Banking on entrepreneurship – Khaleej Times

Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022 | Muharram 12, 1444
Published: Tue 7 Jun 2022, 3:24 PM
Last updated: Tue 7 Jun 2022, 3:47 PM
Transformation of present education system is a must to address the global challenge of rising unemployment as conventional mode of learning will not offer enough opportunities to millions of jobless youths and only intensify competition in the market, experts say.
Industry specialists, educationists and top executives said investment in modern day education is need of the hour to accelerate the transformation process and build-up a strong ecosystem for startups and scaleups that will help ease pressure on job market and promote entrepreneurship culture in the Gulf region. It will also help the UAE government’s move to double the contribution of the digital economy to the GDP from 9.7 per cent to 19.4 per cent by 2031.
Referring to the latest report of International Labour Organisation (ILO), the industry experts said 112 million fewer full-time jobs are available today compared to pre-pandemic period. They said students should be ready to face future challenges and select an appropriate syllabus that not only help them in career building but also guide them to become an entrepreneur by converting their ideas into reality.
Education experts said there is a room for entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) as the region had the lowest rate of established entrepreneurs (6.8 per cent) compared to other parts of the world and a high rate of business discontinuance at 6.2 per cent. For every person exiting a business in Mena region, there were only 1.7 people engaged in early stage entrepreneurial activity while the global average is one person to every three.
From startups to scaleups
Professor Dr Justin Jansen, academic director at Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship and Professor at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, said new startups are vital to boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem and to create jobs. But what really matters is that more startups also scaleup successfully.
“Both the understanding about such a process as well as building support programmes for startups to undergo such a transition is important for ecosystems to mature and to make a lasting impact. The involvement of a variety of stakeholders such as educational institutions, entrepreneurs, investors, and established companies is crucial here,” Professor Jansen told Khaleej Times.
Polishing skills and talent
Referring to SD Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence, which is licensed by KHDA, he said it is a right step in line with the government policy and will help students to polish their skills and talent and become a successful entrepreneur.
“Many of our alumni have started businesses, some are very successful. These alumni have been important ambassadors and role models for later generations of students to follow in their footsteps,” he said.
“Moreover, they are also important mentors and investors for new cohorts of startups and scaleups. Over the years, we have seen hundreds of startups emerging out of our centre of which more and more have become very successful scaleups and grownups. By better understanding what makes them successful, we have also been able to adapt our programmes supporting startups to scale up,” he said.
Given the Gulf and UAE to transform into a knowledge-driven economy and to generate sustainable growth by spurring entrepreneurial skills and behaviours, Professor Jansen said entrepreneurship education will become vital in near future.
“It will help further strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem in accelerating the emergence of startups and scaleups, but also to support established firms to identify novel ways to generate sustainable value and to capture novel opportunities for growth. Europe has been through a similar transition with having more startups and scaleups forming the fundamental drivers of future prosperity,” he said.
Trends in entrepreneurship education
Professor Jansen said entrepreneurial education had also matured over the years and has become a central element in many educational programmes.
“With the realisation that entrepreneurial skills and capabilities can be learned over time, this opens up new avenues for people to engage in value creation by starting new business but also in general to become more creative, persistent and agile in dealing with changing, sometimes challenges circumstances,” he said.
In reply to a question, he said it’s a right time to move forward from conventional education plans and introduce future-ready programmes on AI, entrepreneurship and coding, among others.
“Yes, the combination of entrepreneurial skills and emergent technologies will generate impactful and sustainable solutions for grand socio-economic challenges that we face today and will continue to face the coming years. Rather than a stand-alone discipline, such an interdisciplinary approach is very powerful in scaling the application of new technologies within society,” Professor Jansen said.
Building entrepreneurial ecosystem
Leonardo Fuligni, deputy director at Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship, said entrepreneurship education will play a vital role in the consolidation of a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Dubai.
“In the recent years, we have seen Dubai highly investing in its ICT infrastructure. This offers immense entrepreneurial opportunities to develop and scale new digital services and platforms. In order to maximise the economic impact of this transition, the Dubai ecosystem needs a strong base of entrepreneurial talent. Our education activities with SD Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence will contribute to train the current and future generations of local entrepreneurs and innovators,” he said.
Together with SD Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence, he said Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship has ambitious plans for our education activities in Dubai.
“We will run a wide range of programmes addressing different target groups in the ecosystem and their specific needs. We are excited to launch our first programme starting in July 2022 dedicated to 15 to 21 years old students aspiring to become startup entrepreneurs,” he said.
“Through workshops, guest lectures and coaching, they will learn the basic skills needed to kick off their entrepreneurial journey. However, students are just one part of the story. In the coming months, we envisage more programmes, including for instance a growth programme for scaleup entrepreneurs, but also skills and leadership development for innovation professionals in public and private organisations and educators,” he said.
Unique centre for entrepreneurship
In the last nine years, Fuligni said Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship grew into a unique expertise centre for entrepreneurship and innovation.
