Introduction

For students of history, the Ghanaian Youth has been at the forefront of championing economic development with our ideas, dreams, goals, and passion since independence. Ghana’s journey to independence and post-independence struggle were led by Youth. Our current President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is a fine example of the character of the then leaders, Presidents’ Nkrumah, Acheampong, Jerry John Rawlings, John Mahama, Prof. Evans Atta Mills, and John Agyekum Kuffuor who today provide a philosophical base for our modern democracy.

The Policy Debate

Ghana’s 1992 constitution enjoins Presidents to by Article 36 (5) of the 1992 Constitution, to present to parliament within two years on the assumption of office a “coordinated programme of economic and social development policies, including agricultural and industrial programmes at all levels and in all regions of Ghana.” Article 36 (6) further enjoins Presidents on assumption of office to provide economic opportunities for all. Despite the ideological nuances of a rather socialist or capitalist political class reflected in the policies of the two major political parties, and while Government has a role to play in creating an enabling environment defined in the various short to medium term programmes from the National program for Economic Development (1987) Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy 1 and 2, (2003-2009) Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda 1 and 2 (2010-2017) and recently the Coordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development (2017-2024), a 7 year development plan as a vehicle for transformation, job creation, prosperity and equal opportunity for all, all these Medium term strategies have echoed the need for increased support to the Youth Development Agenda.

It is important to state that the various development programs have been designed on the foundation of the Millennium Development and Sustainable Development Goals, heralding a major shift from donor-supported economic agenda to a 17 pronged SDG’s approach which demands “country-owned strategies for resource mobilization” with a bigger focus on Youth Development, a clear differentiation in the policy formulation space.

The National Youth Policy formulated in August 2010 defines ‘youth’ as persons aged between the ages of 15 and 35 years.

The youth (16-34 years) account for 35% of the country’s population (8.7 million persons in the 2010 census). The private sector is the largest employer in the country, accounting for 93% of economically active persons, 10.3 million persons in 2010 aged 15 years and older, however only 7% are engaged in the formal sector with the remaining 86% employed in the informal sector according to the GSS Population & Housing Census: Summary Report of Final Results (May 2012), Table 3.

The Broad Pillars of the National Youth Policy address issues from Education and Skills, Science, Technology, Arts and Culture, Agriculture to Conflict Prevention. The New NPP Government intends to revise this Policy to create a rather formidable Action Plan than existed. Governments have initiated various employment projects from YEA, NEIP, LESDEP, YESDEC, GEBSS to seek to operationalize the spirit of the ideals and aspirations captured in the National Youth Policy.

The Question still lingers whether the National Youth Policy reflects the aspirations of Ghanaian Youth, is it representative and definitive of a wider majority and will an inter-ministerial approach anchored by an Apex Ministry, aligned with all youth-related programs yield better implementation and accountability for the Youth Development Front?

Background and Context

Any Policy approaches to Youth development must ably define and provide policy perspectives to these groups:

•        Youth (At risk, marginalized,et al)

•        Youth-Led Organizations

•        Youth Focused Organizations

•        Role of Private and Public Sector

What has been the provision for Youth in Previous Budgets? A cursory study of the 2018 Budget reveals as part of Government’s focus and consequent achievements in 2017 as:

a)  Clearance of all Capitation grant expenses, with a corresponding increase of up to 100% in Capitation Grant, absorbed 70% of BECE as subsidies for registered students for both private and public students in Junior High School, Improved Infrastructure, and Commencement of the Free Senior High School Project. Restoration of the Teacher Trainee Allowance.

b) You may argue that the initiatives under the Complementary Basic Education and Secondary Improvement Education Programme are achievements of the NDC but that’s beside the point. Despite the supposed gains, who tracks the seeming results shared benchmarking to ensure an effect of the net gains on youth?

c) Government argues that it created direct employment of 3230 for Youth under the Planting for Food and Jobs,

d) Under-Employment, Government posits it engaged a total of 107,115 young persons under the Youth Employment Agency (YEA) modules, comprising of 62,115 people under the traditional YEA modules and 45,000 Youth in Sanitation module being implemented by the MMDAs; It also facilitated the placement of 16,238 job seekers who registered with Public Employment Centres (PECs) and Private Employment Agencies (PEAs).

About 90 per cent of persons placed by the PEA’s were linked to international migration jobs before the ban against foreign recruitment; trained 7,639 youth in various vocational trades and management development and productivity programmes, and also tested 35,051 vocational skills, registered 1,057 master craft persons, 2,007 apprentices and accredited 170 Master Craft persons.

Under the 2018 Budget Government proposed to increase the YEA enrolment levels from 62,115 to 120,000; train 8,000 persons in various vocational trades and 1,400 persons in managerial and productivity enhancement skills, and also test and certify 45,000 vocational skills candidates; and conduct 350 establishment inspections and place 4,000 job seekers in gainful employment, as well as resolve at least 90 percent of all reported labour complaints.

e)     Government in 2017 undertook the following activities among others: organised medical outreach for 500 kayayei in Ashanti Region to meet their health needs and trained an additional 400 to improve their livelihood and pre-employment skills; registered 248 day care centres, issued 362 certificates to existing ones, provided 184 children in difficult situations and 279 People With Disabilities (PWDs) with family welfare services and employable skills.

f) The government proposed to in 2018, increase the number of jobs created under the alternative livelihood project in mining communities from 7,500 to 10,000 and establish 30,000ha of forest plantation throughout the country. This is expected to create 15,000 jobs for the youth and also contribute to food production.

g) The government trained about 660 apprentices and manufactured over 900 agro and non-agro equipment, with about 820 being used in the sanitation and waste management in 2017.

h) The government introduced specific tax reliefs for Youth-led businesses facilitated through the National Entrepreneurship Innovation Plan.

In Government’s 2019 budget, it appears the key allocations for youth are captured in the following:

1. Establishment and expansion of Nation Builders Corp with a budgetary allocation of GHC 850,000,000.

2. Expansion of the National Entrepreneurship Innovation Plan with a budgetary allocation of GHC 47, 500,000

3. Expansion of the Free Senior High Policy with the total budgetary allocation of GHC 1,982,641,924.

4.  While other MMDA’s and Ministries may have sector-specific budgets for Youth related activities, it is important that on specific reporting lines determined by the Programme and Result Based Budgeting approach, Government must communicate measurable results to youth for Accountability in a consolidated composite budget on the specific programmes and interventions by these ministries and MMDA’s for Youth.

In advancing and pursuing the agenda of the future Ghanaian Youth want, we provide some perspectives on the future Ghanaian Youth Want:

Economic Debate

The argument by Government is, that overall real GDP growth was at 5.4%, non-oil GDP growth of 4.6%, inflationary rate of 9.8% with public debt to GDP at 57.4% and a 3.6 months import cover, the macroeconomic environment is fairly stabilized over the 2018 fiscal year at the end of September 2018.

The government argues that after the rebasing in September 2018, the economy expanded by 24.6%, based on the new base year of 2013. In contrast, real GDP Growth in 2017 was 8.1 per cent compared to 3.4% in 2016, with inflation, interest rates dropping, an increase in credit to the private sector, and a further increase in domestic revenue by 15.9% with generally decreasing expenditure lines.

Governments’ (both old and new’s) continuous argument is that by ensuring general stability in the macroeconomic environment, pursuing capital projects, there will be a natural provision for lateral jobs and economic opportunities for Youth, but that argument is flawed, given the population of Youth in Ghana, considering the sizeable majority this demographic constitutes, Governments’ need to reconsider approaches to Youth Development.

A summary approach is highlighted below with a caution for Government to develop a comprehensive strategy and policy position on these key pillars highlighted in the National Youth Policy which should reflect in the Action Plan of the National Youth Policy.

The government must as a matter of urgency redefine the scope, mandate of the Youth Ministry, role of the Deputy Minister in the coordination of Youth Activities, review the mandate of the National Youth Authority and the coordination of all youth-related activities and programs.

The Principal Sector Analysis and Policy Actions Requested:

Energy

Can Government improve the Skills Transfer, Training, Education, Scholarships to young energy enthusiasts to improve employment and sustainability outcomes? What are the jobs for the future in this sector?

What is Government’s position on Green and Renewable Energy, Green Finance? How can Youth attract funds in the energy sector to improve access to energy and renewable energy solutions?

What are the necessary linkages between Government and Academia to drive growth in opportunities for youth in the research, production, distribution, promotion of energy solutions?

Can there be positive contract bias through quota systems reserved for bids by Young Energy-related companies founded by Youth?

Can we have a single policy directive on how Government intends to integrate youth into its energy policy?

Social Housing

If Ghanaian are youth are central to this country’s economic agenda, what is Ghana’s social housing policy for youth? Why didn’t we hear any in the Budget?

A presumption of support from the Housing Fund isn’t explicit. With increasing unemployment, rising cost of rent in the property market, low incomes for Youth, what is Government’s position and solution to mortgages or affordable housing for its Youth?

What increasing incentives exist, should exist for real estate developers to consider social housing for youth? In an increasing remodeled anticipated shared economy, what will housing solutions look like for youth?

What is Government’s position on this?

Education

The Education Ministry continues to play a pivotal role in harnessing the potential of Ghanaian Youth.

However, can the Ministry of Education provide a single policy detailing the measurable results of educational intervention programs and plans to ensure that Ghanaian youth are adequately prepared for the future of jobs?

Communication of Curriculum redesign to include experiential learning, Improved Learning Outcomes, methodologies and teaching materials, Job Shadowing and National internship/Job Shadowing facilitation, Support for Academic Thesis and transitions from life to work, school to work options for Youth. What are the road maps?

What is Government’s single policy on the promotion of Technical, Vocational Education Training, Informal Education, Counseling, Elimination of Unfair Competition for cooperation, Undue Pressure, Standardized testing, Conducive learning environment, Work-based learning outcomes for Ghanaian Youth? What projects will be birthed thereof?

What is Government’s strategy on expanding scholarship opportunities, infrastructure development and Financial Inclusion for Ghanaian youth?

Employment and Agriculture

The Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations has a specific mandate on job creation and overseeing labour-related issues.

What is the Ministry’s position and support to Youth in matching labour supply to labour demand?

What is the Government’s code of conduct for employment and labour market policy for Youth and various categories of Youth- at risk, marginalized Youth?

What is the Government’s position on certification, skills training, for Youth and what are the regulatory positions on online education, alternative pathways to education?

What is the Government’s position on poor quality employment and decent jobs for youth?

What is Government’s position on mainstreaming Youth in Agriculture through the integration of Technology, Skills Development, Incubation (Animal and Crop), and Advisory services?

Entrepreneurship Development

Beyond providing tax reliefs to narrowed sectors, what is government’s policy position on?

Enterprise Development through cross partnerships with linked agencies to expand enterprise development services?

Should the Ghanaian Incubation and startup funding firms continue to depend on donor-funded support? Where is the positive bias for scaling business models for these startup incubators and accelerators?

Should incubators largely sit within university faculties augmented by private sector support?

Is Ghana’s enterprise strategy to serve as a base country for startup development, product launches for the sub-region? What are the designed incentives to attract global talent and ideas here?

The Securities and Exchange Commission guidelines on establishing Private Equity Funds are clear, what is the road map for using NEIP as a collective investment pool to de-risk and provide tier 2 and 3 funding for Series A et al type capital raise.

What is the coordinated strategy for ecosystem development and promotion of financial inclusion for Youth?

What happened to Ghana’s Quota System for Youth Contracts? What is our country led strategy for regional growth and trade for Ghanaian Youth led companies?

Sports and Health

What is Government’s coordinated policy for Sports Development, Sports Training, Talent development, Lifelong learning for Youth?

What is the Government’s plan for establishing partnerships and linkages towards Sports Development for Youth in Ghana?

What is the Government’s policy on Health reforms and what are the key policies for youth in this sector beyond nursing training support et al?

Funding Our National Youth Action Plan

The Youth Employment Agency Act provides insights into some innovative ways to fund the Youth Development Agenda, per the Youth Employment Act 2018 (Act 887), the law provides some possible sources of funds for YEA as: 80% of the Communication Service Tax, 10% of monies accruing to the District Assembly Common Fund, 5% of funds accruing to Ghana Education Trust Fund and other sources.

Can same be done for the Youth Ministry? National Youth Authority? And allied agencies? Can the appropriation of the Service Tax benefit other agencies?

Currently per Governments 2018 Appropriation Bill, YEA was to receive GHC 200,565, 261, the Student Loan Trust Fund, GHC 2, 536,066, Tertiary Institutions, GHC 1,132,246,929, Ministry of Youth and Sports “GHC 755,914”, the latter being woefully inadequate.

Perhaps, it is time to hear some more innovative approaches to funding the National Youth Development Plan.

Demanding Accountability

We call on Government to as a matter of urgency, communicate and determine communication approaches to gains, plans, programmes on Youth Development for Ghanaian Youth to access.

As a growing majority, we demand that Government consolidates and synthesizes all such programs and results achieved affecting Youth in all sector-specific programmes into a “single youth friendly policy” document to be shared by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, National Youth Authority or a designated agency.

It is not enough to design and implement projects for and on behalf of Youth. Today, Ghanaian Youth demand that we are told the gains, challenges, and opportunities to be responsible citizens in contributing our quota to our country’s economic development.

Conclusion

We implore Government to present to Ghanaian Youth:

1. A single key policy document that highlights and reflects the aspirations of Youth.

2. That going forward all budgets and budget readings capture key policy considerations for youth under all sectors of the economy,

3. That Government remains accountable to youth by periodically sharing key achievements in championing such policies and to increase Youth Participation in the design of Government Programs.

4. To Provide Policy Direction for the policy alternatives sought as mentioned above under the identified thematic areas.

The Writer:

John Armah is the C.E.O of Orios Group, a Business Development Practitioner, with vast experience in the development of new markets, start-ups, business strategy and a consultant, Trainer and adviser in business start-ups development, business financing, business development,

John Armah consults for Governments, Major Corporate, Donor Partners, Institutions on Business Development, Startup Ecosystem Development and Entrepreneurship, as well as Business Strategy, Youth Initiatives and Policies affecting Youth on the continent.

He has worked in key markets such as Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Malaysia, South Africa, Zambia, among others and named as part of the Forbes 30 under 30 Most Promising Entrepreneurs in 2016 and Named as part of the 30 under 40 Most Influential Business Leaders in Ghana.

He is currently the Board Chairman of Junior Achievement Ghana, a member of JA Worldwide Organization.

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