Tech Entrepreneurs Forum bridges SME digitalisation-deficit, fosters Academia-Industry synergy


The Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana (IIPGH), together with the AFOS Foundation for Entrepreneurial Development Cooperation, has held the third edition of the Tech Entrepreneurs Forum (TEF) to address the digitalisation-deficit faced by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country.

The event (TEF2023) was held at the Holiday Inn Hotel on June 21, 2023 and forms part of the wider Tech Entrepreneurship Month that has proved instrumental in harnessing the synergy between academia and industry – propelling the SME sector toward further digital transformation.  This comes as SMEs play an even more significant role in Ghana’s economy compared to the global average, accounting for over 80 percent of employment – compared to 67 percent globally – and contributing to more than 70 percent of private sector output, compared to 52 percent globally.

Despite the rapid digitalisation witnessed over the past few years, many SMEs in the country continue to lag behind their regional counterparts due to cost and information barriers.

Speaking at the event, Executive Director-National Service Scheme (NSS), Osei Assibey Antwi, was pleased with IIPGH and the AFOS Foundation for their efforts in organising the Forum – saying it aligns perfectly with government’s plan to be prepared for the fourth industrial revolution.

He further stated that the NSS is now prioritising technology in its operations and deploying personnel to gain hands-on technology experience, with the aim of not only enhancing their employability but also creating job opportunities. “We are thrilled with the Tech Entrepreneurs Forum’s success, which has brought together academia and industry to address the digitalisation-deficit faced by SMEs in Ghana. This event is consistent with government’s plan to be ready for the fourth industrial revolution, and we commend IIPGH and the AFOS Foundation for their efforts in making it happen,” he said.

“ICT is the driving force of the fourth industrial revolution and digitalisation is the ladder, and without these you will be left behind,” he added, while also commending the University of Cape Coast and Accra Technical University for their proactiveness in digitisation and education.

The Executive Director of IIPGH, David Gowu, highlighted that TEF2023 is a significant component of the month-long Tech Entrepreneurship Month – emphasising the importance of promoting and supporting technology-driven entrepreneurship in Ghana.

He explained that it provides a crucial networking platform for corporate organisations, SMEs, independent consultants and startups to showcase their innovative products and services, while affording the participants opportunity to connect, collaborate and explore opportunities for growth and digital advancement.

Mr. Gowu further expressed plans to expand the Forum – starting with the fourth edition next year, to reach an even larger audience and have a more substantial impact on the SME digitalisation landscape; thus providing an opportunity for SMEs to tap into.

“The Tech Entrepreneurs Forum is a crucial part of our Tech Entrepreneurship Month, and we are proud to promote and support technology-driven entrepreneurship in Ghana. We have plans to expand the Forum, starting with the fourth edition next year, to reach an even wider audience and have a greater impact on the SME digitalisation landscape,” he noted.

SMEs in attendance at the Tech Entrepreneurs Forum also benefitted from the consultancy project services of DigiCAP Junior Consultants (JCs), who demonstrated their expertise in data analytics and business intelligence. The JCs, carefully selected from beneficiaries of the DigiCAP project, provided valuable insights and guidance to SMEs; thus aiding them in their digital transformation journey.

The Project Manager at AFOS Foundation, Hanna Schlingmann, conveyed her enthusiasm for continuing the partnership, citing the exceptional work done by Junior Consultants and the positive feedback received from SMEs. She emphasised the foundation’s commitment to fostering growth and development within the SME sector, through strategic collaborations and innovative initiatives.

She added that TEF has laid the groundwork for enhanced collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and skills development, ultimately propelling the SME sector toward greater digital readiness and competitiveness in the global market. “We are encouraged to continue our partnership with IIPGH owing to the outstanding work done by Junior Consultants and the positive feedback we have received from SMEs. The Tech Entrepreneurs Forum has provided an excellent platform for knowledge-sharing and collaboration, and we look forward to fostering growth and development within the SME sector.”

In his presentation on the practical use of data analytics and business intelligence, Alex Ntow, CTO-Enterprise IT Business Solutions (EITBS), the guest-speaker, laid the groundwork for Dr. Phanuel Wunu, Lecturer-UCC and Technical Advisor at DigiCAP, to outline the Junior Consultants programme. Abdul Aziz Gomda Alhassan, Esq, also gave an elaborate presentation on understanding the legal system for businesses.

The JCs – selected from the University of Cape Coast (UCC) and Accra Technical University (ATU) of the DigiCAP programme – are currently in a stage of development where the demands of their training enable them to give consultancy services for free through internships. Therefore, SMEs all throughout the nation are encouraged to take advantage of this unique offer. They are enthusiastic learners with ICT and interpersonal skills that businesses need to address issues such as good client communication. They are taught to use a creative approach in problem-solving, and can create solutions which satisfy customer needs by working collaboratively and iteratively.

What benefits do businesses get from hiring JCs?

Receive consultation at no cost; you just pay for expenses related to the recommended solution. Your repetitive business operations can be automated by JCs, allowing you to concentrate on providing your essential business solutions. No one size fits all; get tailored solutions to match your company issues – modifying goods, services and encounters to fit certain commercial requirements. Work with a youthful, motivated team of professionals who are passionate and skilled, and have a new perspective on business issues. These benefits were unveilled to SMEs in a world café style parallel presentation at the just-ended Tech Entrepreneurs Forum (TEF2023), while discussing possible solutions to offer industry partners and participants at the event.

The vast potential that can emerge from digitalisation is what the Ghanaian government is depending on. Professional and entrepreneurial abilities – as well as trained staff who can assist organisations in their problems of digitisation – are in high demand. This is what AFOS and its supporting partners from industry (IIPGH) and academia (UCC and ATU) are helping with through its DigiCAP project in Ghana. By creating practice-oriented certification programmes and supporting initiatives in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), AFOS supports digitisation in Ghana.

The partnership project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) within the framework of the Special Initiative “Decent Work for a Just Transition” via sequa gGmbH.

Author: Kafui Amanfu, Director of Operations-IIPGH

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