associate entrepreneurship courses with the economics and/or business curriculum. In his book, Feld argues that these are actually the wrong departments to raise entrepreneurs.
Instead, he posits that entrepreneurship courses should be integrated into engineering curriculums (CS, IT, etc.).Why? In my opinion, it is because they are more oriented towards innovation and experimentation. They are used to doing stuff instead of mastering in business planning, financials, marketing, etc.
This is exactly what some universities are doing. ISPTEC (Instituto Superior Politécnico de Tecnologia e Ciências) teaches an entrepreneurial course to 4th year IT students and promotes entrepreneurship events with faculty and students. Another one is ISUTIC (Instituto Superior para as Tecnologias de Informação e Comunicação), which organizes a yearly event called “Semana do Empreendedorismo” (Entrepreneurship Week) where successful entrepreneurs and government entities are invited to share their knowledge and success stories with students.
The government is also tackling this problem. As can be read in the “Plano Nacional da Sociedade de Informação 2013 – 2017” (National Information Society Plan 2013-2017), the government aims to “reinforce the employment and entrepreneurship in the technology sector by creating a network of universities/institutes and technology incubators to support innovation.”
So, what else can “we” do?
- Create incentives for professors and organizational capacity to support entrepreneurial efforts
- Promote startup and business idea competitions between universities
- Extend current government investments in entrepreneurship to university-based entrepreneurial activities
- Invest in research and technology exchanges
In the next part of this post, I’ll ramble about other entities (government or independent) that are working towards this common goal and introduce you to some of the entrepreneurs who started their ventures while still in school.
This post was originally published on AngoPreneur‘s blog.