You may probably hear young people expressing their desire to leave Ghana to Europe or elsewhere – this is a stark reality. There is an adoption of a perception that life begins in Europe or wherever there are seemingly ‘greener pastures’. While the believer of hope in Europe cannot be entirely blamed, many other factors contribute to the propensity of the youth to migrate.
This is a critical time to ask questions on how mindsets can be changed, and the root causes of the issue can be effectively addressed. Indeed, a critical factor that may help to curb this notion is the ability to foster entrepreneurship in Ghana; thereby opening self-employment and business startup opportunities for unemployed and underemployed youths.
There are indeed many young businesses starting up in Ghana, and this may be due to multi-dimensional factors like the lack of formal employment, a family business inheritance, or simply having the passion to start a business and provide solutions to society’s needs. Starting a business is tough and requires a collaborative effort of relevant stakeholders to create a thriving ecosystem that fosters not only the growth of enterprises, but also innovation in business. Various stakeholders need to play a critical role in fostering entrepreneurship.
The state or government as an important stakeholder
The seemingly bureaucratic and stringent processes it takes to register one’s business or product may be described as self-observational. Many business owners narrate their struggle with regulatory bodies in getting their products certified.
There is a claim that the system does not work – one’s passion for a potential multi-million-dollar business can be stabbed by the stringent requirements and processes leading to the pre-mature death of the business. While it is important to acknowledge the nature of the system, it is also critical to identify the ability of young businesses to put in place the requisite documentation to gain the appropriate certifications.
Another all-important role the government can play is the inclusion of entrepreneurship in the educational system or school curricula – of course not merely for examinations purposes, but for stirring up the desire of the youth to be creative and innovative, leading to the creation of businesses that solve challenging problems.
It is possible, that the study of entrepreneurship could be seen as merely another course or subject, whether in senior high school, a technical and vocational centre or in the university; but it is extremely critical to psych up the mindset of students and teachers or lecturers alike to treat the possible subject as a life lesson. It is not a course for students to memorize and pass, but a course that should be engrained in the heart: for life.
A noteworthy initiative is the just launched University of Ghana Entrepreneurship Programme, described as a non-academic programme under the auspices of the Office of the Vice Chancellor. Hopefully, this is a game changer and will stir up the needed innovation in the university community when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Relevant policies need to be introduced – policies that encourage the birth of more entrepreneurs and the introduction of increased training and capacity building initiatives, and others that seek to reduce bureaucratic and stringent systems and attract various funding and investment opportunities.
The government can be commended for the work being done through agencies such as the Ghana Enterprise Agency and the various associations that represent businesses in Ghana. The Ghana Enterprise Agency in recent times and with the advent of Covid-19 has supported many MSMEs with small grants that may have gone a long way to shield some businesses from absolutely collapsing during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
All in all, the government needs to play a critical role in creating an atmosphere or more specifically, a system, that allows the growth of entrepreneurship and the rise of many brilliant business ideas possessed by many in Ghana.
The work of development agencies and entrepreneurship hubs
Many development and implementation agencies are of course the lifeline of development in many countries, like donating blood at a critical point of need. Development agencies need to assess, consolidate and finally complement the work and impact of each other – this helps to avoid duplications and ensures an all-encompassing impact to millions of beneficiaries. It is not worth repeating and recycling past projects, but the impact is in the complementarity of organizations and projects.
It is necessary to critically analyze and identify areas of complementarity amongst various development agencies in Ghana and their areas of operation. Why should we have same or similar interventions by different development agencies in the same region or geographical location? Would it be worth exploring different regions without any such intervention? How can different, but whole packages be given to beneficiaries to completely support them. It may be worth exploring and developing a platform for various development agencies to share and discuss synergies for greater impact.
Organizations such as the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH (as part of the German Cooperation), which is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), cooperates with the Ghanaian government and other local partners to implement and promote inclusive sustainable development in Ghana via over 40 programmes and projects.
