Daniel A. Wankar
Business Education Department,
College of Education Katsina-Ala, Benue state.
The success or failure of any government regime depends on the extent to which the masses are empowered and emancipated socially and economically. The Nigerian government has flooded the country with poverty alleviation programmes over the years, aimed at breaking the shackles of poverty that have held the vast majority of Nigerians captive. In spite of these laudable efforts, available evidence indicates that poverty level in Nigeria is still on the increase. This is principally due to the absence of entrepreneurship education which should equip the targeted beneficiaries with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and abilities to start and run their business ventures to fast-track economic development. It is therefore advocated that for any sustainable development in Nigeria to occur, substantial efforts must be put into entrepreneurship education as the bedrock of the nation’s education programme.
It is expected of every responsible and people–oriented government to empower its citizens, and emancipate them socially and economically, so as to contribute to national development. In Nigeria, the vice called poverty serves as a fundamental limitation to socio-economic development. Poverty is widespread, deepening and severe. Today, the situation seems almost beyond redemption as it gets worse by the day. Poverty stares in the face, right from the bedroom, to the kitchen and to the street. This is principally caused and aggravated by lack of knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities which make people productive, giving them access to income thereby pushing them above the poverty line.
The fight against poverty is a difficult challenge facing any country in the developing world. In Nigeria, multiple sweet sounding programmes aimed at poverty alleviation have only succeeded in creating and consolidating a poverty industry (Myom, 2013). Such programmes have focused more on growth, basic needs and rural development approaches, without yielding the much desired results.
As a country with abundant human and material resources, the economy presents unlimited opportunities for small and medium scale enterprises to thrive. What is needed today is a crop of men and women who have acquired the necessary capital, the requisite technical knowledge and the essential managerial know-how, who will advance the economy into the arena of industrialisation and modern technological culture. Every available evidence indicates that entrepreneurship education holds the key to the much desired greatness. This article therefore dwells on poverty in all its available ramifications, poverty alleviation programmes and their inadequacies in addressing the challenges of poverty. The article examines the concepts of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education and their prospects in combating the monster called poverty.
Meaning and Concepts of Poverty
Poverty is variously defined. The World Bank (1999) views poverty as persistent hunger, vulnerability to all kinds of ailments, inability to pursue quality and functional education, and lack of gainful employment opportunities in the society. From here, poverty can be seen as a wide net in our country, with a vast group of citizens caught into it. This major handicap robs them of all available opportunities in the society.
In defining poverty in relative and absolute terms, Mohammed (2006), states that poverty is a state of being in which an individual or family or group lacks the basic necessities of life, are less privileged than others in the society and therefore susceptible to diseases, have limited access to most services and information, lack control over resources resulting in insecurity, subordinate to higher social and economic classes, the erosion of human dignity and self respect, and lack of access to education. It can be seen that poverty is a vicious cycle. A vast number of Nigerians are poor because they are poor.
The UNDP (2003) bluntly pointed out that the poor are those who are unskilled and unemployable who, as a result of little or no income, are totally dependent on others for the satisfaction of their daily needs. While poor countries are marked by low productivity, alarming high population growth rate and pronounced gap between the haves and the have-nots, especially in terms of access to health facilities, quality and quantity of food intake. This is the prevailing situation in Nigeria today. To Ajakaiye and Olomola (1999), poverty is a living condition in which an entity is faced with economic, political and environmental deprivation. This deprivation is involuntary to Shamija and Garba (2005). Poverty connotes lack of means of satisfying basic needs which have direct bearing on the quality of life and is manifested in lack of access to healthcare delivery, unemployment and lack of productive land, or other income earning assets, lack of power or voice in the affairs of the state, absence of infrastructure and other social amenities. From the above, poverty can be seen as a cause and effect syndrome. A poor people denotes a poor country and vice versa.
Available Research Evidence Regarding Poverty
Sachs (2005) from global perspective shows that over 800 million people go hungry everyday; one in every six people live in extreme poverty (less than $1.00 per day); over 8million people die every day because they are too poor to stay alive; and over 100 million primary school-aged children cannot go to school.
