Problem: Africa, which has the youngest population in the world, needs businessmen that can stimulate sustainable economic and social development that creates local jobs and enriches areas that are affected by poverty. The continent grew during the last decade and this growth will probably accelerate during the coming years. However, the continent has few young entrepreneurs. Those that have just graduated find it difficult to make decisions and to act as leaders. In order to face this challenge, the 2iE institute of higher learning and research, which is located in Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, created the Entrepreneurship Track training course. This course aims to develop an entrepreneurial spirit among recently graduated engineers. The institute trains professionals that are specialized in the fields of water treatment and sanitation, the environment, energy and civil and mining engineering.
Solutions: The training program lasts six months, combining various aspects in an effort to assure that these future businessmen are properly qualified. The idea is to ally technical and theoretical concepts with innovative corporate business practice models. There are training sessions that are geared towards analyzing, in detail, each part of a business plan. These studies incorporate general knowledge and concepts regarding what a comany is, accounting, law and business management. Tutoring is also offered to the students online via a French business school. This tool allows students to interact with professors and students of varying academic backgrounds from other countries. Students also enjoy the support of professional mentoring within technical disciplines and from experienced businessmen concerning topics such as innovation, sustainable technologies and entrepreneurship. Furthermore, students are also encouraged to participate in a business plan competition to challenge their newfound abilities. The most promissing projects are submitted to the institute's business incubator, which is specialized in aiding businesses that generate positive social and/or environmental change and that are committed to sustainable development. These businesses receive administrative, technical and financial advice so that they can put their ideas into practice. Teco2, a company that produces roofing composed of low-cost recycled plastic matertials that keep temperatures within the home comfortable, is an example of a company that is being aided by the incubator.
Outcomes: The program sparks the entrepreneurial desires and talents of the students. They perceive that they have the potential to become businessmen and can envisage various ways in which their technical abilities can be applied. The project promotes innovation and the interaction of people and ideas.