Bridging Skills Gap in Universities, Adopting Startup Launchpad Approach.

One of the ways youths learn as many skills as possible within the shortest period is by launching or working in a startup company. Can we adopt the startup approach to equip youths with multi-competence and address the skills gap in tertiary education in Africa?

Seven years ago, we piloted "The Internship Program" at Buni Innovation Hub to address skills gaps in Tanzanian University students. It wasn't clear what we were trying to achieve initially; after receiving multiple students and learning by doing, we designed a robust program that delivered the intended results within the shortest period possible. The program worked with more than 600 students from eleven different universities. Within three years, the students implemented over 80 projects targeting multiple sectors; some became startups, some open-sourced, and some were submitted for academic prerequisites. The program also played a crucial role in creating young startup founders from local universities.

The Outputs of The Internship Program.

Fast forward

Pedagogy is the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.

Multiple approaches are being adopted, including; Team Entrepreneurship Learning, Learning Factory, Learning By Doing (LBD), Challenge-Based Learning and Competence-Based Learning (CBL). These programs played a crucial role in helping universities adopt different approaches in addressing the skills gap moving local universities towards Third Generation Universities (3GU). Some of the programs have been successful at a granular level within specific institutions in addressing the skills gap. The question is still how do you replicate the impact at the national and regional levels? Over 10 million youths are getting into the job market in Africa every year, most of them lacking the necessary skills for the current and future job markets. That is a discussion of another day.

The Startup Launchpad Approach

In building startups, someone goes through a practical approach to what it takes to build a business. It provides a unique opportunity for someone to learn complex skills needed by the market at different stages of working to find solutions. In developing the product, one will learn technical skills to design, prototype and develop the product. At the same time, they will learn business skills when trying to make the first initial contact with the customer for their product. They are exposed to all sales, marketing, and branding skills of a product or service in the most practical way.

Beyond the technical skills, students have an opportunity to learn soft skills, including Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity, the 4Cs, within the shortest timeframe. Student entrepreneurial movements such as Startup Sauna in Finland are every day in developed countries to effectively address the skills and bridge the gap between universities and industry. Similar programs are carried by Universities such as Stanford University in partnership with local accelerators and incubators such as Y-Combinator. The question is, how can we make this standard in Africa?

Structure of The Launchpad

Dalila Project Startup Launchpad Program

Sahara Ventures role in the projects is to launch Startup Launchpad programs for students in Uganda and Tanzania. The launchpads aim to fast-track students' efforts to come up with ideas and transform the ideas into an early-stage business. In the Dalila Project, the launchpad is structured in three phases, Pre-Launchpad, During Launchpad and Post Launchpad. The Manual of The Launchpad is more structured, including specific activities conducted each week, recommended MOOCs, deliverables, articles and books to read, etc.

On-Campus Startup Schools

Call For Action