Becoming an entrepreneur

Especially in developing and emerging countries, empowerment for the world of work is often neglected in education. Educational content is often taught impractically. At the same time, many young people in developing and emerging countries equate the world of work with employment in large companies or public authorities.


In its cooperation with other National Commissions, the German Commission for UNESCO sets a clear focus on providing new opportunities for such young people: the option of starting their own business. The goal is to create a more dynamic and innovative environment through more start-ups in the global South. In particular, youth unemployment should be reduced.

The instrument for this goal is “Student Training for Entrepreneurial Promotion”, STEP for short - a cooperation of the German Commission for UNESCO with the Leuphana University of Lüneburg and national international partner organizations since 2009.


What is STEP?

STEP is a training that is typically offered to students in the final year of their studies, over 12 weeks. STEP has also been successfully completed at secondary level and for graduates.

STEP provides the necessary know-how to young people for starting and running their own company. How to create a business plan, how to manage bookkeeping and how to design a contract are just some of the questions that are dealt with - as in many other entrepreneurship trainings. The special feature of STEP is the strong "action orientation": the participants have to develop and implement their own business idea in parallel to the course. To this end, they receive a small, repayable sum of starting capital. In this way, the STEP trainees become acquainted with everyday business life and are advised by experts on real-life decisions. In addition to imparting knowledge, STEP focuses on strengthening the motivation and "self-efficacy" of the participants.

The success of STEP is empirically proven, because another unique feature is the scientific evaluation of the training, using control groups. The results show that STEP has a very positive effect on entrepreneurial thinking and action of the participants. Long-term studies also show that the start-up rate among STEP participants is clearly higher than the control group, that their companies generate significantly higher incomes and create more jobs compared to the control group. STEP thus promotes the career path of the participants and at the same time creates social added value.

Long-term institutionalization

The German Commission for UNESCO accompanies the implementation of STEP in a specific university over a period of three years. In parallel to the project work, the long-term institutionalization on the initiative at the respective university is aspired and usually realized. Ideally, other educational institutions in a country will also become aware of the project; entrepreneurship might be anchored in national education plans.

Starting with the first year, the trainings are carried out by university staff from the destination country itself. German experts lead "train-the-trainer" seminars and support the trainings. In order to take into account the country-specific context, the training and the teaching modules are adapted in close cooperation with the respective National Commission for UNESCO in the target country and the local lecturers. Thus, the German Commission for UNESCO always works closely with the National Commission for UNESCO of the partner country and its education authorities in the implementation of STEP.

Previous and current implementations

Since 2011, the German Commission for UNESCO, together with its partner organizations around the world, has been implementing STEP training courses: the cooperation with Liberia, Uganda and Kenya has been completed. The cooperation with Kenya and Uganda was financed by BASF Foundation. In most of these countries a long-term institutionalization was achieved. For example, since the completion of the cooperation project, the Kenyan National Commission for UNESCO has driven the implementation of STEP autonomously at the level of the Kenyan districts.

Since 2016, STEP has been implemented at the Mexican University of Technology "Tecnológico Nacional de México" (TecNM), most recently at three of the university's campuses. 2018 also saw the introduction of STEP at Limpopo University in South Africa and Bicol University in the Philippines. Here, too, the cooperation included the respective National Commission, the University of Lüneburg, with the financial support of BASF Foundation.