Ghanaian Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) are looking further afield to capture new business markets, through frontier innovations and quality assurance.
The Skills Development Fund (SDF) – a social enterprise organisation, is spearheading the foray of indigenous Ghanaian businesses into both dominant and emerging economic frontiers.
Through specialised training for capacity building, indigenous companies like Emigoh Ghana Limited, producers of Yomi yoghurt, is targeting International Standard Organization (ISO) certification. Funding provided by Skills Development Fund (SDF) has enabled SMEs like Emigoh to benefit from the unique insights of international quality instructors and a wide range of professional coaching opportunities. The main objectives of the training, according to Stephen Eku, Chief Executive Officer of Emigoh Ghana Limited, are to help increase in productivity; improved safety standards and practices at the workplace; and eventually, attain an international level certification of FSSC 22000 (FSMS) from the International Standard Organisation (ISO certification).
Explaining the need for such training programmes, Mr Eku said “day-in-day-out there are new developments coming out and you need to upgrade yourself to meet the modern trend. You also need to upgrade your system for international recognition as well as improved quality systems.
“Therefore, it was timely and extremely beneficial that the Skills Development Fund (SDF) came to our aid and supported our training with grants which has equipped us to meet modern standards.” He added that “we do know that with the right management systems in place and also funds readily available, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana will grow well and that makes the intervention of SDF timely.
Participants in the training were of the view that apart from the SDF being in place to support SMEs, government must enact deliberate policies that will ensure that SMEs are able to access funds to grow.
A major disincentive to the operational expansion of SMEs in Ghana is the requirement for collateral deposits as a condition to access credit. The central bank – the Bank of Ghana has instructed banks to demand collateral from SMEs, a situation which has hampered the growth of local SMEs who are in dire need of credit.
The training exposed the SMEs to quality assurance systems such as design, construction and maintenance of internal layouts to ensure good manufacturing and hygiene practices, movement pattern of products, materials and people to protect the production process from potential contamination.
It also instructed on physical separation of raw materials from processed materials to prevent contamination.
The program trained the participant SMEs to institute systems to ensure that products which fail to meet the required food safety standards can be easily identified, located and removed from all necessary points of the supply chain
In 2006 the Government of Ghana established the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET) by the enactment of Act 718. The objective of the Council is to coordinate and oversee all aspects of technical and vocational education and training in the country’. One of the Council’s functions is to ‘source funding to support technical and vocational education and training (TVET) activities. The establishment of the Skills Development Fund (SDF) is seen as one of a series of new mechanisms to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the TVET system and ensure sustainable sources of funding for TVET. To achieve this objective, the SDF is designed to include responsive policy, governance structures, institutional arrangements, institutional capacities, systems and procedures to support life-long learning in TVET.
The SDF is embedded in the Government’s TVET policy which has as its mission to “improve the productivity and competitiveness of the skilled workforce and raise the income-earning capacities of people, especially women and low-income groups, through the provision of quality-oriented, industry-focused, and competency-based training programmes and complementary services”.
Currently, the SDF receives funds from DANIDA through its Support to Private Sector Development Phase III (2016 – 2020), and soon, from the Government of Ghana. The scheme is expected to provide COTVET with the opportunity to monitor, evaluate and develop a model for the expansion of the SDF to cover sectors of the Ghanaian economy in which skills and technological development are required to increase the competitiveness of Ghanaian enterprises and provide employment.