Can you teach entrepreneurship?

Tuesday, 1 September 2015 00:39 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Whether entrepreneurship can be taught is an often asked question The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) – part of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) definitely falls on the ‘taught’ side of the debate.

The organisation has been certifying entrepreneurship trainers in Ethiopia since earlier this year – announcing its first batch of certified trainers earlier this year (in May). This is part of a larger UNCTAD and UNDP program called Empretec that was started in 1988 and can now be found in more than 30 countries.

Empretec, which is formed from the Spanish words for entrepreneurship (emprendedores) and technology (tecnología) is meant to “assist local entrepreneurs and create sustainable support structures for them to build competitive small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs),” the UNDP said.

Continued work on the program led to UNCTAD and the Ethiopian government holding another certification event earlier this month, according to local news reports.

The event was for “trainers who are working with the Entrepreneurship Development Center (EDC), a center that implements the Entrepreneurship Development Program that was launched by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in 2013,” the local report added.

It is hoped that these trainers – helped by funding and support from entities such as the government of Canada (providers of $5.8 million USD to the original program) and Microsoft East Africa (providers of tools and access to mentorship) – can expand upon the 14,000 Ethiopian entrepreneurs that had gone through the UNDP’s Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP) between February 2013 and May 2015.

“Micro and Small Scale Enterprises are expected to power the country’s economy, and the certification of the trainers by UNCTAD will play a role to spring board the impact of the country’s entrepreneurship program,” said Asfaw Abebe, deputy director general of the Federal Micro and Small Enterprise Development Agency (FeMSEDA).

The impact of training programs such as this throughout Africa is hard to determine. But the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) global report on the development of entrepreneurship expanded the information available on Ethiopia due to participation from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). It found the country scored higher than some other, more longer-term, members of the study – such as South Africa.

There is no guarantee that this is down to the UNDP’s work in the country. It may be that Ethiopians are naturally more entrepreneurial than their counter-parts in other countries. However in 2012 the country trailed behind near neighbour, Uganda in GEM’s total early-stage entrepreneurial activity score. Numbers are incomplete for 2014, making an early comparison of the results of the training program hard to assess at this stage. But look for a review once GEM’s 2015 global report comes out.