Entrepreneurs are the future Professors, is Africa ready?

It is surprising to see when someone in Tanzania wants to start a new business they quickly fly to Dubai or China instead of going to our academic institutions — Dr. Hassan Mshinda.

Recently I have shared different videos of global leaders and changemakers on my social media pages via hashtag #100DaysOfKnowledge where I learn from their journeys and experience. I have listened to the way the global education system is changing the world and how academic institutions plays a crucial role in making this happen. What can African academic institutions do? I think this is what we should do.

  1. The Changing Role of Academic Institution

While most of the African universities are still stuck in second generation universities, more universities in the developed North are adopting innovation and technology on their approaches of delivering knowledge that meets the demand of the 21st Century and the global economy.

Academic institutions in the developed countries have evolved; the role of lecturer have replaced by industry experts and successful entrepreneurs termed as coaches, students have become mentees (founders) and entrepreneurship have become a third component of the educational objectives after academic and research.

It’s common now to hear people like Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google or Steve Blank the founder of lean startup movement facilitating a management or entrepreneurship class at Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, IE Business School etc Can this happen in Africa? Can we do more of this? Can our universities and industry experts (successful entrepreneurs) make it happen? Can we invite the likes of Strive Masiyiwa, Mohammed Dewji etc to share the knowledge and experience with our students in a more structured manner.

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The Changing Role of The Universities.

The gap between industry needs and what we are taught in our academic institutions is too large that, by the time you finish school everything your study is irrelevant to the industry needs. No wonder there is a skills gap and our graduates are considered to under-perform. According to World Bank report, 40 percent of local firms in Tanzania identify lack of workforce skills as one of their key business constraints. We need to bridge the gap, universities need to open more to the industry.

2. The Need of Research Commercialization

We are approaching research from the academician point of view to seek knowledge rather than from the entrepreneur point of view which is to build business and design solutions — Dr. Mshinda.

We need to do both but investing more in the developing solutions since that is what matters most. Entrepreneurs should seize the opportunities to commercialize the research and universities should encourage that to happen by encouraging more partnerships between private sector and academic institutions.

Africa already invests less in Research and Development, which is a problem of itself. How do we make the less research we do count?

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The circles show the amounts countries are spending on R&D in PPP$. Countries farther to the right are spending relatively more in terms of their GDP. Those closer to the top have higher numbers of researchers per 1 million inhabitants.

The CEO of Tsinghua Holdings, Xu Jinghong a subsidiary of Tsinghua University in China explains the role the University has played in the growth of the company and how their win-win relationship benefits both sides at the World Economic Forum.

3. Futuristic Thinking and Trending Technologies

It’s common to see discussion around Blockchains, IoT, Virtual Reality, Machine Learning and other technologies on the stages of the so-called ivy league universities. We need to encourage this to happen more in African universities. Our academic conferences are designed to be too academical, not practical. They are there for people to receive titles and accolades instead of inventing new solutions or disrupting processes that are not working.
The effect of this is so immense that has impacted directly students. Making them worry more on GPAs and scoring better in exams rather than obtaining skills.

We need to revise our university programs and activities to meet the needs of the current market as well as projecting on how we will survive in the future.

  • Appreciation | Dr. Hassan Mshinda for very productive discussion at our office.
  • Appreciation | Meltores Professionals Limited, for your insightful contribution on the article.
  • People who are working so hard to improve education and entrepreneurship in Africa.

Entrepreneur, TZ Patriot, Loves Tech, Founder saharaventures.com, Project Management Consulting firm, Co-Founded saharasparks.com and Sahara Accelerator.

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