“While we build upon the academic knowledge and methods of Erasmus University Rotterdam and its prestigious Rotterdam School of Management, our programmes integrate the practical learnings of our first-hand experience with top scaleups in the Netherlands and in Europe. On top of that, all our programmes adopt experiential learning as a learning method, which means that we guide participants to learn by doing and experimenting,” he said.
During our three-week programme, he said students will develop a wide spectrum of entrepreneurial skills while making progress with their own entrepreneurial project.
“They will learn how to identify opportunities, listen to their customers to create solutions and, ultimately, create economic, social or cultural value. At the end of the programme, they will be ready to kick off their entrepreneurial journey. We are very excited to get started with the first group of participants!.”
Dubai Green Fund
Moataz Kandil, chief executive at Dubai Green Fund, shed light on the fund’s activities and said it is ready to invest in commercially viable project.
“Dubai Green Fund is a Dubai government owned organisation that invests in environmental-friendly projects that creates positive climate change impact. It would consider investing in scaling up ventures after it proves that its commercially viable,” he said.
To a question about promoting entrepreneurship to ease pressure on job market, he said the government role is to create the right kind of ecosystem which will help startups and entrepreneurial ventures to flourish and succeed.
“Strong economies grow to the extent of the success of its private sector including startups and small and medium enterprises,” he said.
Banks role is vital
Saad Benani, managing director and head of Mena investment banking origination and advisory, Deutsche Bank, said entrepreneurship programme is not a new concept.
“Switzerland, and to some extent Germany, has a very strong apprenticeship programme. Data from the Federal Statistical Office shows that about 45 per cent of the working population aged 25-63 had a higher education degree in 2021, while 44 per cent had an apprenticeship on their CV as their high highest education. About 20 years ago, this number was almost 60 per cent. Many of the Swiss CEOs have apprenticeship on their CVs,” he said.
“Whilst apprenticeship programmes are still in high demand, corporates have been slow adapt and offer young student access to new technologies. On the other side, universities have reacted more quickly to the new world and are now offering programmes more adapted to the needs and requirement of the new generation,” he said.
In reply to a question, he said banks will always play an essential role in the system.
“They are the airport hubs of the world economy. Because banks fuel the new economies, they are also becoming the airport hubs of new technologies implementations,” he said.
“Banks responsibility is to fuel growth by providing access to markets and funds, not to provide funds, this is the role of VCs… As you may know, certain laws such as the Volcker Rule restrict banks to make proprietary investments,” he said.
Tackling unemployment
Shailesh Dash, board member and mentor at SD Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence, said the centre will help the executives and students polish their skills and talent so that they can convert their ideas into reality.
“We believe there is not enough real jobs that are being created today to tackle unemployment which is why it’s important to create enough value-added businesses which can develop the local economies and help employment. But at the same time, we see a significant gap which exists today between education provided in the region (which is actually very helpful in providing some knowledge to the local populace) and the actual skill sets required for somebody to be an intrapreneur or an entrepreneur who can be successful in a large organisation or build a new successful startup and provide employment to the local and world community, respectively,” he said.
“We are trying to bring a fresh perspective to students and entrepreneurs in the region, who are trying to bring their ideas to commercial viability or scaling up their existing businesses, through our partnership with Erasmus Centre of Enteprenruship, University of Rotterdam. Our endeavour to bring the right mix of ​knowledge; skill sets and mentorship for the students so they can build successful startups or scale up their businesses,” Dash elaborated.
First session in July
SD Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence, which recently signed a partnership deal with Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus (Dtech) — Dubai Silicon Oasis’ tech hub and co-working space and the largest of its kind in the Mena region, will begin its operation in July by introducing first boot camp for young entrepreneurs.
“We are starting the first cohort of 20 students each in two batches during the summer vacation for young entrepreneurs in July this year. This bootcamp would last for three weeks which is a full-time immersive experience for the students who are looking to bring their ideas to pitch to the investors,” Dash said.
He said the nine weeks and 13 weeks bootcamps for scale-ups will be happening in October/November this year.
“The certificate for the bootcamps will be provided by both the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence as well as SD Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence which is licensed by KHDA,” he said.
Dubai Silicon Oasis will award a business licence to successful participants while student aged below 18 can also get 100 per cent ownership of the company through parents or legal guardian. In addition, they will get access to a co-working space, or Flexi Desk, for one year without any additional charges.
Entrepreneurship education demand
Dash said there is a strong demand for entrepreneurship education in the region and SD Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence will tap this untapped segment in coming months.
“From what we have seen there is very little being done towards providing entrepreneurship training in the right context even though a lot of courses are being offered by various educational bodies where the teaching staff has very limited experience of entrepreneurship themselves. Staff also lack skill set required for the same, because of which no mentoring to a budding entrepreneur can be provided in such a set up.
But these educational bodies are good and reputed places for​students to receive their degrees​ as well as helps in networking and ​it also helps them to apply for a job ​of their liking, sometimes which is also very important for the society, but may not serve the needs of the entrepreneurs. We will be in the future looking to partner with various educational universities to bring skill-based entrepreneurship courses and mentoring for the students,” Dash concluded.
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