Enter entrepreneurship

A founding father of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, one said, “an investment in knowledge pays the best dividend.” This submission is thoughtful and profound. However, the paradigm has shifted because the reality of life today is that knowledge is not enough, skills are the game changer. So, the question that every educated person, including graduates, should ask is: in addition to what I know, what can I do?

There won’t be many dividends in actual fact if all what a person knows is how to find “x” in given Mathematical equations without having the skills to solve several problems plaguing humanity.  There won’t be dividends if one only knows all the rules of grammar without being able to apply them to create texts that add value to life and living. It is in this respect that entrepreneurship is emphasised as a way of surviving today’s world because though knowledge is important, it is not enough.

The word entrepreneurship derives from two Latin words, “entre” (meaning “to swim out”) and “prendes” (meaning “to grasp”, “to understand”, “to capture”) both of which were combined by the French-Irish Economist, Jean Baptiste Say, in 1800 to form “entrepreneur”. This was after he had been influenced by Adam Smith’s book, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” (1776). It is within this context that entrepreneurship is understood as “an engine of economic growth, a provider of social welfare, a means of revitalizing stagnating industries and a path to prosperity for under-developed countries.”

Entrepreneurship, according to Hisrich, Peters and Shepherd (2009), means “the process of creating something new with value by devoting the necessary time and effort, assuming the accompanying financial, psychic, and social risks, and receiving the resulting rewards of monetary and personal satisfaction and independence.” Thus, an entrepreneur is “an individual who has the ability to see and evaluate business opportunities, gather the necessary resources to take advantage of them and initiates appropriate action to ensure success as a risk taker.”

Africans are traditional entrepreneurs because they had been trading by barter by exchanging the goods and products they had with the services they needed before the invention of money. The entrepreneurial mindset of the Yoruba, for instance, made them to say, “ise omo aseje, owo omo asela”, meaning that a job would only put food on one’s table while business would make one rich.

To my mind, as I pointed out at a lecture once delivered to the 9th Youth Conference of Badru-Dinil-Islami Assalatu Circle of Nigeria on December 31, 2017, being an entrepreneur, following each letter of the word, requires education, novelty/innovation, team spirit, research mindedness, enterprise, productiveness, risk taking, energy, nurturing spirit, experimentation, unstoppable disposition and responsibility. When these points are aggregated, entrepreneurship becomes natural.

Though the points are understandable, it is important to stress that education, the first factor, is actually the driver of entrepreneurship as the foremost resource to acquire. Education in its true sense is the development of an individual’s three h’s which are the head, the heart and the hands. While the head contains the knowledge of facts and theories, the heart is imbued with feelings and attitudes that irradiate positivity and the hands represent skills which one can practise, things one can do or work one can engage in. These three are inseparable under normal circumstances and having a good head or good knowledge is not enough.

It goes without saying that entrepreneurship is not an alternative to education but a driver of it. A true entrepreneur takes education seriously because without it, little can be achieved. There is a lot of emphasis on entrepreneurship these days because that is actually the way to tomorrow, with automation taking over jobs and opportunities getting narrow with advances in technology.

It is time students and graduates took entrepreneurship seriously. As Al-Ghazali noted, “let it be known very well that knowledge will not save a person unless it is put into practice. Let me clarify this point with an example for you: supposing someone fully armed suddenly met a lion in the mountains, no matter how brave and how good he might be in using a gun and a sword, could he save himself from this lion except he used his weapon? He could not, as you, too, know very well. By the same token, however deeply learned a person may be, his knowledge will come to naught if he does not act upon his knowledge.”