Exploring innovation for African universities

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing an education crisis, a skills crisis, an insecurity crisis and a high poverty rate exacerbated by the unemployment crisis, with almost one in two young people between the ages of 16 and 35 years without a full-time job. The high rate of unemployment threatens economic stability, political stability, peace and security in the region. In this context, the British Council launched the Innovation for African Universities program which awarded 24 projects worth over £2.4 million in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

This editorial explores five IAU curriculum themes, goals and objectives considered highly critical for advancing employability skills that could enable graduates to work or prepare for employment and create new capable entrepreneurs to engage in new start-ups or solve real-world problems.

The first line of the IAU program is entrepreneurship and graduate employability. One of the projects, Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Higher Education, is a partnership between the University of Lincoln, UK, Coal City University, Enugu and ADIRM, Research Institute, Enugu, Nigeria aimed at developing entrepreneurial spirit. , employability skills and digital skills of undergraduate students. and graduates from Eastern Nigeria. Another project is the NEXUS between Semicolon Africa, Lagos Business School and Henley Business School. NEXUS explores how to transform the high volume of entrepreneurial activity on the continent into investable job-creating ventures, closing huge skills gaps and creating better innovation ecosystems to support start-ups.

WECAP – Wits Entrepreneurship Clinic and Accelerator Program is a partnership between Tshimologong, the African Circular Economy Network, the University of Edinburgh and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. While Accelerating Youth Entrepreneurship in Tourism Innovation and Youth Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Tourism in Africa is a project between six partners including the University of Brighton, Strathmore University, University of Ghana, Sustainable Travel and Tourism Agenda, Africa Tourism Partners and Center for Change, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management.

Another project, Co-Production of Youth Entrepreneurship, in Kenya, is a program between KCA University, the University of Nottingham Business School and others. While the project, Inclusive Innovation – Supporting Disabled design and Entrepreneurship program is a partnership between Aston University and the Disabled People’s Federation of South Africa. These projects aim to improve the employability of students and strengthen the ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation among young people.

The second line of the IAU program is innovation in social enterprise. One of the projects is Graduate Employability in Higher Education: The Ghanaian Perspective is a partnership between the Technical University of Accra and the University of Huddersfield and others. This project aims to assess the effect of orientation towards social enterprise on the employability of young people. Similarly, the STEM and Social Impact Business Incubator programme, a partnership between the London School of Economics and other partners, focuses on developing entrepreneurs who will become job creators and solutions to social problems. While Supporting Youth Social Entrepreneurship in SSA: Partnerships, Obstacles and Opportunities in South Africa focuses on exploring the obstacles faced by social entrepreneurs and the opportunities available to them. It is a partnership between Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Free State and others.

The third line of the IAU program is enterprise education and program design. One of the projects, University Co-creation and Innovation Hub, is a partnership between University of Medical Sciences, Ondo State, Nigeria, Liverpool John Moores University, UK and Teenpreneurs Educational Foundation, Lagos , Nigeria. Another project, Integrating Business Education into the Curriculum to Combat Unemployment in the Construction Sector, is a partnership between Mangosuthu University of Technology and other partners. These programs contribute to an industry-informed needs analysis, focusing on the digital skills needed to build an innovative and adaptable workforce. Whereas DIFFERENTIATE is a project between Lancaster University and others that develops an entrepreneurship program that serves local, regional and national economic development.

The fourth line of the IAU program focuses on digital skills, digital literacy and technopreneurship. Business Innovation & Incubation Center is a partnership between Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa, Manchester Metropolitan University UK and Snake Nation. This project provides a means by which students can become technopreneurs by converting their innovative ideas into commercially viable and sustainable start-ups and, therefore, provide employment opportunities for themselves and/or their peers. Another Youth Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program project is a collaboration between Northumbria University, Kenyatta University, Kenya Technological University and EEFEA. This project aims to explore the possibility of addressing the challenges of youth unemployment using digital innovation that connects young rural entrepreneurs with urban entrepreneurs and other ecosystem actors.

In the digital and technology space is Project Kenten: Innovation to Enterprise. This is a collaboration between Regional Maritime University and Durham University. While accelerating support for entrepreneurship in universities in Kenya is a project between the University of Nottingham and the University of Riara. These projects aim to use integrated digital platforms to launch a virtual accelerator, a digital infrastructure for deploying and scaling entrepreneurship education and networking with industry for students to practices hard-learned classroom learning. Additionally, Connecting Accrais is a partnership with Imperial College London, University of Ghana and Impact Hub Accra which examines how connections between stakeholders such as students, technology centers and universities can be improved. Other projects in this category include Innovations for the Digital Economy: Labor Market Change and Supply and Demand of Entrepreneurial Skills, a partnership between the University of Johannesburg and the University of Warwick.

A fifth line is agribusiness, climate change and carbon literacy. The project, Agri-entrepreneurship Curriculum Development for Social Innovation, Youth Unemployment and Impact of Climate Change is a partnership between Swansea University and the University of Kwa Zulu Natal. While Social Enterprise Incubator for South Africa is a partnership between Coventry University and other partners. These projects focus on strengthening the ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa by increasing engagement with social and environmental entrepreneurs. Similarly, Transforming Climate Innovation Ecosystems Through Inclusive Transdisciplinarity is a partnership between the University of Sussex, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, the Kenya Center for Climate Innovation and the African Center for Technology Studies.

Carbon Literacy for Youth Employability and Job Creation is a partnership between Sheffield Hallam University and Durban University of Technology. While the Ghana Bioenterprise Innovations partnership; Foster biomedical research enterprise for better Health and Wellbeing is a collaboration between the University of Health and Allied Sciences, the University of Cape Coast and the University of St Andrews that is building capacity that will enable biotechnology spin-offs from various research projects. biomedical research. Innovation hub for the circular plastic economy; Stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship for the circular plastic economy. This project investigates how universities can create a thriving ecosystem to support and grow businesses that turn waste into wealth. This is a partnership between the University of Warwick, Co-Creation Ltd and the Institute of Life and Earth Sciences at Pan African University.

Taken together, these British Council projects highlight how using different entrepreneurship frameworks provides a broader view and a nuanced framework for the co-creation of knowledge and innovations that enable the development of a future-proof ecosystem. time that can help address major concerns about the education crisis, skills crisis and unemployment crisis in Africa.

Professor Paul Agu Igwe is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lincoln and a Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Coal City University. In addition, the Capacity Building Towards a Future-Proof Ecosystem Project Manager.

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