- Dr Awal announces at UNWTO youth tourism summit
Government, in the next two years, will train and empower ten thousand Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the tourism sector with an allocated investment capital of GH¢120 million for capacity building, the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, has announced.
The investment, Dr. Awal explained, would strengthen SMEs’ capacity and would be used as seed capital for expansion, growth and to create jobs for the country’s younger population from this year, 2021.
The Minister, who was speaking on the institutional and policy reforms in the tourism sector at the Third African Youth in Tourism Innovation Summit and Challenge in Accra, said government has targeted 30,000 SMEs for this initiative in the long term but immediate plan is to start with 10,000 of these enterprises.
The event, which was hosted in collaboration with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), seeks to empower the African youth in tourism through innovation, education and investments in a changing world.
Access to finance has been identified as a dominant constraint facing SMEs in Ghana. A World Bank study indicated that about 90 percent of small enterprises had limited access to credit as a major constraint and corresponding limited access to financial resources compared to larger organizations. This leads to their low growth and development.
This stems from the perception of higher risk, informational barriers, and the higher costs of intermediation for smaller firms as most small businesses fail in their first year due to lack of support from government and traditional banks in Sub-Saharan Africa.
But Dr. Awal argued that SMEs remains the backbone of the Ghanaian economy, as they represent about 85 percent of businesses, largely within the private sector, and contribute about 70 percent of Ghana’s gross domestic product (GDP), hence, government is determined to ensure that players and businesses in the tourism sector were offered the needed support to thrive in the pandemic.
Director of Innovation, Education and Investment at UNWTO, Natalia Bayona, said the focus of the organization is to develop sustainable tourism products and to promote green investments.
“Our aim is to create inclusive cities, destinations, amusement world that commits to the sustainability of the environmental through technology. To achieve that, we need political stability and legal frameworks that work,” she said.
CEO of the GTA, Mr. Akwasi Agyeman, reiterated the relevance of the summit and said, the COVID-19 pandemic must no longer be used as an excuse for staying dormant.
He noted that the pandemic has come to stay and that it is critical for tourism sector players to devise innovative means to remain resilient in this era.
“Technology has been key in the tourism sector’s resistance to the impacts of the pandemic and that is why this summit recognises the role of technology and innovation in getting us back in the sector,” Mr. Agyeman said.