There is a pervasive tendency to equate entrepreneurship development (ED) with self-employment. Many self-employed individuals are indeed entrepreneurs, but the majority are not. Their businesses are simply microenterprises in the informal sector, with little growth potential. The promotion of self-employment is a worthwhile objective, but it should not be confused with ED. Entrepreneurship development programmes that in reality focus only on self-employment are less likely to succeed in creating economic growth.
Entrepreneurship development should be about helping people start and grow dynamic businesses that provide high value added. In determining the difference, it is useful to look at potential growth sectors or geographic areas and to explore criteria for selecting beneficiaries who are entrepreneurial. A needs assessment before programme formulation is useful. An analysis of high-growth economic sectors enables more focused support to entrepreneurs in the most promising sectors of the economy.
Entrepreneurship development programmes should be formulated to identify risks and determine the likelihood of success, identify the factors that affect the levels of entrepreneurship in a country. These factors include the perception of opportunity, degree of respect accorded to entrepreneurs, acceptance of wide disparities in income and a family environment which is oriented towards business.
Entrepreneurship development programmes require a selection process that attempts to identify those target groups that have some of the key prerequisites for entrepreneurial success. While it can be argued that public funds should be spent on those who most need help, a selection process deploys limited resources where they are most effective, to the overall benefit of the community. Beneficiaries may be individuals and/or groups.
An entrepreneurship development programme should help aspiring entrepreneurs to recognize and design unique, innovative business opportunities, based on an analysis of local conditions and their own special skills. The programme can help the entrepreneur to diversify based on his/her basic knowledge of a product or skill in a certain sector without distorting the local markets. In a truly entrepreneurial approach, innovative capacity matters more than the size of the market. Diversification can be accomplished by introducing a novelty or new product feature, stressing quality or value added, anticipating a new market or even creating a market.
Entrepreneurial development programmes may have to include support for;
- Entrepreneurship orientation and awareness.
- Development of the competencies (skills, experience and attitudes) necessary to recognize a market opportunity and organize the resources to meet it.
- Improvement of business performance for growth and competitiveness.
ED training is usually more effective when linked to finance and other services such as marketing, quality assurance and productivity improvement. For example, involving the development banks at an early stage of the support process helps to prepare the entrepreneur for the credit process and facilitates the bank’s appraisal of the business plan.
Successful entrepreneurship also depends on supportive and coordinated government policies. Entrepreneurship is conducive to economic growth and the creation of employment. Government programmes and policies have a significant impact on the level of entrepreneurship within a country. While many governments profess support for entrepreneurial businesses, they often lack specific policies and coordinated programmes designed to support entrepreneurial activity.
In Nigeria, the major factor impeding the development of entrepreneurship is the lack of adequate electric power which most times result in high cost of running businesses. However, there are other obstacles to successful entrepreneurial development initiatives. Liberalizing imports, ending public monopolies and opening public services to private-sector provision of goods and services enhance the conditions for entrepreneurship growth.
Fostering entrepreneurship involves ensuring that markets for capital, labour, goods and services are working well. It also requires that impediments to entrepreneurship be removed and that conditions be established in which innovation and risk-taking can flourish. Government policy-makers also seek to foster entrepreneurship through programmes which, for example, augment the supply of information and enable reliable transportation of goods and services, encourage networking, facilitate the provision of finance, and seek to create positive attitudes towards entrepreneurial activity.
Focused policies that facilitate access to finance, professional services and training for start-up companies, that simplify business registration, reporting and taxation, etc. are essential to entrepreneurial venture creation. Seminars and the study of entrepreneurial development abroad can be included in programmes addressing entrepreneurship policy.