The current project implementation focus covers three priority areas: Responsibility for our planet – climate and energy, Training and sustainable growth for decent jobs and Peaceful and inclusive societies. The Migration and Employment Promotion (MEP) component under the Programme for Sustainable Economic Development (PSED) has supported over 10,000 young potential entrepreneurs in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Bono, Bono East and Ahafo regions.
These interventions are geared towards supporting various Startups, MSMEs / SMEs in realizing their potential. The PSED-MEP component in collaboration with the Ghanaian German Centre further seeks to support the reintegration of returning migrants by providing them with opportunities to start and grow their businesses. PSED-MEP constantly seeks to provide capacity building and training opportunities to the local population, enhancing the youth and their ability to start, expand and sustain their businesses.
Various entrepreneurship and innovation hubs across Ghana are also important stakeholders in advocating for a thriving ecosystem and effectively supporting entrepreneurs in their various communities. Since these hubs are in various regions, they serve as go-to locations for entrepreneurship support, whether a business owner needs mentoring or coaching during a particular period of the business. While these hubs work towards sustainability, creating a thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem may be extremely difficult without their direct involvement and participation.
Businesses and their responsibility
The government and development agencies can certainly play their part in fostering entrepreneurship, nevertheless the major stakeholders or drivers of success are the SMEs or MSMEs themselves. All the support needed can be provided, but Ghanaian businesses must ensure their ability to be strategically positioned to receive and utilize the support.
Business must work on various structures and systems that make them appealing for investment. Issues of bookkeeping, keeping good records, good projections, deep research of customer segmentations and needs should not be taken for granted. Businesses must ensure constant and consistent capacity building for good business performance, making them more attractive to investors of all kinds. Some experts reiterate that “the money is there, but Ghanaian businesses are not positioned well enough”. Business must play their role.
An all-important issue, which needs constant sensitization is the fact that people may consider entrepreneurship as “easy”. There is an important need to highlight persistence and hard work as critical ingredients for the success of any venture. The youth must understand that starting a business today does not guarantee any form of instant success. It may take years to reap the ideal benefits of a business. Successful entrepreneurs need to effectively tell the story of hard work, consistency, and persistence – thereby helping many young businesses become alert of the long journey ahead!
Then again, there is a need to touch on issues such as the mindset and attitude with respect to the growth of businesses in Ghana. Are Ghanaian businesses resilient enough? Is the conversation constantly going to be bordered around finance or funds while neglecting the dire need for good research and business knowledge?
Are neighboring counterparts going to overshadow the Ghanaian business with the groundbreaking African Continental Free Trade Agreement? Would Nigerians or other African countries be more aggressive in crossing borders and expanding their businesses? How effectively are Ghanaian businesses handling project markups? Businesses in Ghana may need to stand firm and alert to effectively drift with the strong current wind in Africa and globally, with hindsight to further develop business relations beyond Ghana’s borders.
Issues of Migration – regular or irregular
If a suitable alternative is not provided, migrating to other countries may seem attractive. Sometimes, the full story is untold especially with individuals who attempt to cross over illegally to find seemingly greener pastures.
However, let us not focus on what the story is today; the focus should be on fostering entrepreneurship and consciously creating and developing an ecosystem in which the youth and businesses can thrive and succeed. This is critical! The state, development agencies and business enterprises must play their collective roles.
Ghana may have lost significant lifeblood in the drain of knowledge and human capital to other countries. It is indeed important to acknowledge that while regular migration may yield positive effects, irregular migration has significant adverse effects. We need to patch the wounds. This is the time. By providing opportunities in Ghana and consistently investing in the ecosystem, young people and businesses can thrive and succeed.
>>>the writer works as a Technical Advisor for the Migration and Employment Promotion component (PSED-MEP) at GIZ, in the Ashanti Region. He ardently believes in improving lives through impactful projects. He is also a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP).