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Is Africa’s education curriculum too rigid to support young entrepreneurs?

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By Daniel Mpala

Is the education curriculum currently in use in schools across Africa too rigid to support aspirant young entrepreneurs?

About 35 participants at an Anzisha Scenario workshop, which was held earlier this month in Abidjan, seem to think so.

The event which was hosted by iHub on 7 October included educators, incubators who work with young entrepreneurs, non-governmental organisations and a policy maker from the junior parliament.

‘Focus on business skills needed’

Anzisha Prize project lead Nolizwe Mhlaba (pictured above, second from right) said the purpose of the event was to continue the conversation around exploring the future of youth entrepreneurship, particularly at what stakeholders can do to create a more enabling environment for very young entrepreneurs.

“We explored the Ivorian context and we were trying to identify the challenges that very young entrepreneurs face in Ivory Coast and from then on brainstorm some opportunities to bring about change or to make it a more supportive environment for young entrepreneurs,” said Mlhaba.

She explained that a lot of participants shared the view that the curriculum is too rigid and that there needs to be more focus on developing the kinds of skills that can help people whether or not they become entrepreneurs.

These she said include skills around creativity, critical thinking and also learning experiences that can help young people develop stronger communication skills.

Mentorship needed

The Anzisha team also held another workshop in Dakar, Senegal on 10 October.

“This group was exclusively young entrepreneurs so the format of the workshop was a little bit difference, unique platform to hear about entrepreneurs themselves the challenges they are facing,” she said.

Participants at the workshop, Mhlaba pointed out, also spoke about school and how entrepreneurship is romanticised.

“They raised issues around the misconception of entrepreneurship and some of the perceptions of entrepreneurship that are problematic for them.

“They also spoke about the need for mentorship and also that in schools these soft skills aren’t being focused on enough,” she added.

‘Openness in Francophone Africa’

So, how receptive has Francophone Africa been to the Anzisha Scenario which imagines a future where — in response to the challenge of youth unemployment — young Africans of high potential choose entrepreneurship as a career?

Mhlaba said there has been an openness across the board.

“And I wonder if it’s because the people who attend these workshops are people who already have an interest in the issue of entrepreneurship, especially as it pertains to youth.

Mhlaba admitted that the turnout at the two events and participation of policy makers and investors wasn’t as big as was hoped, adding that the Anzisha Prize is exploring how to get roleplayers more involved.

Featured image, left to right: iHub graphic designer Ralph Kacou, African Leadership Academy communications and stakeholder relations associate Didi Onwu, Anzisha Prize project lead Nelizwe Mhlaba, and iHub office manager Salome Ko’bioh

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