Western universities should provide entrepreneurship training for students from the developing world to encourage innovation and bolster economic progress, argues technology entrepreneur Iqbal Z. Quadir.
Universities are in the best position to offer the training and experiences most beneficial for students looking into an entrepreneurial career, and many enterprises in the developing world have begun at universities, says Quadir.
He highlights a range of successful entrepreneurs from developing countries who benefited from education in developed countries — such as Mo Ibrahim, from Sudan, founder of telecommunications company Cel-Tel; and Miko Rwayitare, from Rwanda, founder of mobile network company Telecel International. Both have helped make mobile communications pervasive and affordable in poor countries.
Western universities have the potential to engage more fruitfully with entrepreneurs and still have an edge in research by partnering with universities in developing countries, says Quadir. Emerging technologies in energy, agriculture and medicine promise to enhance productivity and commercial opportunities for entrepreneurs, creating jobs, products and services as well as addressing poverty and poor governance.
While many courses exist that focus on developing countries, these mainly prepare students for bureaucratic careers in governments, corporations, or multilateral organisations such as the UN.
Quadir recommends that universities have a stronger focus on the skills required by entrepreneurs in the developing world by ensuring that entrepreneurship training includes the economic and social impact of technologies; case studies of entrepreneurship; networking and mentorship by successful entrepreneurs; business education including, accounting, marketing and finance; exposure to potential investors and partners; and the history of entrepreneurial progress in the West.
"Entrepreneurs can anchor intellectual endeavors in reality by deploying the practical output of knowledge," says Quadir, and Western researchers can benefit from learning about innovations in low-income countries.