[MUST READ] Entrepreneurship education the Covenant University way: Lessons for other Nigerian universities

8 Min Read

I have read this master piece for like 10 times, i am super inspired, felt like heading back to school…….. this is millennial, thought provoking lesson 

From the entrance gate to lecture halls, to hostel rooms, to cafeteria, to the new Hebron Startup Lab – even the walk way, everything at Covenant University (CU) – the best university in West Africa – is deliberately designed to inspire, educate and propel students towards entrepreneurship. So, it’s no surprise that such high value startups as PiggyVest, ThriveAgric, KoraPay, PayStack, Wilson Lemonade and more than 100 others have come out of this high-energy campus, over just a few years. And when this university decided to be selfless and share their methodologies, nothing would stop me from grabbing the opportunity, not even the discomfort of spending significant part of my personal savings.

The Covenant University’s entrepreneurship education methodology is actually simple, yet highly effective. It’s designed around the idea that if you can put in place a supportive ecosystem for development of entrepreneurially-minded students, you’d reap a reward like having campus-originated startups like PayStack raising US$8million form foreign institutional investors like Visa, Tencent and Stripe, or PiggyVest which raises a Series A Round Funding of more than $1.1million from local Nigerian Investors.

The CU’s entrepreneurship ecosystem has two major components – talents development and incentives. But beside those, there is this corporate philosophy exemplified by the Chancellor himself, Dr David Oyedepo and all the senior management team that drives entrepreneurship: they dream, speak and do entrepreneurship. They have this philosophy that their students must be so molded that they don’t go back to their parents for anything after graduation. At the heart of CU’s curriculum are development of entrepreneurial mindset and great attitude in students. They don’t necessarily want everyone to be business owners but they do want to make sure that those who would rather work for others are job-ready and that they possess the attitudes that not only attract high-quality jobs, but also ones that keep them in the job when they do get one. This is one of the reasons they introduced CU Developer Circle, one of the most thriving in the country, where students acquire high premium digital skills that help them unlock Silicon Valley-like jobs while in school. This is also the driving philosophy behind their popular TTG (Towards a Total Graduate) program, where students are mandated to spend few extra weeks immediately after graduation learning critical attitudes, resume development, how to ace an interview, work ethics, being a productive worker, making a difference in the community and so on.

Back to the two components of CU’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, they have a practical approach to entrepreneurial talent development. First, most of their entrepreneurship faculties are practicing entrepreneurs. Most are into consulting, monetizing their knowledge and skills by building a business around such. In this way, they understand what it takes to start, manage and scale a business. They understand the mechanics of identifying problems, building solutions, raising funds, discovering a market, managing people and scaling a proven concept. At CU, teaching entrepreneurship is more like saying: ‘you can give what you have’. With this, entrepreneurship is not necessarily taught, it’s inspired by people who are travelling the same road. Second, students ‘Get Out of the Building’ a lot, to try their hands on real-life businesses and projects. Third, CU draws on it robust network of successful alumni for regular Speaker Event to inspire, and as mentors for their students. And lastly, they have high-integrity system for tracking feedbacks and reviewing their curriculum and delivery.

On the incentive side, several supporting infrastructures are on ground for both students and faculties to think and act entrepreneurially: free high-speed wifi, a startup lab, regular reward-driven business model competition, institutional facilitation of access to markets and finance as well as sponsorship to Accelerator programs for startups looking to scale.

By and large, i believe that most things in life are guided by laws. Like the law of gravity in science (whatever is thrown up will come down), there are specific laws, adherence to which leads to better outcomes, for entrepreneurship education. Outcomes at CU have shown that these laws include top leadership’s commitment, practical/experiential approach to talent development and provision of reasonable incentives in form of infrastructural supports for On-Campus enterprise creation.

Do other universities in Nigeria have the right entrepreneurship ecosystem at the moment? The answer is, not yet. Can they ever get there? Certainly, if not beyond. But they must start as soon as today. Someone within the university, not necessarily the VC or the Dean of College of Business, but anybody at all who is passionate about entrepreneurship needs to champion the course. This must be an individual who is ready to unlearn, learn and relearn the right way to teach entrepreneurship. He or she must be an individual who would say that‘my students’ future is too important to wait until our ecosystem is right’ and then make a firm commitment to use whatever is available, starting wherever possible to improve things. At the Dangote Business School where I currently coordinate all Postgraduate Entrepreneurship Programs as well as MSMEs activities, I see myself as this kind of Entrepreneurship Champion. Even before travelling down to learn about CU’s system, I have embarked on some initiatives targeted at making entrepreneurship education practical and experiential.

Our lectures have been scaled down from 2hours to only 1 hour and the other hour is for in-class interaction with practicing entrepreneurs or development of communication skills in our students. Once in a month, our students go out on field visits to enterprising organizations to network and learn firsthand what works and what doesn’t work. On day one, our students are assigned to mentors, a practicing entrepreneur who has achieved a measure of success in his/her venture. And lastly (for now), our students now begin their internship much earlier so that they have ample opportunity to engage and learn from industry people.

To conclude, I strongly believe that with active collaboration of stakeholders – top management of the university, faculties, alumni and private-sector players – public universities in Nigeria can produce students who will build Unicorns (startups with more than $1b valuation). More importantly, I believe that with the right supports and vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystems, Nigerian universities generally can produce students who will change the narratives of the country and make a dent in the universe. Yes, They Can!

Adams Adeiza,

Dr Adeiza is of the Dangote Business School, Bayero University, Kano.



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