Published On: Tue, Jul 16th, 2013

Social Entrepreneurship: Addressing the Educational Disconnect


By Emma Schaberg O’Brien

Traditional education systems do not adequately prepare students in the developing world for the realities of emerging economies. Attitudes need to be changed and methods and contents adapted, in order to give young people the skills and desire to set up social companies tailored to their environment and to our globalized and dynamic economy.


Education, out of touch with the requirements of the world

The world is changing. New technologies are strengthening the interdependence of economies. The education given to young people must also evolve. It must prepare them. However, in some countries, there is an ever-increasing gap between the training provided and the economic opportunities that are offered to communities.

Social entrepreneurship contributes to sustainable development and we need to give young people the tools they need to succeed, where the millions of dollars of foreign direct assistance have failed.

Guinea ranks 178th out of 187 on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI). The country is slow to adapt to globalization, a point recognized not only by Guinean business leaders, but also by the Guinean authorities which, through the Ministry of Youth, note that “70% of the under 25s (whatever their level of education) are unemployed. Unemployment and underemployment are caused by the gap between the needs of the Guinean economy and the training given to young people”. In practical terms, most Guinean young people have never touched a computer. Without these skills, they cannot expect to integrate a globalized labor market.


Training young people to be entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship must be the keyword. Young people nowadays become entrepreneurs due to the lack of economic opportunities. They are drivers for the economies of their countries, but they have not had appropriate training in business management. In Guinea’s education system, entrepreneurship training – when it exists – is only offered at university. Action needs to be taken much earlier if results are to be achieved.

It is for this reason that the Youth Entrepreneurship Training Program (YETP) and the movement “Osez Innover” (Dare to Innovate) came about in Guinea. YETP, which has been designed and implemented with Guinean partners, introduces young people to entrepreneurship and gives them the tools to set up and develop their own businesses. While the statistics and results of this program are very recent, they do show that from a sample of students from the Kindia community, 33% of graduates had started an income-generating activity within 3 months and that 38% were in an active research or planning phase. Creating their own activity not only allows these young people to make a livelihood for themselves and their families, they are also proud to be in charge of a small business.


Osez innover

Chris Austin, a volunteer for the Guinea Peace Corps, with graduates from the Youth Entrepreneurship Training Program


Formal training gives entrepreneurs tools to analyze, design a strategy and create more profitable businesses. This increase in income stimulates job creation, strengthens food security for one or several families, facilitates access to healthcare and education, promotes citizen participation, etc.


The need to think social

The education gap is just one among the many problems targeted by development programs. A program cannot conceivably meet all the needs of a country, but by promoting social entrepreneurship, we can empower local business leaders to become the most effective development stakeholders: social entrepreneurs.

Social enterprises meet a need by giving equal weight to the impact on people, profits and the environment (physical and social) in their managerial decision-making.

In 2013, Guinea requested USD 26.1m of aid from the American Government. Despite these investments, the current aid system will not be sufficient to lift Guineans out of poverty. The country’s development is lagging behind the other countries in the region. Our team of volunteers will train the most dynamic young people – through the YETP program – in order to launch “Oser Innover”. Their mission will be to create a community of socially-oriented individuals and entrepreneurs. This will facilitate the movement of ideas, knowledge and resources by promoting the social entrepreneurship movement in Guinea. C

Indeed, although it has seen little development in Guinea, social entrepreneurship has already met with considerable success in Africa. For example, in Nigeria, DMT Mobile Toilets founded by Isaac Durojaiye has not only provided its founder with an attractive return, it has also allowed 22,000 toilets to be installed via its franchise model and has provided a livelihood for thousands of franchisees, mainly marginalized women. Furthermore, on a continent where 1.5 million children die every year of complications from severe diarrhea, there is an enormous benefit in terms of public health.

Unfortunately for Guinea, when you search the Skoll Foundation’s database of social entrepreneurs and consult the Dell Social Innovation Challenge website, there is no result for the country. The population is not exposed to new ways of thinking due to the lack of access to IT resources. Osez innover wants to change this situation by showing young people innovative ideas and by providing them with the skills and access to be able to continue the research themselves.

Investing in social entrepreneurs means empowering them to boost sustainable economic growth and fight against social problems. Social entrepreneurship contributes to sustainable development and we must give young people the tools they require to succeed, where the millions of dollars of foreign direct assistance have failed. By bringing about changes in the education system or implementing complementary programs, we must seek to develop entrepreneurial skills in young people, introduce a pro-social reasoning and help the country to achieve its development objectives.



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