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Saying education has a role to play in entrepreneurship seems superfluous. It’s not just about educating students though, teachers need to be taught how to help foster entrepreneurship too — after all, a well-positioned teacher can be a powerful mentor to an aspiring entrepreneur. What of the government’s role in fostering entrepreneurship though?
During a panel discussion at the African Entrepreneurship Summit 2013 (#africasummit) in Mauritius, there was an interesting debate between IKED and Intentac’s Thomas Andersson and the government of India’s Harkesh Mittal about the role of universities and the government in nurturing entrepreneurship.
Mittal stated that government has no business being in business, and that it is the role of the private sector and the youth to promote entrepreneurship and business. Andersson, however, disagreed, saying that government has its role to facilitate.
It is an interesting question, whether the government and the private sector can find a way forward together, and perhaps with education it is most readily apparent.
For example, in India, according to Mittal, the government incentivises young entrepreneurs who start companies during university by rewarding them extra marks — up to 20%. This is a prime example of governments working with universities to cultivate entrepreneurship.
For Andersson, universities are academic and not necessarily in touch with the private sector and industry. This is where he feels government can come in serving as an enabler — as is evident in the 20% example. You need “champions who can facilitate that relationship,” Andersson says. This shows that academics can serve as mentors, but when it comes to aspects like funding — incentives and compensation — the government has a role to play.
On paper these are institutions with different incentives and priorities and which think and operate independently, yet either through the use of Andersson’s “champions” notion, or through smart incentivisation and reward plans, government can work with universities to nurture entrepreneurship — there is no reason why this has to be limited to a tertiary level either.