Impact of project:
Impact evaluation completed
This project was selected as the winner in the Experiences From the Field's "Best Addresses Political Economy and Implementation Challenges" category by JKP partners from IDRC, LACEA, McKinsey, AMERU, and Fedesarrollo.
In Tunisia, an innovative entrepreneurship program targeted at university students was piloted in academic year 2009/10 to improve beneficiaries’ employment outcomes upon graduation. During the last semester of the applied undergraduate curriculum, students traditionally take an internship and write an academic thesis as a graduation requirement. In June 2009, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education passed a reform creating an alternative track: students were given the option to receive business training and coaching and to elaborate a business plan. The Government of Tunisia, in collaboration with the World Bank, designed a pilot program aimed at: (i) increasing self-employment; and (ii) fostering an entrepreneurship culture among university graduates; as well as (iii) improving employability by better aligning graduates’ skills to private sector needs.
The pilot program was designed in line with international best practice, providing students with: (i) entrepreneurship courses provided by the public employment office; (ii) external private sector coaches, mainly recent entrepreneurs or professionals in an industry relevant to the student’s business idea; and (iii) supervision from university professors in development and finalization of the business plan. For each student, the final product of the program was a comprehensive business plan that served as an undergraduate thesis to graduate. Participants were also given the option to submit their business plan to a competition, with a chance to win seed capital to fund their project (Concours de Plans d’affaires Entreprendre et Gagner).
Why this project is a Good Practice example:
The Tunisian Jasmine Revolution has shown the powerful consequences of high levels of youth unemployment and disenfranchisement. Providing youth with the necessary skills to become self-employed and thus create their own (productive) job is a desirable policy solution in the absence of sufficient absorptive capacity in the private sector. Entrepreneurship interventions that target students have the potential to equip graduates with more relevant skills and enable them to create their own jobs. The new entrepreneurs may themselves create jobs for others in the longer term. Through the introduction of an entrepreneurship track that provides hands-on business training and coaching to university students, they were able to then graduate by writing a business plan instead of an academic thesis. Despite the potential of entrepreneurship education, its effectiveness – especially in the context of MENA - remains largely untested. Findings approximately one year after the end of the academic year show that the entrepreneurship education targeted to university students was effective in increasing self-employment among beneficiaries.
The pilot was implemented in 2009/10 and was targeted to undergraduate students in their final year of licence appliquée, just before they make the transition from education to work and possibly become unemployed given the slow transition to work in Tunisia. Of the 1,702 students who applied to take the entrepreneurship track, half were randomly assigned to participate and half were randomly assigned to the standard curriculum. The labor market outcomes of participants and control students are compared one year after the end of the academic year. The results show that entrepreneurship education targeted to university students is effective in increasing self-employment. The evidence suggests that the program fostered business skills, expanded networks, facilitated access to credit, and affected some behavioral skills. Remarkably given the context of the Tunisian revolution, the results also suggest that the entrepreneurship track heightened beneficiaries’ sense of opportunities and optimism for the future. In contrast to the impact on self-employment, which was mainly driven by results for men, the intervention did not increase the overall employment rate among beneficiaries.
In terms of program design, an early and thorough information campaign reaching students and professors alike is key in assuring that all interested students apply to the entrepreneurship track. One important factor is the quality of training provided by the public employment offices and coaches; this should be standardized as much as possible to ensure the highest quality support. Furthermore, technical support could be improved by placing more emphasis on the choice of professors and private sector coaches while possibly putting in place an incentive structure for students by giving the most motivated ones more time for coaching in small groups. Finally, understanding reasons for program drop-out would improve the efficiency of the entrepreneurship track, as international evidence shows that the effects of training are much stronger only when students complete the full training/coaching. To improve the efficiency of the entrepreneurship track and further increase the rate of self-employment, a number of complementary interventions are needed, including follow-up support after program graduation. For some, this may entail support in applying for a bank loan. For others, this may include providing practical experience through an internship with entrepreneurs. In general, results suggest that such follow-up is particularly important for women as they perceive and possibly also face greater constraints than men. The difficulty of access to credit has been evoked in the follow-up survey and in several qualitative statements. Some prize winning projects were not realized because even with the prize, own funds were insufficient to back credit.