The Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) presents an opportune moment for deeper academia-industry collaboration that will serve to benefit local entrepreneurs and enable them take advantage of the continent-wide trade deal, Professor Kwaku Atuahene–Gima said.
Professor Atuahene–Gima, who is the President of the Noble International Business School (NiBS), said: “With the signing of the AfCFTA, this is the time academia and industry must put their differences aside and work hand-in-hand strategically. It has to start with a demand-driven approach. Therefore, corporate bodies that are losing market share and lagging behind in introducing new technologies should look to academia to grow and sustain for the future.
All it takes is submitting your request to universities or academic institutions that do have the expertise. Then students, with supervision from lecturers, set up companies and work towards finding the solution for industry with the agreement that once a viable solution is found, the corporate body will take it up and roll it out on a larger scale,” he said.
Professor Atuahene–Gima was speaking in an exclusive interview with the B&FT ahead of the 2019 edition of the Ghana Business Awards, of which he is a member of the awarding board. The awards, which recognises and rewards excellence across all sectors in Ghana, is set to come off on Friday, October 25, 2019 at the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City, Accra. It is on the theme: Driving Corporate Enterpreneuship via Industry-Academia Partnership.
Even though there are a lot of universities and corporate organisations in Ghana, Professor Atuahene–Gima believes that the coordination between universities and firms are not very good and it is the fault of both. “Corporate Ghana does not appreciate the skill and expertise available in the universities and perhaps the universities are not very good at marketing their expertise to corporate Ghana. So you have an imbalance.
If there is good relationship between universities –knowing the skills there– and industry in Ghana, you will have students working on demand-driven projects. This means companies will be bringing in their problems and students have to think, design and provide the solutions knowing that there is a market out there. If one company has a problem, it means there are others too,” he said.
Partnerships will drive corporate entrepreneurship
Citing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) example, he explained that MIT and other American universities have earned their enviable positions because students from these schools, right from school, have worked with corporations to solve problems.
“The MIT economy is about the 10th largest economy in the world and valued at almost US$2trillion. These are companies set up by graduates of MIT globally. These companies are not only set up from out of the blue but set up from a demand-driven perspective. They were set up because they know the problems of corporate bodies and found solutions to those problems. By the time the company started it already has markets.
In going to academia, the corporate organisation, led by its CEO is pushing entrepreneurship because this is a risky venture. If it is something the company has to take inside the firm, students get employed and or earn royalties. But if it is something that can be span-off, then the company, students and the university own shares in this new entity. This is an approach that firms in Ghana may want to undertake,” he advised.
To him businesses in Ghana need new ideas and technologies but because they do not know what is available locally, they end up going overseas and that is very expensive. We need to look at the relationship between academia and industry locally and with the free trade agreement, Ghana can become a leader in Africa’s development,” he added.
The Ghana Business Awards provides a platform to recognize individuals and companies that play a significant role in the growth and development of their business sector while recognising the key functions within the sector that promote growth and sustainability. This is the premier event in Ghana which seeks to celebrate achievement, innovation and brilliance within the business environment of Ghana.