Covenant University drives Entrepreneurship with CEDS and Hebron Startup Labs

At Covenant University, Ota, in Ogun State of Nigeria, raising a new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs is not only a phrase used frequently among its workforce, but also a key mandate. In 2002, entrepreneurship became a compulsory subject for every student, in order to further drive that vision.

In 2005, the university established the Centre for Entrepreneurial Development Studies (CEDS) to coordinate its various interventions aimed at enhancing the students’ entrepreneurial pursuits and contributing to the development of entrepreneurship in Nigeria.

In 2016, a research conducted by an independent body, Stutern (a startup which connects interns with employers), revealed that Covenant University graduates are the most employable in Nigeria. Speaking with Outrepreneurs, Dr. Stephen Oluwatobi, Director, Centre for Entrepreneurial Development Studies (CEDS) at the University, described the report as an interesting feedback, but also said the goal is seeing the students become the largest employers of people.

Covenant University recently hosted its maiden edition of the Covenant University International Conference on Entrepreneurship, with the theme “Entrepreneurship and the Knowledge Economy.” The three-day conference took place from Monday June 12 to Wednesday June 14, 2017 and brought together entrepreneurs, investors, academics, researchers and policy makers.

Some participants at the 1st Covenant University International Conference on Entrepreneurship (#CUICE)

In his welcome address, Professor Aderemi Atayero, Vice Chancellor, said the platform was created to unleash enterprise potential and raise entrepreneurs who understand the way the knowledge economy works, stressing that the institution is a ground for raising students with an entrepreneurial mindset.

“At Covenant University, we are very deliberate about educating our students on entrepreneurship; our mission is to produce job creators, not job seekers. We pioneered entrepreneurship education in Nigeria in 2002 to cultivate global leaders and this has led to tremendous outcomes. One of such outcomes is that a lot of our graduates have become employers of labour.

“Now we are in the knowledge economy; it must be understood to maximize the opportunities therein. It is an era where initiatives have to be taken to survive. You cannot wait for the government to think for you; you will not catch up doing that. You cannot wait for things to happen; you have to take initiatives.

“Entrepreneurship in the knowledge economy spans beyond the traditional models of doing business. It involves disruptions of already existing processes and the creation of new and improved products that render existing ones obsolete. This suggests that it is about creating and utilizing knowledge, not only for business people. It is perceived that the knowledge economy offers the privilege of becoming an entrepreneur. The internet, social media and mobile technology have put the world in our palms. Each one can run his or her business and reach the world from the palm of his or her hand.”

On the second day of the conference, University of Ibadan don and current president of the Nigerian Institute of Industrial Engineers (NIIE), Prof. Ayodeji Emmanuel Oluleye gave the keynote address. According to him, for a business to run successfully, it needs to be set as a going concern aimed at engendering sustainability and posterity.

“Most entrepreneurial firms fail, because they are not set up as a going concern. A going concern is one that we see today, we will see tomorrow and most likely we will see in the future.” he said.

Professor Ayodeji Oluleye (President, NIIE)

He advised the government to “embrace its role as a facilitator and make sure things happen.” According to him, there can be arrays of entrepreneurial firms which can improve the economy, if the country will prioritize and deploy its various resources to critical and innovative sectors.

What Nigeria can learn from Sweden

A discussion panel took place, after Professor Oluleye’s keynote address and was moderated by Professor Bolu Christian who was joined by other intellectuals, including Professor Oluleye, Dr. Olumuyiwa Oludayo, Dr. Omotayo Adegbuyi and Dr. Stephen Oluwatobi. A common thread running through the discussion was the necessity of knowledge and insights as requirements for any entrepreneur to excel in the new economy.

Before receiving a standing ovation for his contribution, Dr. Oludayo had made references to Sweden, imploring Nigeria to learn from Sweden’s economic model. According to him, the Scandinavian country has produced companies and startups which have offered the world many breakthroughs and technological innovations. According to him, such firms include Ericsson, IKEA, Skype, AstraZeneca and Spotify.

Director,  African Leadership Development Centre, Dr. Olumuyiwa Oludayo

“Rather than look forward to the UK and the US, Nigeria can begin to signpost and focus on Sweden.” He wondered how Sweden could be doing this, increasing the income per capital of its people and yet is not shouting about it.

Hebron Startup Labs

A few meters away from the venue of the conference is the university’s Hebron Startup Labs. Despite that the school was on holidays, a few students could be seen at the innovation laboratory, working their fingers out to turn their ideas into reality. Hebron Startup Labs is an incubation hub set up by the university’s management and coordinated by CEDS, to identify talents and mentor students ready to launch their businesses while in school or immediately they leave the university.

Some budding innovations and emerging startups are already noticeable here and include:

  • Dejeuner: Food service delivery to the student community, co-founded by Daniel Fadairo and Onanuga Kehinde.
  • Tindal Mall: an ecommerce platform co-founded by Akankali Mathew, Chidebelu Chukwuma Peter, Abraham Ajala-Joshua and Williams Vera.
  • Tunse.org: A web platform connecting artisans with people who need their services.
L-R: Cofounder of Dejeuner, Daniel Fadairo and another student, Oguntola Kolade, at the Hebron Startup Labs

“Students can actually start up their own companies and get credits for starting up companies,” Dr. Oluwatobi told Outrepreneurs.

He added that there are various clusters in the school, grooming students interested in different entrepreneurial niches. “As at last session, we ran a couple of practicals. One of them is for fashion. We have a lot of fashionpreneurs who are students. The university convocation for students who have just completed their studies is coming up in July.  What some of them will be putting on are made by fellow students; their make-up is made by their fellow students. We have students who make huge amounts of money from their colleagues on this campus, just from that one event,” he said.

Mentoring

Mr. Israel Ovirih (L) discussing with a student, Abraham Ajala-Joshua of Enactus and Tindal Mall, at Hebron Startup Labs

Israel Ovirih, a serial entrepreneur, investment banker and Chairman of the Banklink Africa group, who attended the conference, also visited the startup laboratory. Among others, Ovirih advised the students to make the features of their products simple and look for simple ways to convey their messages.

PHOTOS: Williams Ojo

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Deji Aroloye47 Posts

    a graduate of Linguistics and a staff writer at Outrepreneurs, Deji's forte includes tech, startups and innovations. Years back, Deji wrote on Entertainment and Lifestyle for a tabloid. If he wasn't a writer, Deji would be a photographer or teacher.

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