I love to see innovation around me. I love it, even more, when I see young people using their talents to innovate to better lives.
That is why I was so excited a fortnight ago to see the President of the Republic throwing his whole weight behind the Ministry of Business Development’s Presidential pitch for start-ups, an event that took place at the Movenpick Gold Coast Hotel on June 25, 2018.
Under the theme, “Creating an Entrepreneurial climate to support young businesses”, the President is reported to have said that organisatons such as Google and Facebook both of which are headquartered in the United State of America begun as simple ideas that have grown into global giants.
He reiterated government’s persuasion to give new start-ups all the needed support to ensure the development and growth of the ideas of young entrepreneurs in the country.
Generally, the problem is that we hardly encourage entrepreneurship in our country, especially at the start-up stage. We talk down our children and other young relatives who exhibit the desire to start something on their own. Sometimes we rather suggest to them to go into formal employment because, in our misconstrued minds, that is where they can make money. We instil in them that working for someone, after all, guarantees them an assured monthly income.
Meanwhile, these young ones are being discouraged by recruiters because of the monster of “no experience”. The varied view of a lot of employers has been that applying for a job means one must come with some experience, at least two years and we see that advertised all the time. But where does experience come from? It must begin from somewhere. If you do not start, where do you pick it up from?
One other stumbling block for young entrepreneurs is the fact that we do not encourage risk-taking. At home, at school and at work, our culture tends to be risk averse and anyone seen taking risks is deemed reckless. But experience and experts have told us repeatedly that risk-taking is a characteristic of a good entrepreneur.
At the basic school, we learnt a rhyme that “if you try and don’t succeed, try, try, and try again”. But in practice, do we encourage third-time luck? In progressive businesses, taking calculated risks are not shunned because they see risk-taking as a potential in disguise. I am always reminded of sticky note pads or strips that have gained currency on all executive desks which apparently were invented by mistake.
Unearthing young talents
The recent Presidential pitch for start-ups, we are told, seeks to unearth young entrepreneurs across the ten regions of the country and to support them get financial assistance to implement their ideas. This is well and good. One only wishes that the programme would be sustained and actively promoted. That has been our shortfall over the years where laudable initiatives are left to die.
In my active working time with Unilever Ghana, the Company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Foundation originally set up to purposely help promote education and development introduced a similar idea at the basic school level for all public schools across the country to compete in. This idea was to help promote innovation and unearth talents for the attention of schools directorate.
The difference was that the Unilever Foundation initiative was mainly science-based and the school children were to present projects that were science oriented. The idea was to demystify Science as a subject at that level and encourage more children to take up Science to help with the developmental interventions for the country while building innovation for the future.
Working together with the Ghana Education Service (GES) Science Directorate, the unveiling of ideas started at the district level. The district awardees competed at the regional level. The overall best innovator from the regions was selected. At a grand ceremony, all the top innovations from the 10 regions were show-cased and award given. Over the years some beautiful innovations came up and no one knows what the GES did with them.
Push-pull by industry
It is good news that with the Presidential pitch, the Ministry of Business Development would have a monitoring and evaluation system to periodically help nurture ideas.
To sustain this laudable programme, the Presidential pitch should have a close collaboration with industry using the “push-pull” concept. With this, related companies could work with the promising young entrepreneurs and mentor them by giving them the needed basic manufacturing, marketing, technical, supply chain and finance know-hows to succeed. They could share their success models with them while at the same time giving them marketing outlets to sell their produce.
Where they get established, these bigger companies could even outsource some of their products to them to manufacture where they have the capacity to produce for them in smaller quantities.
The entrepreneurship programme introduced by the Ministry of Business Development has the potential to become an avenue for job creation. It has the potential to bring down the unemployment situation. It would also stem the tide of urban migration.
A journey of one thousand steps well and truly starts with one step and the first step has been taken with the Presidential start-ups. Let the concept not die on us. The potential is too great to be missed.
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