“This is a kind of wave young Ghanaian entrepreneurs have never experienced;” these were the descriptive words that President of the Chamber of Entrepreneurs, Sheriff Ghali, used in describing  the impact of the Coronavirus lockdown on young enterprises.

Since Ghana recorded its first imported case in March 2020, I have interviewed over 50 entrepreneurs, both on air and personally on how the global pandemic affected their profit margins.

Figures from the Ghana Statistical Service shows that over 40,000 Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs) shut down while some 70,000 others downscaled, amid the uncertain constraints of the pandemic.

Over 131,000 businesses, mostly SMEs, expressed uncertainty in the business environment.  In fact, the average decrease in sales, according to World Bank findings, was estimated at ¢115.2 million, with firms in the hospitality sector largely affected. 

Government’s response to the pinch of the pandemic was timely and highly commendable. Currently the ¢100 million CARES Programme under the 2021 budget aimed at getting the engines of small enterprises – which employs 80% of population – running again.

“The pandemic has taught us one lesson, to be innovative and tech-driven,” Patrick Adjei Nketia, CEO of UTAMA Africa – a fashion house – revealed on the Market Place.

During the pandemic when lockdowns were in force, Patrick narrated how he quickly adapted to the changing demands of the times. Noticing how slow orders for his colourful African-made neckties and garments became, he quickly adopted a digital means of reaching out to prospective clients.

“I realized if I did not adapt with the times, I would run out of business. I took to Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, to sell my products and they paid out well, in fact, I earned more than I would before the pandemic hit”.

Data from the Ghana Statistical Service shows that during the lockdown, about 244,000 firms started adjusting their business models by relying more on digital solutions, such as mobile money and internet for sales.

This holds true for other entrepreneurs such as Naabia Boakye Danquah, CEO Naabia Bassinets and more. I visited her workshop at Aburi where she explained how she capitalized on the global pandemic to expand her business and remain relevant.

“I realized the pandemic got many people working from home. With that the demand for tailor-made workstations rose. That was how my business catapulted to making huge profits than before the pandemic. I had to be smarter and smarter,” Naabia narrated, with pride.

But even as these entrepreneurs relocate profit interests from the traditional to online, Executive Directive of the African Aurora Business Network, Maureen Odoi, has warned against complacency. According to her, “the complexities of the digital space requires that entrepreneurs are fully equipped with the needed tools of cyber security, online marketing, and compelling products to remain in competitive business”.

Even as Ghanaian entrepreneurs reposition to remain relevant, Ghana’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry is advocating for a more business friendly environment to cushion enterprises against the shocks of the Coronavirus but also the bully of mega Pan African enterprises who could compete them out in the Continental Free Trade Agreement – which is priced at a $3.5 trillion market.

President of the GNCCI, Clement Osei Amoako, is mindful of a friendly environment where interest rates are relatively low to ease access to credit. So far, the Bank of Ghana, through the Monetary Policy Committee, has slashed the Policy Rate by 100 basis points, the first time since 2019, to 13.5 per cent.

Recovering from the shocks of the pandemic and staying resilient does not just stay with an online presence and discovery of virtual clientele; it also instructs that enterprises understand the nuances of niche markets and also build impact solutions around their products and services – an asset that many young entrepreneurs are struggling to acquire.

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Charles Ayitey is a business journalist with Joy Business of The Multimedia Group.