Mastercard Foundation, the developmental and philanthropic arm of global payment-processing leader Mastercard, has applauded young Ghanaian entrepreneurs – singling out their verve, innovation and eagerness to participate in policy-shifting dialogue.
Describing lessons learned from stakeholder engagements following the first-ever Youth Economic Forum (YEF) organised by the Foundation in partnership with B&FT, Country Director Rosy Fynn said she is particularly encouraged by the resilience and resolve demonstrated by domestic entrepreneurs to overcome a myriad of challenges.
“Young Ghanaians are entrepreneurial. They have bold ambitions and are willing to put in the work to create a shared prosperous future for themselves, their peers and communities. Their entrepreneurial dexterity cuts across many sectors and industries,” she stated in a keynote address at YEF 2022, which was held under the broad theme ‘Building a robust and resilient economy through Technology, Finance, Investment, Trade and Entrepreneurship’.
She added that the domestic entrepreneurs’ ability to innovate in the face of historical and ongoing challenges – and venture into new businesses, will prove critical for growth in the micro, small and medium enterprises (SME) ecosystem.
Mrs. Fynn further expressed excitement at their willingness to have constructive conversations around pertinent socioeconomic issues, saying: “Young Ghanaians are speaking up. They are lending their voices to causes that matter to them – whether it is national conversations on the economy, job creation or governance – they are making their voices heard and showcasing their agency”.
With its goal of making Ghana “a continental demonstration of young people – especially young women – harnessing opportunities to shape the future of work, and to create an inclusive economy with enhanced resilience for the most vulnerable”. As part of its Young Africa Works initiative, the Mastercard Foundation’s Country Manager expressed conviction that YEF will serve as the foremost platform for dialogue and action.
With women remaining marginalised in the social and, especially, economic contexts, Mastercard Foundation will continue extending extra support to women until parity is attained, the Country Manager noted.
Global development agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Economic Forum (WEF) have shown that economic gender inequalities – which existed before the advent of COVID-19 – have worsened since the pandemic broke out, with women and girls in Lower Middle-Income regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, bearing the brunt.
This has led to ‘optimistic’ expectations that economic gender parity will be achieved in approximately 130 years, while more sober projections – such as those captured in a recently-released UN Women and UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) – put it at 300 years if the current rate of progress is maintained.
In light of this, the Foundation will maintain giving 70 percent of its resources to women-owned and women-led businesses.
“This should not be viewed as neglecting men or the boy-child; but for women who have been excluded from many economic opportunities, we want to do all we can to bridge the gap,” she said.
The Foundation will do its best to help these businesses realise their potential, provide the required support systems, access to innovative finance, access to markets and business development services to expand their enterprises and create work opportunities for themselves and their peers, Mrs. Fynn added – as the Young Africa Works strategy seeks to enable access to dignified work opportunities for three million young people by 2030.
“We believe that by doing this and working alongside our partners – government, the private sector and young people – we will unlock the full potential of young people in contributing to building back our economy and creating work opportunities for themselves and others,” she added.
On his part, Chief Executive Officer of the B&FT, Dr. Godwin Acquaye, charged participants to come up with solutions for domestic challenges through their interactions on the day.
“You form the vanguard of the next generation of national economic leaders. It is incumbent upon you to solve some of the nation’s most intricate and exciting challenges, so let the YEF and the world be your canvas, your playground and your market place of ideas. This is an unparalleled opportunity.”
He further entreated them to build upon opportunities presented and the plethora of resources, particularly through networking.
“Networking is of paramount importance to people’s careers and social lives alike, and one of the best parts of YEF is the opportunity to meet and network with peers, friends, mentors and professionals.
“YEF is full of diverse approaches and viewpoints, and I think that the idea of connectivity within a larger cohesive network gives a thesis for our discussion of so many seemingly divergent topics.
“Utilise the opportunity to speak about how the various topics interact with each other, and ultimately cannot exist without each other. Think, share, collaborate and apply your favourite solutions to the problems you care about the most.”