Do entrepreneurship characteristics and education influence start-up potentials among undergraduates? Evidence from Nigeria

Caleb Muyiwa Adelowo
National Centre for Technology Management

Ilevbare Eniola Oluwatosin
National Centre for Technology Management

Unemployment has consistently been on the increase in Nigeria for more than a decade and youth unemployment has been worse off. Policymakers, scholars and practitioners have now realized that entrepreneurship plays huge roles in ameliorating the pains of unemployment among youths; creating wealth and stimulating economic development. Therefore, entrepreneurship education had been largely advocated for in tertiary institutions to prepare and support students for venture creation, even before graduation. The introduction of entrepreneurship education (EE) in Nigeria, for more than a decade and in terms of venture creation, has yielded little or no result. Therefore, this study seeks to examine how entrepreneurship characteristics and education shape start-up potential among undergraduates in Nigeria. The study adapts the personal entrepreneurial characteristics (PECs) scale developed by Rorland (2018). The scale provided information on the key PECs of respondents including opportunity seeking, risk-taking, information seeking, systematic planning and monitoring, persuasion and networking, commitment, persistence, demand for efficiency and quality, goal setting and self-confidence. In all, students were asked to describe their PECs by providing appropriate ratings to a fifty-five (55) questionnaire items on a five Likert rating scale. On the start-up potentials among the students, they were asked to respond to a dichotomous question of whether they are interested in starting a business or not. Other important variables of interest include parents’ business experience, entrepreneurship education course taken, and basic background information. Three thousand two hundred and seventy-seven (N=3,277) students between 200 and 500 levels from six universities participated in the study. The results show that majority (92%) of the students are interested in starting a business while 36% of them are already running one form of enterprise. The level of interest is also high among those who indicate interest in start-up. Generally, the mean score for the personal entrepreneurial characteristics is high (2.65). The specific mean computed for each of the PECs are opportunity seeking (2.4), risk-taking (2.4), information seeking (2.9), systematic planning and monitoring (2.6), persuasion and networking (2.6), commitment (2.6), persistence (2.7), demand for efficiency and quality (2.5), goal setting (3.1) and self-confidence (2.8). To further understand the dynamics between entrepreneurial characteristics of the students, binary logistic regression was adopted to examine the influence of PECs on the start-up potentials among the students using the mean scores computed from the PECs as the independent variables. The results show that students with high goals setting characteristic are 79% more likely to engage in start-ups (OR=1.79, p<0.001). It is also observed that students whose parents run businesses (OR=3.4, p<0.001) and those who have attended entrepreneurship courses (OR=1.79, p<0.001) are more likely to be interested in venture creation. Furthermore, the influence of PECs on students’ entrepreneurship practice was also examined through binary logistic regression. The results show that students with opportunity recognition abilities are 43% more likely (OR=1.43, p<0.001) to engage in entrepreneurial activities, persuasion and networking (OR=1.17, p<0.1) and risk taking (OR=1.7, p<0.1) characteristics in students also predispose them to practicing entrepreneurship. In addition, students whose parent have business experience are 90% more likely (OR=1.9, p<0.001) to start a business and students that have taken entrepreneurship education are 30% more likely (OR=1.3, p<0.001) to run a business even as undergraduate.
The paper presents some implications for policy and practice. Personal entrepreneurial characteristics are key determinants of start-up potentials among the undergraduates in Nigeria as goal-setting ability of students has strong and significant influence on entrepreneurial interest and practice. The entrepreneurship education in the country should therefore be re-designed such that students are adequately profiled to determine the kind of EE that could be targeted at different students. For those already practicing entrepreneurship, the university administration could establish innovation hubs or labs, incubators and organise annual innovation competition to further stimulate entrepreneurship in the schools.