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Changing the entrepreneurial representations of recent graduates educated in a precarious context


Head of Internal Audit (RAI) at the General Directorate of Taxes of the D.R. Congo

Doctorate from the Business Science Institute

(DBA thesis supervised by Pr. Schmitt)



In a context of high unemployment and precarity, what are the entrepreneurial representations of recent university graduates? What are the factors that explain these representations and the corresponding profiles? How can we help these graduates to move from entrepreneurship out of survival to entrepreneurship out of opportunity?

Research impact(s): key findings

This research identifies eighteen categories of representations, five collective representations, one central element and three peripheral elements that explain the entrepreneurial representations of recent graduates educated in Congolese universities. The research shows that young people facing precarity have a positive image of entrepreneurship, but their entrepreneurial thinking is more oriented towards entrepreneurship out of survival than entrepreneurship out of opportunity.

The research reveals five profiles of entrepreneurial representations of young people, namely: (1) those who are entrepreneurial (resourceful) and believe themselves to be entrepreneurs; (2) those who have entrepreneurial capabilities but do not believe in entrepreneurship; (3) those who believe in wage labour and reject any idea of entrepreneurship; (4) those who believe in entrepreneurship and reject any idea of wage labour; and (5) those who believe in the wage labour-entrepreneurship balance. While some young people are determined to engage in entrepreneurship out of opportunity (activities with clear added value), the majority of others, who are engaged in informal activities (resourceful activities), believe they are "entrepreneurs".

This representation, which is embedded in their cognitive model, is explained by their desire to cope with precarity (central element), their low capacity to project themselves into long-term projects, the poor entrepreneurial teaching methods used by universities and the low level of interaction with the players in their entrepreneurial ecosystem (peripheral elements). I therefore propose measures to change the way these young people perceive entrepreneurship so that their project is more of an opportunity than a necessity. These main areas of intervention include actions to be carried out in the field with the stakeholders in the young people's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Research foundations

My research confirms and justifies the relevance of the paradigm that argues for the effectiveness of support upstream of the creation of a new business (Schmitt, 2015; Filion, 2008; Bourion, 2008). Thanks to this targeted form of support, the entrepreneur can change their representations and move from entrepreneurship out of necessity to entrepreneurship out of opportunity (Tessier-Dargent, 2014). My research confirms Filion's (2008) theory by showing that, whatever the context, the entrepreneurial practice of young people is dictated by their representations. She observes, like Bourion (2008, p. 105), the existence of an 'awakening element' that acts as a trigger for the decision to start a business, and in the case of young Congolese graduates in an extreme situation, it is a matter of '...survival in the face of the precarity of life'.


My research draws on a qualitative methodology based on 40 life histories in order to develop a theory drawn from the narratives. The life history is a particular form of interview in which a researcher asks a person, hereafter referred to as the subject, to tell them all or part of their life experience (Bertaux, 2005, p.11). This method enables the research to make links between the past, the present and the future, to analyse the meaning of young people's behaviour, to understand their entrepreneurial representations and to support them in order to help them evolve. The verbatims were analysed using the Sphinx™ software, the results were then discussed to understand and theorise what had been investigated.

Further reading (in French)

  • Christophe Schmitt, La fabrique de l’Entrepreneuriat, Dunod, 2017.

  • Jean-Pierre Boisin et al., Mieux comprendre les représentations des étudiants dans le domaine de l’entrepreneuriat pour mieux adapter les programmes d’éducation, Revue de l’Entrepreneuriat, 2017.

  • Tessier-Dargent, Les paradoxes de l’entrepreneuriat de nécessité : Strapontin ou tremplin ? Revue Entreprendre & Innover, 2014.

  • Fabienne Bornard, Les liens entre représentation mentale et processus de création d’entreprise, Revue Internationale de Psychosociologie, 2012.

  • Louis-Jacques Filion, Les représentations entrepreneuriales : Un champ d’étude en émergence, Revue Internationale de Psychosociologie, 2008.

  • Christian Bourion, Les représentations entrepreneuriales, Revue Internationale de Psychosociologie, 2008.

  • Daniel Bertaux, L’enquête et ses méthodes, le récit de vie, Armand Colin, 2005


Entrepreneurial profile, Entrepreneurial representations, Entrepreneur out of survival, Entrepreneur out of opportunity, Life history, Democratic Republic of Congo.


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