Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), especially those in the technology space, have been urged to be intentional in harnessing these technological tools available to not just meet the country’s basic needs but its aspirations of sustained economic growth that benefits everyone.
Kofi Dadzie, Digital Innovation Advisor at the Mastercard Foundation, speaking at the 2020 edition of the Ghana Startup Summit organized by Ghana Tech Lab, noted that if there is one lesson COVID-19 has taught everyone, it is the fact that digital technology is the magnificent force bringing together families, businesses, trade and religious gatherings.
“It is an important enabler. In a developing economy like Ghana, technology presents an additional opportunity to leapfrog some of the traditional barriers to scaling up growth. We all saw what widespread access to prepaid mobile telephony has done to us as an economy, both urban and rural.
We are also very aware of how on top of the growth of mobile phones, mobile money has been built and democratized and seen a growth of several mobile financial services. It is really key that with our unique local understanding of the market, that we go out of our way to be intentional about how to harness technology to meet not only our basic needs but fulfill our aspirations,” he said.
Touching on the theme of the event, ‘Leveraging digital innovation for job creation and economic development’, Mr. Dadzie stressed on why skills development is key to growth. “Skills is always key. We believe in continuous learning because the skills learnt at one stage tend to atrophy and become less relevant faster and faster and new technologies emerge. We have to enable access to continuous learning.”
Maurice Caschino, an Innovation Consultant and Managing Associate at Kumasi Hive, an innovation hub, speaking as part of a panel at the event, admonished young and aspiring business owners to desist from approaching entrepreneurship as a get-out-of-jail-free card from the rigors of paid employment.
He argued that whilst there are many contributing factors to the damning statistic – which suggests that upwards of 80% of startups wind up in their first five years – a poor approach by would-be entrepreneurs ranks number one on the list.
Inasmuch as owning a small to medium-sized business allows for creative control, a higher earning potential on average, opportunity to solve problems and doing what one loves, it requires a singularity of purpose and the highest degree of discipline, which most often than not is missing, he noted.
“Some of us see entrepreneurship as an escape route from not having a job and that is a challenge. We need people to be willing to do the time, put in the effort, and do what they have to do to get what they want. However, we frequently see people who just walk in (to our hubs) because they have nothing dong at that moment and think entrepreneurship is an easy way out. Even with capacity building, they simply don’t have the required drive to succeed,” he said.
He also called on corporate institutions, particularly those within the financial services, to scale-up their engagements with the technology and innovation hubs so as to be able to better understand emerging business models.
“With more engagement, we will see more conscious backing from financial institutions, and with the steady support, donor funding will become supplementary. Perhaps, these institutions can consider supporting startups as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.”
To improve the narrative surrounding startups, he urged young entrepreneurs to eschew unhealthy competition, which often translates into unwarranted show of opulence but rather collaborate to yield hyper-growth businesses.
Business Banking Director at Absa Bank, Grace Anim-Yeboah, who delivered the keynote address on behalf of the bank’s managing director, reiterated her outfits support to startups. “The times that we are in calls for the empowerment of our youth, we need to leverage opportunities that are available and at Absa Bank, we are very eager to support this agenda. We are committed to our five-year plan of creating 50,000 dignified jobs for young people and women.”
Organised by Ghana Tech Lab, the Ghana Startup Summit 2020 saw 17 startups, up from 13 last year, pitch their business model ideas. In the end, Madepam, Coastal Fish and Daclyns Design placed first, second and third-place winners respectively.
Yorick Wilson and Innocent Arkaah are the founders of Madepam. Madepam is a web platform that aims at standardizing the bespoke tailoring site.
Coastal Fish is a startup from Code Coast that seeks to provide delivery services of fish in various forms (fresh, dried, and smoked) to clients in demand. Prince Narteh is the founder of this startup.
Vicentia Atuhene, Isaac Agbettor are co-founders of Daclyns Design. Their startup specializes in blending Africa fabrics on T-shirts, Lacoste, hoodies, and many more to come up with creative and innovative designs that portray the heritage of Africa through arts.