THE HISTORY OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The concept of entrepreneurship is one that has been in use for thousands of years now and even though it might have not been known as Entrepreneurship at the time, people were in one way or another, creating new businesses and engaging in several business dealings all to gain profit. Early entrepreneurial activities allowed people try to make something in exchange for something with this method, of course being practiced during a time when there was nothing like currency or money to use as a payment method.
The word “Entrepreneurship” was coined from the French word, Entreprendre, which means “The Undertaker” or “The manager”. It is also believed that the word was derived from the French phrase, celui qui entreprend, which can be translated as “those who get things done”. From these meanings, it is clear that at the time, people saw entrepreneurs as individuals who take serious role in the creation of a business. They manage and put efforts into getting all necessary things done to help achieve or boost their chances of success.
Entrepreneurs, however, are individuals who start up an entrepreneurship venture. They are the brains behind the operations put in place to ensure a new business is formed. They come up with ideas and start, however small, businesses birthed from these ideas. Early entrepreneurs were people who traded things and also thought of ways to bring a solution or solve a problem in their community at that time. In the subsequent paragraphs, I’ll discuss the history of entrepreneurship generally and a brief look at the history of entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
HISTORY OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN THE WORLD
The first known practice of entrepreneurship was about 20,000 years ago and it was for exchange of goods. In New Guinea around 17,000 BCE, Obsidian, used for hunting, was traded for things like food, skins, tools and other valuables. This trade was the first known trade or exchange between humans. That move kick started the era of trading and from then individuals exchanged certain goods for other ones they needed. This exchange of goods in such manner is what is commonly referred to as Barter system or Trade by barter.
Moving on, the era of Agriculture came in and individuals started the planting of crops and domestication of animals. Initially, some households did both but then came specialization and people started sharing the responsibilities. While some planted, others were dealing with rearing of animals and people who didn’t do any were either hunting or getting involved with a specific craft. The trade system remained the same, exchange of A for B. This method allowed people trade one of their produce for something of similar worth of another produce. It was sometimes called Coincidence of wants. For instance, a hunter can exchange a kill for some farm produce or a farmer who specializes with cultivating yam can exchange with another who did for maize. Their wants had to align for them to be able to complete a trade.
With farming and trade gaining prominence during those years, the idea of settlements and trade routes came. Settlements helped farmers specialize better and distribute specific duties to different people while trade routes helped with moving up goods up to other settlements around to get something to exchange with. The introduction of settlements allowed people who usually moved around with their animals to actually get a place to settle and stay with their families. And there, they could develop farming ideas and work on them among their various tribes. A tribe might decide to deal with farming, another with hunting, and others with fishing, cooking, tool making, and other available tasks. Each tribe worked well and got better with each task and it benefitted each settlement in the exchange of goods.
The trade routes, however, allowed goods and other products to go beyond each settlement. Individuals were able to move their products to other towns and cities around them. It also allowed ideas to do round. For example, when Iron was discovered in 2000 BCE, it helped advance warfare methods and people were able to get them due to the routes. Ships were also built for movement through water ways. Things produced or cultivated in certain areas of the world like coffee, paper, and oranges were transported to other areas via the trade routes.
Next on the Entrepreneurship timeline was the introduction of money. The barter trade system seemed to pose issues for entrepreneurs. For instance, if a farmer wanted a chicken, he might have to give up four tubers of yam to get the chicken but then again, he had to look for someone whose wants coincided with his, a person with chicken who wanted to buy the yam. With the introduction of currency, entrepreneurs were able to purchase or sell something based on its value. It also helped facilitate long distance trades and served as a more reasonable medium of exchange.
After money, markets started to arrive. There were no longer issues of taking your goods to another settlement and looking for someone who needed it and getting something back in exchange. Everyone could take their goods to the market and sell whatever they had in mind to people who would be willing to pay in the standard currency. Entrepreneurs could now purchase materials from far places as long as they had money. These materials can then be turned into finished goods and then sold in the market.
The Era of Innovation followed and individuals started looking at ways to solve problems in their society at that time. Also, with almost similar things being sold in markets, people had to start thinking of smart ways to develop new products that would be accepted by the public. One of these innovations led to technology, which is by far one of the ground-breaking innovations in the world till date. Things like the paper mill, clock, printing press, wind mill and so on started coming up to provide solution to problems at hand and also make things easier for individuals. All these paved way for present entrepreneurs to make use of innovation to meet the current trend in the society.
HISTORY OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN NIGERIA
Farming was mainly the first type of entrepreneurial activity to take place in Nigeria. Just like everywhere around the world, individuals exchanged goods produced on their farm for other thing they needed at the time. They system of trade by barter was a very common thing during the early years of entrepreneurship in Nigeria. Early entrepreneurs got help from family members to cultivate a land or hunt an animal or involve in cooking and several other tasks and when things were ready, they looked for someone who needed it and exchanged.
During the colonial era, goods were brought from Europe and other places and it was distributed to people who were local entrepreneurs to help them sell. The introduction of money made this seemingly easier as people could now sell things and receive money as a medium of exchange. Losses and bad experiences by entrepreneurs left them discouraged and most of the businesses started to close down. Farming still remained at the heart of the entrepreneurial activities in the country. Goods were taken to the market after being harvested and they are sold in exchange for value, which was money.
Eventually, formal education was introduced and even more people were discouraged to participate in entrepreneurship with many choosing to go to school and seeking to get a job in an organization. Soon enough, problems of unemployment and poverty started arising and people started looking for ways to be self employed. Most people then resorted back to entrepreneurship and they started looking for ways to create a business and get something in return.
Government also helped with providing schemes to help promote businesses in the country and also give grants and loans to entrepreneurs who needed them. This moved help to bring out the entrepreneurial spirits in people and eventually the rate of entrepreneurial activities in the country boomed again. Till date, Nigeria still has many entrepreneurs who brought an innovation to solve problems, make things easier and initiate changes in the market.
The early entrepreneurs were in fact the real hustlers. They started business in a period where there was no money and they had to go as far as they could to get someone who they could exchange with what they had. In the period of technological advancements, some also had their innovations blocked because people felt it didn’t solve anything. All these contributed and paved way for the success of future entrepreneurs.