Entrepreneurship is generally defined as the capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business venture or social cause along with any of its risks in order to create something different to make a profit or change the status quo. As can be seen from this definition there are two basic forms of entrepreneurship, namely business enterprise and social enterprise. My focus in this article is on business entrepreneurship, with particular reference to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Entrepreneurship is derived from the word "entrepreneur", and entrepreneurs are widely recognized as the prime movers of economic development who translate ideas into action and reality.
As critical as entrepreneurship is to the development of societies, entrepreneurs do not operate in isolation. They operate in an ecosystem that includes government policies, the judiciary, the educational and financial systems, most of which objectives are at cross purpose with the entrepreneurial spirit characterized by constant innovation, risk taking, negation of established order and fulfillment of personal dreams. Despite the determinant nature of entrepreneurship to a nation's ability to succeed in an ever changing and increasingly competitive global market place, it is a mixed grill of prospects and problems that shape its practice. What I may term the 3Ps of the entrepreneurship paradox.
Entrepreneurship development issues can be likened to a tree where the leaves and fruits represent the prospects or benefits which include wealth creation, self fulfillment, job opportunities, socio-political stability and good national image. The soil that hosts the roots represents the problems or challenges which include operating environment, cultural beliefs, social background and government policies, while the trunk and roots represent the practitioner or entrepreneur. The prospects and ultimate benefits of entrepreneurship are legion. Entrepreneurship leads to improved standard of living of entrepreneurs and their employees, mitigation of social vices and political stability. Proper articulation of entrepreneurship development mitigates rural-urban migration as most production units and allied services would be located in rural and semi-urban areas. Local availability of goods and services made possible by entrepreneurs goes a long way in conserving foreign exchange and nation's net worth. A thriving entrepreneurship regime gives a good national image.
The problems are equally legion. They are the things that stand against a smooth ride of entrepreneurship and invariably challenge the entrepreneur. They include inconsistency of government policies, poor state of the country's infrastructure such as power supply, bad roads, transportation system, and difficulty in securing loans from financial institutions especially for start-up ventures. There is also general lack of empathy from the society which erroneously sees entrepreneurship as personal pursuit and self indulgence.
The practitioners are the entrepreneurs who have a personal and direct connection between the prospects and the problems. They are the ones who have firsthand experience of the soil type and do amazing things in a harsh soil to actualize the prospects of green leaves and juicy fruits. But in real terms they are few. I will explain. Yes, the Nigerian economic landscape is brimming with entrepreneurs. Most all people with no white collar jobs claim they are entrepreneurs. Retiring civil servants with embedded establishment mindset receive one-day or one-week entrepreneurship seminar and join the club of entrepreneurs. People with passion for paid employment will suddenly join the entrepreneurial community due to lack of jobs. The long period of oil boom has created a wrong perception of entrepreneurship among Nigerians. Many entrepreneurs operate with the mindset of an employee. The employee tends to think in terms of "getting" and works hard to get more for a system which reward is proportional to work done (linear reward). But the entrepreneur thinks in terms of "giving" and works smart for a reward system that gives in quantum leaps in return to input made (exponential reward).
"An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down." - Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder LinkedIn
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