The CEO of the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP), Kofi Ofosu Nkansah, is optimistic that the YouStart programme will help the youth to start their own businesses and create more jobs when it fully takes off.
The YouStart programme was announced in the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy to support young entrepreneurs gain access to capital, market and technology to enable them start, build and grow their own business.
It is aimed at creating one million jobs over the next three years. YouStart programme will be implemented with a GHC 10 billion government funding.
Addressing over 2,900 listeners at the second edition of #PatrioticSpaces on the topic: “Becoming your own boss,” Nkansah said access to capital to set up businesses is one of the major challenges facing the Ghanaian youth.
“The major challenges when it comes to startups or SMEs are access to finance, access to equipment support, inadequate skills, lack of adequate regulatory and quality assurance,” the NEIP CEO said. “But these gaps are going to be addressed through YouStart, agriculture and the jobs and skills programme.”
“Basically, if we’re able to close the financial gap, leverage the African Continental and Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and provide adequate technical skills, provide innovative support to make our SMEs and startups more efficient, we’ll be able to create more entrepreneurs to become their own bosses,” Nkansah said.
According to him, creating the enabling environment for the private sector to grow will help reduce the pressure on the government to create more jobs.
“About 92% of Ghanaian enterprises are SMEs,” Nkansah said. “90% of these businesses are in the informal sector and they contribute about 70% to our GDP and 83% of all employment opportunities are in this sector.”
“It shows how important it is to nurture businesses to create entrepreneurs to empower the young people of Ghana to make them know it’s something doable and to shift the focus from relying on government jobs to sustainable jobs that we’ve created,” he added.
The CEO of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), Yofi Grant, on his part, said his outfit is not only structured to attract foreign investors to the country, but it is also interested in the growth of indigenous companies including start-ups.
Grant said the centre is also interested in creating business opportunities for the Ghanaian youth by providing networking platforms to exchange ideas with seasoned CEOs.
“GIPC also facilitate indigenous direct investment, mostly in partnership with foreign direct investment,” the investment banker said. “But we think we stretch beyond that mandate and clearly see the great opportunity of empowering the young people to build businesses.”
Grant said: “It’s those small businesses of young people that become the blue chips of Ghana and in future become investors in other markets.”
According to him, the youth must start focusing more into co-investments and partnerships if they want to expand their businesses.
“For us at GIPC, the issue of partnerships is very critical,” Grant said. “We hold workshops and seminars with CEOs for young people to learn from their mistakes or avoid the pitfalls and also for them to get the necessary advice.”
YouStart is ideal
Grant called on the youth to leverage the government’s YouStart programme because “access to capital is difficult and the programme [YouStart] is a very fundamental initiative that will empower a lot of young people.”
“Don’t lose hope if things are not coming to you the way you wanted. Let’s not get discouraged even if the government is not doing anything. Don’t take a ‘no’ for an answer. Keep pushing,” he added.
Assist women in business
Speaking at the same forum, the MP for Ablekuma North, Sheila Bartels, called on the government to reserve a quota of financial assistance for women-owned enterprises in Ghana.
Bartels said women need a lot of support in order to compete effectively in the business space, and making financial aids available to them will help create more jobs.
“We need to intentionally create quotas for women-owned businesses when it comes to financial assistance,” Bartels said. “The government agencies and departments must through their compacts and programmes help women businesses to become successful.”
The lawmaker said access to information is very important if the government wants to empower the youth to set up their own businesses.
“There are so many government programmes, so the youth must take advantage of them. The government must also support them with timely information,” she said. “We need to find ways to pay a lot of attention to Ghanaian innovations and businesses that are doing well. We must find ways to project them.”
Take advantage of YouStart
For her part, the CEO of the Ghana Enterprises Agency (GEA) ― formerly National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) – Kosi Yankey-Ayeh called on the youth to make good use of the government’s newly introduced YouStart programme.
She said the government is committed to empower the youth to “become their own bosses”.
“The government thinks people should become their own bosses and so because of that it is introducing the YouStart programme,” Yankey-Ayeh said. “So, the youth should apply for that or some of our other funds that are coming in through the World Bank project.”
The GEA head said the youth must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the various financial products on the market in order to make an informed decision when seeking for loans.
“We want to build an entrepreneurial nation… what we desire is that businesses must access the right type of funding so they can build their businesses,” Yankey-Ayeh told the over 2,900 participants on the Twitter spaces.
She added: “We really believe that the opportunities are there. Reach out to us. Apply for our progrommes and I keep saying that sometimes it’s not all about money, but we can also provide the technical support.”
Hosted by Kow Essuman, the Legal counsel to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the virtual Twitter forum was on theme topic: “Becoming your own boss.” Other speakers include Kofi Ofosu Nkansah, CEO of NEIP, Yofi Grant, CEO of Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) and Sheila Bartels, MP for Ablekuma North.