The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, has commenced a series of engagement with the youth across the country aimed at igniting an entrepreneurial spirit for accelerated job creation and financial independence for the nation’s youth.
The programme is part of efforts to share and urge the youth of Ghana to take advantage of opportunities in the GH¢100 billion Ghana COVID-19 Alleviation and Revitalisation of Enterprises Support (CARES) Obaatanpa programme.
The Ghana CARES programme has been designed to stimulate economic growth through increased investment in selected sectors, including agriculture, trade and industry, tourism, housing, science and technology and financial services.
Specific efforts will be made towards providing the youth with access to finance and skills in these areas to expand the production capacity in the selected areas.
Mr Ofori-Atta, who disclosed this to the Daily Graphic in Tamale, said the ministry had consequently designed a framework for entrepreneurial-oriented agencies such as the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) and the Ghana Enterprises Agency (GEA) (formerly NBSSI) to provide support for young entrepreneurs in the country.
He said the framework spelt out clear deliverables to expand opportunities available to young entrepreneurs over the next three years.
He said a compact between the ministry and the NEIP, the GEA and other collaborative agencies would be signed later this month.
He said it was part of the opportunities for entrepreneurship and skills training under the GH¢100 billion Ghana CARES Obaatanpa programme aimed at supporting entrepreneurship.
The minister was also the Special Guest Mentor at the maiden edition of the Springboard Youth Dialogues, an initiative of the Springboard Road Show Foundation, a youth mentoring platform focused on entrepreneurship, investment, career and talent development for young people.
The programme, which started in Tamale last Thursday, will move to Sunyani today, June 7, and later to Accra.
Participants in the events are drawn from universities, young entrepreneurs, start-up business owners and prominent youth groups in the Northern Region.
The programme was simultaneously broadcast across the Upper East, Upper West, Savannah, North East and Northern regions, with the minister and resource persons responding to questions sent digitally from all those locations.
Resource persons for the various sessions included officials from the Ministry of Finance, the GEA, the NEIP, the Northern Development Authority and the Springboard Road Show Foundation.
Ghana CARES programme
Mr Ofori-Atta said the government was undertaking deliberate interventions, such as the launch of the Capital Market Master Plan, to ensure the availability of long-term investment capital for entrepreneurial ventures and productivity-enhancing investments by young people.
He went on to detail Ghana’s current economic performance and charged the youth “not to despise small beginnings” or be held back by a “poverty of aspiration” but rather to “take advantage of targeted initiatives under the Ghana CARES programme aimed at supporting entrepreneurship”.
Ghana CARES, which is in its second phase, aims at revitalising and transforming the economy from 2021-2023 through support for commercial farming and attracting educated youth into agriculture, building Ghana’s light manufacturing sector and developing engineering/machine tools and ICT/digital economy.
It will also develop Ghana’s housing and construction industry, review and optimise the implementation of government flagships and key programmes, among others.
The CARES programme is in two parts: the Stabilisation Phase and the Revitalisation and Transformation Phase, which builds on the successes of the first phase, according to the 2021 Budget.
The first phase (June to December last year) covered the government’s immediate response to the ravages of the pandemic. It involved a raft of measures rolled out to provide relief and support for Ghanaians, ensure food security, protect businesses and workers, as well as strengthen the national health system.
Entrepreneurship and skills training
According to the Finance Minister, about 16 million people came into the workforce yearly across Africa, with 83 per cent of them unable to find jobs, as a result of which the unemployed rate kept increasing every year.
He added that the age bracket of 18–35 years constituted 34 per cent of the nation’s population and was too important to be ignored.
He said the solution to the unemployment situation in the country was entrepreneurship and skills training programmes, which could place the youth in positions to create jobs for themselves.
Mr Ofori-Atta also used the occasion to encourage graduates of the various tertiary institutions to venture into skills training programmes that would expose them to entrepreneurship opportunities to make them self-reliant.
“We have been deliberate, as a government, on the issue of economic freedom, especially how to develop the skills of the people and build their capacities to take up opportunities,” he said.
The minister also used his life experiences to encourage the youth not to give up when they encountered difficulties in their careers but rely on the power within them to move on.
The Director of Business Support and Policy at the NEIP, Mr Franklin Owusu-Karikari, stressed that it was one of the government’s flagship programmes aimed at supporting the youth with business ideas to develop them into fully-fledged businesses.
He added that the first person who won the Presidential Pitch under the NEIP initiative was 19-year-old Vanessa Aisha Limann from Sisaala West in the Upper West Region, who received GH¢50,000 as her prize and an additional GH¢25,000 as a personal donation from President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Mr Owusu-Karikari urged the youth to avail themselves of the opportunities and support under the initiative.
For her part, the acting Director of Women Entrepreneurship Development of the GEA, Ms Philomena Norman, said over 273,057 applicants received loans totalling GH¢389.84 million through the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme (CAPBuSS), with over 60 per cent of the funds going to women and the youth.
She said additionally, grants totalling GH¢19.8 million were provided for 16,054 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) owned by the youth, while 603 MSMEs had also received GH¢3.88 million in loans, all through the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery Programme for MSMEs (Nkosuo).
Springboard Youth Dialogues
According to the Executive Director of the Springboard Road Show Foundation, Mrs Comfort Ocran, the foundation had, through its nationwide roadshow, mentored over 250,000 young people over the past 14 years, many of whom had ventured into business using their talents and passions.
She added that the Springboard Youth Dialogues were aimed at measuring the progress of young people in business while connecting them with agencies that provided opportunities and support in the form of training, job placement, advisory services and business financing.
Mrs Ocran said the changes the world had seen, especially with the COVID-19 and the growth of technology and innovation, meant that individuals, and even nations, had to radically rethink their ways of doing things and reposition themselves for the future.
The Springboard Youth Dialogues are expected to stop over in Sunyani today and continue to the other regions, with follow-up interventions by the various youth empowerment agencies working through the Ghana CARES programme.