East African Digital Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Higher Education

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East African Digital Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Higher Education

In order to strengthen employment opportunities of youth in East Africa as well as the region’s digital transformation and economic development, the Centre of Excellence, CENIT@EA promotes high quality entrepreneurship and innovation thinking in its Master’s programme in Embedded and Mobile Systems (EMoS) curriculum and trainings. Promotion of digital transformation initiatives in the region requires an in-depth knowledge and influence in the higher education curriculum. A study on the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Higher Education is relevant to provide insights into systems, processes, structures and organization of the academic institutions and its outputs. Additionally, the implementation partner, Inter-university Council of East Africa (IUCEA) supports entrepreneurship in universities in the East Africa region, for instance through establishing incubators to transfer knowledge and innovation from higher education and academia to the market. 

The research and study on the digital entrepreneurship ecosystem in higher education in the East African Community (EAC) was commissioned by CENIT@EA and its partners to provide insights into the status quo concerning digital entrepreneurship in higher education across East Africa. To support the project’s initiatives and implementation partners regarding entrepreneurship promotion, the purpose of the study was focused on the  assessment the current status of entrepreneurship promotion measures and technology transfer hubs or incubators in cooperation with universities in the EAC, and the development of recommendations that are geared towards strengthening entrepreneurship promotion and innovation transfer initiatives in industry-academia collaboration and partnerships. It was undertaken in 2020. The study provides an assessment of the scenario at hand and recommendations on how to sustain functional educational programs that serve the communities, the students, the private sector and the nation. The observations and recommendations necessarily are of a general nature as they are related to the EAC region as a whole, that would then have to be adapted to the specific national and local context.

Overall, central narratives regarding digital entrepreneurship and the education emerged from research: (1) Tech and entrepreneurship are regarded as a path to a beneficial and profitable future (2) Universities do not provide the knowledge and skills needed to thrive as an entrepreneur (3) Actors are regarded as heroes, game-changers – women are of importance in the tech-mix (4) A change in the mindset of the actors and stakeholders is direly need – the “African way” needs to be put on the map within a globalised field (5) Social entrepreneurs are problem-solvers for their communities – and should be at the heart of the “African way” (6) Local structures often represented by small and medium enterprises are a relevant set – the creativity of a connected community is a gift, a network of diverse players a bonus. The university, being at the heart of the study is being valued yet is being seen as needing reform, focus, vigour and close direct relations with the private sector. A further look into the study will help inform and educate digital entrepreneurs and stakeholders in a thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem being nourished by a participatory, reciprocal mindset and spirit.

Here you can download the summary of the study results