In Nigeria poverty is real. Every available record indicates that poverty in all ramifications is a major problem in Nigeria. Nigeria in rated as one of the poorest countries in the world according to World Bank (2001). Similarly, Shamija and Garba (2005) reported that over the last decade, the quality of life of the average Nigerian citizen has progressively nose-dived, with available statistics revealing down-ward trend in the per capita income of the citizens.
Evidence shows that the number of those trapped in poverty has continued to increase from 27 percent in 1980 to 70 percent in 1999. Based on standard of living, the life expectancy, level of education and purchasing power, the Human Development Index released by the United Nations (1998) ranked Nigeria 142 and 13th poorest nation in the world, even though Nigeria is ironically one of the 60 largest oil exporting countries. Whereas in several of those countries, per capita income has continued to improve, it is not the case in Nigeria where per capita income is one of the lowest and has actually been on the decline for the past few years.
The World Bank (2001) rated Nigeria as the 12th poorest nation in the world, with GDP per capita of $740.00 as against the UNDP ranking of Nigeria in 1997 which put the country at 141st out of 175 countries with real GDP per capita of less than $1,351, placing Nigeria below other less endowed developing countries in Africa and other parts of the world. Other indicators of poverty such as life expectancy, population per doctor, population per hospital bed, and rate of infant mortality, access to electricity, safe drinking water, adequate housing, etc unequivocally unravel the pathetic and worsening condition of the average Nigerian.
For instance Agbi (2002) and Eke (2002) statistically captured the picture of poverty in Nigeria thus: About 70 per cent of Nigerians are living below poverty line despite the country’s vast resources; Only 40 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water; Urban population living in single room, an average of about 8 occupants per room, is 85 percent; Population of illiterates at the dawn of the 21st century is about 50 percent; Population access to primary health-care facilities is 62 per cent; About 80 per cent of Nigerians consume less than one-third of the minimum required protein and vitamin intake; Only about 34 per cent population has access to electricity; About 1.5 percent of the population has access to telephone line services; About 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas without access to infrastructural facilities like roads and social services;
There is no need for further evidence to show that the level of poverty in Nigeria is widespread, deeply severe, increasingly alarming, and almost beyond redemption.
Causes of Poverty in Nigeria
From the foregoing scan of the poverty situation in Nigeria, it is imperative to beam searchlight on its causes. And indeed the causes of poverty in Nigeria are multifarious. Contributing, Shamija and Garba (2005); Okozor (2001), Attah (2002), and in Uthman’s study (as cited in Mohammed, 2006) identified the causes of poverty in Nigeria as highlighted below:
Þ Inadequate access to physical assets or productive networks of friends and family;
Þ Lack of adequate income generating opportunities;
Þ Inadequate endowment of human capital;
Þ Inadequate access to employment opportunities;
Þ Inadequate markets for goods and services produced by the poor due to geographical location and limited physical infrastructures;
Þ Destruction of natural resources and environmental degradation leading to reduced productivity in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, etc;
Þ Inadequate assistance to temporary victims of droughts, floods, pests, wars, etc.
Þ Low level of national savings and investment;
Þ Above all, lack of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education.
Consequences of Poverty
The consequences of poverty seem to drive the masses deeper into poverty and social vices. Poverty seems to be a cancerous growth in our society. It has devastating effects as noted by Nnamaradi (1999), Doyle (2004), Ibeizugbe (2005), and Mwanse and Lister (2006) thus: poverty questions the stability of the nation and the citizenry; migration to already overcrowded cities; brings about lawlessness, armed robbery, prostitution and rural decadence; leads to social ills like militancy and indiscipline. The current state of poverty has confronted the nation with daunting challenges.
Some Poverty Alleviation Programmes of Various Administrations
Government appears to have shown some measure of commitment to poverty alleviation programmes notwithstanding the fact that they still suffer from most ills of the past. Altogether, more than 20 of them have been embarked upon at various times since 1970. Some of these include: Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Vocational Skills Development, Special Public Works Programme, Small Scale Enterprises Scheme, Better Life for Rural Women, National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (NEEDS), Ethical Revolution, War Against Indiscipline, Family Economic Advancement Programme, Family Support Programme, and many more.
