TechnoServe – half a century of empowering entrepreneurs


For more than five decades, TechnoServe has dedicated itself to the mission of empowering enterprising individuals, both women and men, to elevate themselves, their families, and their communities from the depths of poverty. This journey commenced with a simple yet profound idea—an American businessman, Ed Bullard, who volunteered in Ghana, recognized the entrepreneurial spirit within its people but also noted the lack of opportunities available to help them flourish.

Today, TechnoServe operates in 30 countries spanning Latin America, Africa, and India, but its roots run deep in Ghana, where it has been instrumental in nurturing the entrepreneurial drive.

From small beginnings to global impact

The TechnoServe saga exemplifies the transformative potential of entrepreneurship and the belief that business can serve as a powerful instrument for inclusive development. It underscores that small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs can foster lasting prosperity when given the opportunity.

Since its humble beginnings, TechnoServe has experienced exponential growth, with its activities in 2022 alone enabling 1.3 million individuals to collectively earn an additional US$366 million in income.

The organization’s unwavering vision remains constant: to uplift marginalized communities by endowing them with vital business acumen and cultivating an environment conducive to entrepreneurial growth. Over the years, TechnoServe has evolved to confront pressing global issues such as climate change, hunger, malnutrition, and youth unemployment.

Empowering entrepreneurs globally for meaningful growth

TechnoServe supports entrepreneurs worldwide through tailor-made training and assistance across 30 countries. Their comprehensive approach encompasses imparting essential business skills, forging vital connections with key partners, and collaborating closely with both government and private sectors to foster a conducive business ecosystem.

A remarkable illustration of their impact is the BeniBiz program in West Africa, which has lent its support to 5,700 entrepreneurs, with over half of them being women. This program, on average, propelled participants’ annual turnovers by a remarkable 130percent, ultimately resulting in the creation of 12,000 jobs. TechnoServe’s intent is to perpetuate this positive influence through a second phase that prioritizes long-term sustainability and addresses broader societal issues such as unemployment and regional economic development.

Pressing forward in Ghana: current initiatives

Ghana maintains its special significance within the TechnoServe narrative, as the organization continues to execute transformative programs within the nation.

TechnoServe works with farmers, cooperatives, suppliers and processors to strategically develop competitive industries around key crops (including rice, maize, shea, soybean, sorghum,horticulture, cashew, and cocoa) and livestock. They help farmers make the transition from subsistence to commercial production, assist processors to improve operations, and identify opportunities for investment in regenerative agriculture.

According to the Vice President of Entrepreneurship and New Ventures at TechnoServe, Juan Carlos Thomas, “We have always had a forward-looking approach as we work with entrepreneurs and farmers from various sectors. However, we adapt our work to address specific needs in each country.”

This focus gave rise to the Prosper Cashew project, a USDAFood for Progress funded project), aimed at significantly expanding cashew processing in West Africa while increasing Ghana’s share of the global cashew market, which is estimated to exceed $10.5 billion by 2031. TechnoServe achieves this by assisting local processors, improving access to finance, and fortifying the ecosystem, thereby aspiring to generate thousands of jobs and enhance economic activity in the region.

Another noteworthy initiative is the Economic Diversification for Ghanaians living in Ellembelle (EDGE) program, which leverages agribusiness to create economic opportunities for the youth and women in 10 communities. In collaboration with the private sector and various agencies, TechnoServe is enhancing the capacity of small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs, indirectly benefiting thousands of individuals while reinforcing local food systems.

Collaboration for enhanced impact – ANDE

Fifteen years ago, TechnoServe became a founding member of ANDE (Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs) – the largest global network of organizations dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs. The driving spirit behind this initiative was the belief that stakeholders all have the opportunity to learn from one another, ultimately advancing the sector for greater effectiveness. Since then, this network has expanded to include hundreds of member organizations from around the world. This year marked a significant milestone as the annual conference was held for the first time outside the United States, in Ghana.

“It feels more aligned with our mission to convene where we are actively engaged in our work, rather than in the United States,” noted Mr. Thomas. The conference spotlighted Ghana’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, affording organizations like TechnoServe the opportunity to exchange insights and amplify their community impact.

This comes as ANDE has unveiled an active partnership with international financial institutions to address the substantial funding gap of over US$1 billion in Africa’s Small and Growing Businesses (SGB) sector. Despite contributing approximately 90percent of its GDP, the sector grapples with challenges, notably the annual US$1 billion funding gap. “By providing patient capital, this initiative can spur job creation, innovation, and economic advancement on the continent,” Mr. Thomas further said.

Technology paving the way for change and gender equity

Technology plays an instrumental role at TechnoServe, particularly in its training initiatives. Remote and blended learning, utilizing tools like WhatsApp, SMS, and EduTechplatforms, enhances efficiency and effectiveness. This tech-driven approach reaches a broader spectrum of entrepreneurs, bolsters information retention, and reduces attrition.

TechnoServe demonstrates a steadfast commitment to gender equity, with approximately 80percent of program beneficiaries being women. They design programs to cater to the distinct needs of women, taking into account domestic responsibilities and offering convenient remote learning. Technology assumes a pivotal role by delivering flexible learning options and improving access to financial services.

The future is entrepreneurial

The future unquestionably belongs to entrepreneurs in an ecosystem where innovation and creativity thrive, asserts Mr. Thomas. He believes that initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will revolutionize entrepreneurship, adding that TechnoServe will play its part in preparing entrepreneurs for these opportunities, particularly by helping them meet the necessary trade standards.

TechnoServe’s new strategy zeroes in on high-margin agriculture, regenerative business practices, food processing, and youth empowerment. This ambitious blueprint, as Juan Carlos Thomas underscores, tackles critical challenges, including climate change adaptation, resilient food systems, and youth unemployment. Gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are a priority that cuts across all these topics. “We look forward to collaborating with key stakeholders in Ghana to tackle these priorities.”

“We are in an exciting period where innovation and creativity are flourishing, thanks to digital technology, global connectivity, and the evolving nature of work. Nowadays, anyone armed with a good idea and determination can make things happen. Being an entrepreneur necessitates adaptability, resilience, and a willingness to take risks—qualities more vital than ever in our fast-paced world.

As we witness entrepreneurial ventures steering economic growth, reshaping entire industries, and confronting global challenges, it is evident that they will remain at the heart of our future, ushering in fresh ideas, and innovation, and propelling us toward new horizons,” remarks Mr. Thomas.

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