Last week marked the International Education Week celebrating the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. It was also the Global Entrepreneurship Week, an initiative to inspire young people to embrace innovation, imagination and creativity. The values and ideas underlying both those celebrations are at the core of Saeed Mahmoud Jajah’s winning essay in the category of “Entrepreneurship and Leadership” of the 2009 CIPE International Youth Essay Competition.
He talks about the current state of youth entrepreneurship in Ghana and challenges facing young entrepreneurs such as lack of confidence and capital, unfriendly business environment, or lack of proper education and technical know-how. But there is a way forward. Through improved business environment, better training and access to funding, mentorship programs, and other similar initiatives, more Ghanaian students will have a chance of becoming entrepreneurs and realizing their dreams.
Article at a Glance
- Due to an unfavorable business climate and a lack of proper education, many young people in Ghana view entrepreneurship as a risk that is not worth taking.
- The government and the private sector need to work together to foster a new culture of entrepreneurship among the Ghanaian youth.
- With the proper incentives and motivation youth can become a major source of economic growth in Ghana.
Call me an idealist, but I am positively inspired by the stories I’ve heard over the past several months from my colleagues here at CIPE. I’ve had the great pleasure of talking with, well, just about everyone at CIPE about the accomplishments of our partners over the past year as we’ve put together CIPE’s 2008 annual report. I remember my colleagues saying things like…
“I think we should talk about how people in Ghana have had this unprecedented opportunity to participate in the political process through the presidential and parliamentary debates ahead of the December 2008 elections. Many communities, for the first time, organized debates for their parliamentary representatives. Because of the debates, people found out what their representatives’ views actually were. In a lot of places, the incumbent was voted out of office in favor of the more qualified candidate.”
“We HAVE to talk about the Bishkek Business Club (BBC). They have done so much over the past several years – their ability to bring together Kyrgyzstan’s business community has been really amazing. They are just so persistent about creating dialogue with the government, and it shows. The government is actually listening to the business community, even asking for its input, precisely because of BBC’s efforts.” (Having lived in Kyrgyzstan and having seen how little interaction there has been between government and ordinary people, I cannot applaud enough the magnitude of this accomplishment.)
I also had the pleasure of speaking with Hernando de Soto about his letter in the report’s introduction. As CIPE’s first partner, he has a unique perspective on the value of CIPE’s approach. For me personally, it means a lot to work with an organization that is, as de Soto remarked, “in touch with the emerging-market perspective.” De Soto approached CIPE back in 1984 because CIPE staff “understood” what he and the Institute for Liberty and Democracy were trying to do. In my personal experience, I’ve seen well-meaning international organizations in a number of countries miss huge opportunities because they haven’t started by listening to the local people. Conversely, organizations that let local priorities shape their strategy are often the most successful.
The CIPE 2008 Annual Report
Celebrating 25 years of strengthening democracy through market-oriented reform, CIPE’s 2008 annual report details these stories and many, many more. Hear what our partners have said about CIPE over the years, and be inspired!
What would you like to say to CIPE on its 25th anniversary? What story would YOU like to tell?
Peaceful elections do, in fact, occur in Africa, and Ghana’s, on December 7, should be duly noted. The results of Ghana’s elections were announced on December 10. The country will face a run-off election on December 28 because neither of the two frontrunners reached the 50 percent threshold required to declare victory. Governing National Patriotic Party (NPP) candidate Nana Akufo-Addo won 49.13 percent of the votes and John Atta Mills from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) won 47.92 percent of the vote.
These facts, however, do not fully capture Ghana’s historic movement to an increasingly stable democracy. While the elections are not yet over, it is important that we do not look at them as a singular event that has already passed on as the newsfeeds continue to focus on many of the tragic news coming from many parts of Africa. Let’s examine the positive and very newsworthy stories coming from Ghana’s elections:
- At the end of Ghana’s second round of presidential debates, the four major presidential candidates literally came together by holding hands and verbally pledging for peaceful elections. This pledge has been circulated on billboards throughout the country as a positive reminder of what can and will be. And the peace has held despite a close contest and despite Ghana’s recent discovery of offshore oil worth a possible $3 billion.
With the post-election violence in Kenya an all too recent memory and as Zimbabwe continues to slip into a downward spiral after its most recent elections, Ghana’s December 7 elections could be a breath of fresh air for Africa. This is the first time in Ghanaian history that all major parties are taking part in televised presidential debates.
Today, Ghana’s four presidential candidates will sit before a record-setting television and radio audience for the second and final round before the elections. Today’s debate will address governance and social issues following the October 29 debate, which focused primarily on the economy and energy. Knowledge of the candidates’ platforms will help Ghanaians make an educated presidential choice not along ethnic lines, monetary handouts, or coercion, but based on policy.
The first round of debates on October 28th in Accra were an overwhelming success. They reached a record-breaking number of people – between 10 to 20 million with exact numbers difficult to determine. The debate was substantive, focused, and provided concrete policy positions. For example, on the economy and energy, My Joy Online reported:
In tandem with his party’s philosophy, Nana Akufo-Addo said the private sector was critical in dealing with the question of job creation….He said small and medium scale enterprises in the country should be supported because they are the main providers of jobs.
Several of us from CIPE are in Ghana this week, so in their honor I dedicate my first post to chocolate. Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa comes from Western Africa, according to the World Cocoa Foundation, and Ghana is second only to Cote d’Ivoire among cocoa exporting countries. Cocoa accounts for roughly a third of Ghana’s GDP, and like most countries in Africa, Ghana’s 23 million people are largely rural (56 percent of its labor force).
Ninety-nine percent of Ghana’s cocoa farms are between two and three hectares – about the size of three football fields. Farmers typically intercrop cocoa with other goods such as corn, spices or plantains to help provide shade for young cocoa trees and food for the farmer’s family. Harvesting is labor-intensive; pods are cut, split open and pulp removed by hand, because no machines have been developed that can handle all these tasks without damaging too many of the fragile cocoa beans inside the pods. Afterward, the beans ferment surrounded by pulp while wrapped in leaves for about a week and then lay out in the sun for another five to 12 days to dry.
The annual global market value of cocoa is $5.1 billion. Cocoa is nearly impossible to grow outside the tropics, making it a major export for the large number of developing economies in that region of the globe. It’s their comparative advantage, so when it comes to the private sector in Africa, rural development is crucial. That’s why it’s good news that a project has been announced to map out the DNA of the cacao tree, to help improve yields and pest resistance, among other goals. Best of all, the information will be in the public domain, as it is compiled. That’s good news for Ghana’s development plans, and chocolate lovers.
But in order for this scientific advance to be translated into on-the-ground improvements in cocoa farming, active involvement of the local private sector is essential. Technological progress is one of the key elements of any country’s sustained economic growth and development. That is why it is important that Ghana’s farmers are able to take advantage of this new research and apply it to their production. Equally important is that technological progress should be accompanied by policy and institutional improvements that make it easier for farm businesses to function. When technology and markets work in tandem, the outcomes – like in the case of enhanced cocoa bean production – can be really sweet.