As observed by Olaitan (2002), despite the plethora of poverty alleviation programmes, Nigeria and Nigerians still remain poverty stricken. Nigeria is still grappling with the problem of acute poverty. Most baffling is the situation as presented of a nation wallowing in want in the midst of plenty human and material resources. These multiple sweet sounding programmes only succeeded in creating and consolidating a growing poverty industry without yielding the much desired results.
The following factors account for the failure of these programmes as pointed out by Uthman (as cited in Mohammed, 2006) and Ejima (2005): They were characterised by sentiments and lack of purpose, frequent changes in critical personnel, lack of involvement of the private sector, inadequate funding, inconsistency in policy formulation and implementation, benefitting the initiators, their wives, close allies and agents leading the larger population to sink deeper and deeper into the ocean of poverty, etc.
It appears from the above that government has not fully realised the potency of entrepreneurship education as a veritable tool for combating poverty. From all indications, the Nigeria business environment offers many entrepreneurial opportunities, given the vast material and human resources at our disposal. What is required is a crop of men and women who have acquired the necessary capital, the requisite technical knowledge and the essential managerial know-how, who will transform the Nigerian economy. There is that urgent need to consciously raise entrepreneurs who will bring about innovations aimed at profitably transforming the Nigerian economy. Harris’ study (as cited in NIM, 2005) earlier stated that the main bottleneck confronting Nigerian entrepreneurship was the shortage of technical and managerial personnel. It has indeed been observed that Nigeria’s ability to respond to industrial opportunities rather than her willingness appears to be the primary deterrent to the expansion of effective entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship Education
It is clear that entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education hold the key to meaningful economic transformation. Entrepreneurship is the process of creating something different with value by devoting the necessary time and efforts, assuming the accompanying financial, psychic, and social risks and receiving the resulting rewards of monetary and personal satisfaction. According to NIM (2005), this term is used broadly in connection with the innovative industrial leader who has been described as the person who perceives business opportunities and takes advantage of available scarce resources to use them. He alone bears the non-insurable risks in his enterprise and it is he who directs the human and material resources in his business in order to achieve its objectives.
A cursory look at the history of entrepreneurship in Nigeria reveals that several factors explain why an individual goes into business; such as certain kinds of experiences and situational conditions, rather than personality or ego. NIM (2005) reports a catalogue of research findings, all pointing to the conclusion that lack of management skills/expertise seems to be the greatest problem facing businessmen in Nigeria. Some findings highlight the need for management competence on the part of indigenous entrepreneurs. As rightly observed, what Nigerian entrepreneurs need is development of qualities that will make them able and competent to scan the vast business environment in Nigeria and innovate at profitable levels. Entrepreneurship education aims at equipping the learner with relevant knowledge, attitudes, skills, and values, required in innovatively starting and running small scale businesses. It prepares people, to be responsible enterprising individuals who become entrepreneurs that contribute to the economic development and sustainable communities. As a gamut of goal-directed experiences, both formal and informal, entrepreneurship education identified and develops the qualities needed of business success such as risk taking, self-confidence, hard-work, goal setting, accountability, business knowledge, technical and industrial knowledge, ability to communicate effectively, among others.
It is seen as a catalyst in economic development of nations which hinges on expertise, skills, knowledge, attitudes and creativity of entrepreneurs with private initiatives in combating poverty. It helps them to appraise their strengths and weaknesses in the light of opportunities and threats provided by the business environment towards innovatively and profitably creating value-added products and services.
The Role of Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship Education in Combating Poverty for National Development
Cross-country evidence made available by NIM (2005) reveals that entrepreneurship is the backbone of successful economies like USA, where over 23 million small business employ more than 50 percent of the private workforce and generates more than half of the nation’s GDP. The case of the European Union is similar. Each year, one million SMEs are set up by the EU, where they account for 99.8 percent of all companies and 65 per cent of business turnover in the union. In Taiwan, 70 percent of jobs are generated by production activities that employ less than 20 workers each. Forty thousand firms account for 75 percent of its exports (NIM, 2005).
