The Role Of Youth In Fostering Enterprise Innovation In A Future Of Knowledge Economy BY EMMANUEL ETIM

In Breaking News, Business & Economy, Columnists, National News, Opinion, Politics
Emmanuel Etim on Knowledge Economy
Emmanuel Etim on Knowledge Economy


Recently, President of The United States, Barack Obama in a town hall address to Britain’s youth said “Your capacity to shape this world is unmatched, what an incredible privilege that is. And you’ve never had better tools to make a difference, to forge a better UK and a better world”.

This is true for the youth in the UK as well as the youth in Nigeria. The Youth are a peculiar demographic with limitless capacity to change our nation and our world employing ever growing innovation, creativity and enterprise in a future of knowledge economy.

Today, I will like to help you peep into that future, so that you can see and reposition yourself to take advantage of the opportunity, play active roles in building it and reap the benefits thereof. Beyond the benefit of fulfilment of achievement, there is promise of reward of value, influence and power.

Economists have posited that Africa presents the next frontier for economic power even as SMEs play very important role in economic development. The position of Africa SMEs within the global economy at this time is thus very strategic.

The global economy is transiting from and industrial economy to a knowledge economy and the youth will play a very important role in the emerging scenario. One of the key ways this will pan out is in their contribution through enterprise innovation.

Follow me through this journey of exposition and inspiration for the building of a new age, continent and global economy.


Knowledge has always been an essential force in economic development. In today’s increasingly knowledge based world, more countries are embracing knowledge and innovation-related policies and strategies to spur growth and competitiveness. Now more than ever, grey matter is every country’s main sustainable and renewable resource.

Nigeria is not left out in this wave of change and repositioning for the future. The focus of this presentation thus is to look at the critical role of youth in promoting enterprise innovation in this future of knowledge economy which will lead to growth of the Nigerian economy.

The central role of knowledge and innovation in economic growth is widely acknowledged in advanced countries, and the experience of those that have championed this new paradigm has led to the coining of the expression “knowledge economies” (KEs).

Nigeria as a developing nation is just beginning to maximize the opportunity of the growing advantage that knowledge economy offers to reposition for economic growth and development in the 21st Century.

With a huge youth population and great potential for the promotion of enterprise innovation, the time is just right for this important demographic to act decisively to make a difference and create a future of greatness for the nation and the continent.

The knowledge revolution is leading us into a post industrial age in which brains, not brawns, are the best means of coping with intensified competition and new challenges, including those related to human development and global environment.

Rapid advances in telecommunication and transport have accelerated globalization, creating a new playing field for worldwide competition. Nigeria is not insulated from the global competition and must reposition itself if it must survive in this age of knowledge economy.

However, as stated in a recent article in the economist, “It is wrong to assume that developing countries will follow the same technological course as developed nation. Those who anticipate and facilitate leapfrogging can prosper as a result”.

Knowledge, innovation and ability to take advantage of technology are, more than ever, at the heart of successful development. While there are many factors which determine the growth of knowledge economy, our focus is on enterprise innovation and how youth can foster this.


With a large youth population of more than 80 million in Nigeria, the nation can best be described as youth rich. For the avoidance of doubt, the Nigerian national youth policy (2009) defines youth as between 18 – 35 years.

Innovation is defined by Wikipedia simply as a “new idea, device, or method”. However, innovation is often also viewed as the application of better solution that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs.

For the purpose of this presentation, we will define enterprise innovation as the transformative business process practices, organization planning and models that enable a business, be it an SME or a large firm to operate more effectively, profitably and/or competitively.

Enterprise innovation is crucial to effective, profitable and competitive operations – and in turn, to driving growth and profitability, attracting and keeping talent, and generating product and service creation.

In this age of knowledge economy, the role of enterprise innovation in growing national and regional economy cannot be overemphasized. Research shows that enterprise innovation plays a very important role in economic development; be it local, national or global.

The capacity to use knowledge effectively and apply innovation, allows individuals, enterprises and communities to utilize resources and improve their wellbeing, thereby contributing to development.

It is clear from the forgoing that enterprise innovation can radically change an entire industry. With sector-wide commitment, it can transform the entire sector and of course an entire economy.

The youth demographic is often frequently associated with innovation. Study has shown that many innovative ideas presently impacting the world are products and services conceived and created by young people.

Youth in Africa must rise up to the challenge of enterprise innovation especially in the SME sector to give a new life to our economy and effectively contribute to the growth of knowledge economy in the continent, now and in the future.


SMEs have been fully recognized by development experts and governments as the main engine of economic growth. This is because they bring substantial local capital formation and achieve high level productivity and job creation.

SMEs are increasingly recognized as the principal catalyst for achieving equitable and sustainable industrial diversification and in most countries SMEs account for well over half of the total share of employment, sales and value added.

The need to pay attention to the promotion and development of the SME sub-sector in the continent which is accepted globally as the engine room for economic growth cannot be overemphasized.

Enterprise innovation is a great strategy to grow Small and Medium Enterprises in Africa. Young people must thus seek to foster enterprise innovation in SMEs and utilize same for the growth of a knowledge economy in the continent.

It is crucial for leaders in business and SME to create a corporate culture that supports innovation to directly engage young employees in the process. Leaders need to remove barriers to enterprise innovation and inspire and support the change management necessary to make it happen.

When we take these strategic steps to promote enterprise innovation, the African SMEs will take its rightful position in the global economy in a future of knowledge economy; an approach which is truly beyond oil.


The African SMEs are in a strategic position to contribute to global economic development. Nigeria’s huge youth population is an asset that must foster enterprise innovation in SME to build a future of knowledge economy for growth and development. All hands must thus be on deck to achieve this.

Emmanuel Etim is a development consultant based in Nigeria, (

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