Green entrepreneurial education proposed for Africa
But there are also practical challenges, including a lack of time and resources, impeding educational structures, assessment difficulties and the lack of definitional clarity.
In this article, I aim to clarify some of the basic tenets of green entrepreneurship in education, focusing on what it is, why it is relevant to society, when it is applied or not and how to implement it in practice.
Introduction to green entrepreneurship
In the aftermath of the global financial and economic crisis a few years ago, the central role of entrepreneurship in boosting economic activity has been emphasised in many countries.
Governments often allocate a substantial part of recovery packages to help entrepreneurs, either in the form of loan guarantees, tax incentives, research credit designed to boost innovation, or systems to encourage self-employment.
Yet, instead of being neutral in their industry targets, stimulus plans have often given priority to such environmentally friendly investment as projects for improving energy efficiency or enhancing sustainable transport. These priorities are not new.
In almost all cases, they have been part of longer-term commitments towards environmental protection, support for smaller enterprises and innovation.
Within this difficult economic context, many countries have increased public expenditure to revive growth while also taking the opportunity to orientate national economies towards long-term sustainability and ‘green growth’.
But, although it has been receiving growing attention since the 1990s, the concept of green entrepreneurship is still relatively new.
The interest in the field is not only reflected in the growing literature on the topic but also in the proliferation of terms used to identify the concept itself. But green entrepreneurship, as a field of study, is still at its infancy, and scholars are not in agreement on the definition.
The non-profit organisation The Green Project, however, provides a definition of green entrepreneurship as those activities that are addressing environmental or social problems or needs through the implementation of entrepreneurial ideas amid high risks and expectations of the net positive impact on the environment and financial sustainability.
It describes a green entrepreneur as one who starts and runs an entrepreneurial venture that is designed to be green in process and products.
Trends in green entrepreneurship
A few sectors are entirely representative of activities in the green economy, such as recycling, collection, purification and distribution of water as well as sewage and refuse disposal and sanitation, to name a few.
The focus on these sectors is justified by the fact that they respond in their entirety to stimuli specific to green activities and, therefore, to conditions that are favourable for entrepreneurial development in that industry.
While the focus does not allow for general conclusions regarding the entire green economy, it allows the examination of two important issues: the degree of homogeneity in entrepreneurial trends within the green part of the economy, as well as the degree to which entrepreneurial dynamics in green sectors differ from the rest of the economy.
Green entrepreneurship education
Education can play a crucial role in fostering the eco-entrepreneurial consciousness of future green innovators, entrepreneurs and employees in the circular economy. A circular economy is an approach in which economic activity and development is beneficial to businesses, society and the environment.
The need for new green skills and attitudes is growing with the increase in consumer interest in clean, ethically sourced products while, at the same time, appropriate educational content for the development of such skills in secondary schools is lacking.
Education could offer several benefits to students. These include fostering an environmental consciousness and eco-entrepreneurial mindset of the students in a highly practical and fun way and developing new skills and competencies for green jobs and green entrepreneurship.
In addition, appropriate education caters for an easy-to-follow structure that combines the acquisition of crucial knowledge on entrepreneurship and environmental stewardship with practical skills on how to develop one’s own sustainable business idea through learning-by-doing approaches that are part of the university’s core educational paradigm.
There are several reasons why we have to offer green entrepreneurial education today.
It offers students an entry point to an exciting cross-cutting topic with vital significance for human societies today, allows the use of a range of innovative teaching techniques that improve the motivation of students, inspiring them to take personal action and solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges by developing their own sustainable business idea.
In addition, education about green entrepreneurship can increase their own knowledge on issues such as climate change, depletion of natural resources, pollution, biodiversity loss, soil erosion, circular economy, sustainable business modelling and it can improve lecturer’s skills by using new technologies.
Mission and objectives
The mission of green entrepreneurial education is, therefore, to create educational tools that will support university students in fostering a ‘sustainability-conscious entrepreneurial mindset’ which includes all the features of being entrepreneurial.
It is viewed through the prism of a sustainability mindset characterised by holistic thinking, an environmental and social ethic that respects the value of all living things, responsible consumption, cooperation and teamwork, full-cost accounting, democracy, and adherence to the precautionary principle (to consider the harm of innovation when scientific knowledge is still lacking), all of which are likely to define the lives of future generations, too.
Green entrepreneurial education has several objectives: to allow students to experience and become imbued with the principles of nature as a source of life and inspiration in order to develop their green mindset as future entrepreneurs and to develop new skills and competencies required for green jobs and green entrepreneurship.
Other objectives include to provide a balanced mixture of knowledge and activities, both within the ‘green’ and the ‘entrepreneurial’ domain.
This means that, in the end, students have a desire to launch a green entrepreneurial venture and present proposals that aim at improving the role of African universities in spreading and developing the green entrepreneurial culture of their students and increasing their ability to face obstacles they may encounter in guiding students to pilot projects.
The green entrepreneurial education proposed in this article aims to address several matters such as the need to improve the role of African universities in spreading and developing green entrepreneurial culture to their students.
Green entrepreneurial education is an attempt to develop conceptual models of basic green business culture.
This approach could ensure that each student is fully aware of the issues of society and can contribute to solving them each in his or her speciality field, using a combination of skills acquired through new educational programmes.
The development of learning materials for green entrepreneurship, including PowerPoint presentations and materials, educational material, video lectures and online courses, are part of this approach.
Instead of traditional face-to-face lectures, it entails lectures that include open debates and simulation games and roundtable discussions, in which the issues of society are simulated, whereby each student needs to become an expert in solving critical issues.
Specific tasks could be used to model case studies and investigate problems and solutions, ensuring success in economic, health, industrial, agricultural and social aspects of life.
Entrepreneurial green education aims to develop the skills of African students in all disciplines to solve environmental problems and contribute to the creation of green life in African societies through:
• Green buildings with energy and water efficiency, eco-friendly paint and coatings;
• Growing food without using chemicals;
• Green health for humans, animals and plants;
• Green protection of antiquities and archaeological sites;
• Green business and management;
• Green thinking and acting;
• Green synthesis;
• Green water, soil, air and ecosystem; and
• Green technology.
The 2010 article Attention and Anxiety: Different attentional functioning under state and trait anxiety by Antonia Pilar Pacheco-Unguetti, Alberto Acosta, Alicia Callejas, Juan Lupiáñez.
The 2014 article Rethinking Sociotechnical Transitions and Green Entrepreneurship: The potential for transformative change in the green building sector, by K O’Neill and D Gibbs.
The 2014 article A CFD model for the frictional resistance prediction of antifouling coatings by YK Demirel, M Khorasanchi, O Turan, A Incecik, MP Schultz.
The 2021 article Factors Affecting the Entrepreneurial Education Intention of Cairo University’s Science Students: A case study by Hamed A Ead and A Nassar.
Hamed A Ead is a professor of chemistry in the faculty of science at Cairo University, the head of the Entrepreneurship Club at Cairo University, and the former director of the Science Heritage Centre. He is also the former Egyptian cultural counsellor at the Embassy of Egypt in Morocco. This is an edited version of a paper ‘Education and Culture is the Proper Entrance to Africa! Green Entrepreneurial Education in Africa’ which he presented at the general conference of the Association of African Universities, focusing on the sub-theme of sustainable development. For the full reference list, contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org.