It is undoubtedly accepted that entrepreneurship forms the bedrock of any nation’s attempt in liberating its citizens from the shackles of poverty, especially in developing countries like Nigeria.
Entrepreneurship education will consciously raise men and women of timber and calibre who will innovatively and profitably perform the following roles:
Þ Provide more employment per unit of capital invested since their production techniques are generally labour intensive;
Þ Help form the technological base where such industries would start from small units operating and introducing indigenous technology to suit our particular needs and utilising local value of resources, products, equipment and manpower;
Þ Source their raw materials locally, thereby standing the chance of becoming more prosperous than larger units sourcing their raw materials externally;
Þ Increase the country’s GNP, thereby raising the prospects for improved overall standard of living of all citizens;
Þ Enhance revenue generation to the government; and
Þ Contribute to regional activity and cooperation.
In spite of the numerous prospects of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education in combating poverty and enhancing national development, entrepreneurship education is not a magical tool. It has to battle with challenges and problems arising from the wider socially, if it must not go the way of other programmes in Nigeria. Some of the challenges include lack of purposeful leadership and bad governance; entrepreneurship may end up preparing people for the purpose of certification, thereby being swallowed up by the conventional education system; entrepreneurship education will battle with pride and arrogance of the youths to be able to consolidate its gains; beneficiaries many still end up being financially handicapped and not able to practicalise what they have acquired; leaving existing econo-socio-political structures intact, entrepreneurship education may end up in a straight jacket; existing wave of corruption may spell trauma, topsy-turvy or even outright tragedy for the programme; and the prevailing security challenges if not checked, will turn our business environment into a gambling arena.
The following suggestions, if put in place, will position entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education in the proper place in combating poverty and liberating our economy for the long-awaited development;
- The masses should be allowed to vote credible people into political leadership positions in free and fair elections. This will pave way for visionary leaders to assume positions of authority in our country. It will also create room for accountability and probity as enviable tenants of governance. In this way, any people-oriented programme like entrepreneurship will succeed.
- There is need for a non-conventional entrepreneurship education programme, with non-conventional personnel, for non-conventional students, and a non – conventional curriculum. It should carefully select the targeted beneficiaries and host them in non-conventional schools, with successful businessmen as teachers. It should be meant for people who are willing, ready and interested, and not just for the purpose of earning certificates, but the acquisition of critical practical skills. This entails private sector participation at all levels. There may be need to sponsor people to developing Asian countries to study entrepreneurship and come back to train others.
- There is need to create public awareness among Nigerians to bring about a new socio-cultural order. Virtues like honesty, integrity, hard-work, humility, sacrifice, patience, achievement–orientation, dedication, and sound behaviour are demanded by entrepreneurship instead of the get-rich-quick craze we see today. National development in Nigeria must start with mental development just as is found among other fast developing economies of the world. In this way, a sound foundation will be laid for the development of entrepreneurship, which will, in turn, lead to national development.
- Monetary packages should be put in place to serve as incentives to beneficiaries of entrepreneurship education. Financial and material assistance should be given to the graduating students, retirees, and other targeted groups, to give them impetus. They business plans and be able to face competition from larger businesses.
- A ministry should be created for entrepreneurship development. This should be charged with the responsibility of training and empowering the masses and supervising the informal sector of the economy. It should work with entrepreneurship development centres across the country towards this end. A percentage of taxes from business organisations should be set aside for this purpose.
- Corruption should be seriously frowned at. Whoever is found to be corrupt in any way should be appropriately sanctioned as provided in the law. The law of the land should be reviewed where necessary to include the penalty of execution for atrocious levels of corruption. These people are worse than armed robbers who pay with their lives when caught. Anti-corruption crusades should be mounted and bodies like EFCC, ICPC, transparency International, should be empowered and constantly reminded to live up to expectation.
Security challenges in the country should be handled headlong. Any person involved in any of the security threats should be made to face the law. This will serve as a deterrent to other people who think they are untouchable. Any government in power that cannot provide security for lives and property should be voted out without delay.
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