The twenty young entrepreneurs who were enrolled under the Graduate Enterprise Development Initiative have nothing but perhaps the dummy cheques and some memorable pictures to show for the GH₵100,000 the EXIM Bank granted each of them a year and half ago.
The ceremony at which they were each presented with a dummy cheque in November 2015, which was widely reported in the media the following day, was grand.
But today, the 20 awardees are livid and frustrated but unable to talk about it openly as the funds are yet to hit their accounts.
They suspect foul play, as no concrete reason has been given them for the hold-up of the cash.
The B&FT understands that at a meeting with them some weeks ago, the new CEO of EXIM, Lawrence Agyinsam, told the strained young people that he would forward their concerns to the board and get back to them by May 15, 2018 – a response they are yet to receive.
One of them said, however, that he had been told by the bank it is still doing ‘paperwork’ for release of the funds but was not told when that process would end.
The GEDI programme was targeted at supporting graduate start-ups with managerial training and assisting them with capital so they can expand their operations and help reduce youth unemployment.
The situation, some of them lamented, has left them with huge debts, as they used all the monies they had to carry out expansion works in their enterprises in anticipation of the expected funds from EXIM Bank.
“What is painful in my case is that I used every penny on me to expand my business because I was told by the trainers that I had to do it if my project was to be approved for me to benefit from the funds. So, as we speak now I no longer have any money in the bank for my business,” one of the 20 entrepreneurs said.
For others, the hold-up of the funds has slowed down the momentum of their businesses.
“I, for example, planned to buy a machine with the money to speed-up operations, but I am stuck. I have to continue with doing things manually; there is high demand for my products now, and the manual process is not helping. So, it is really hampering my operations,” another of them said.
A few among them have also had to close down as they went on to rent bigger spaces and buy additional machines in preparation for the release of the grant.
Government will have to save their businesses from collapse or they may be forced to consider taking legal action, some of them contended.
The GEDI programme was an initiative of EXIM Bank that was implemented by the University of Cape Coast (UCC), led by Prof. Rosemond Boohene-Director, Centre for International Education of the university.