Youthful entrepreneurs across Ghana are breaking new ground, creating jobs and wealth by transforming food systems through creativity and innovation. As we celebrate World Youth Day on the special theme of “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”, this is an important occasion to celebrate some of them.
On average, many households across Ghana spend almost half of their total expenditure on food. This rises from 36% of household expenditures in Greater Accra to 50% in Brong Ahafo, Eastern, and Northern regions, according to the Ghana’s Living Standard Survey 7. Food also accounts for 17% of Ghana’s total import bill and already employs 30% of the population. It is estimated that 2 in 5 of every male employee and 1 in 5 for females, is employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing. This means that encouraging more food system entrepreneurs can help to reduce the burden on households, national revenues and offer more employment opportunities.
Creating the ecosystem for young entrepreneurs to thrive would benefit from three key emerging lessons from food system entrepreneur in Ghana. There are young people in the agriculture value-chain, who have demonstrated the power of a great idea that is nurtured by tenacity, research and a solid support network.
First, they have demonstrated the need for tenacity and grit when emerging entrepreneurs are faced by roadblocks. Alhassan in Northern Ghana whose growing business produces hatcheries and trains farmers on guinea fowl rearing is a good example. He stayed in the game by turning challenges into opportunity. Fresh out of school with no prospects and very little starting capital, he was able to transform scrap metal from fridges into egg incubators. He faced challenges with many unsuccessful attempts and technology barriers, but he did not give up. He was able to use the knowledge he had gained from his family and online research to find creative solutions to overcome his roadblocks.
Second, young entrepreneurs have shown the importance of being a meticulous and detailed oriented learner. It is important to have the capability for research and learning from others’ experiences to become an industry leader. As Fred Swaniker, a leading Ghanaian influencer affirms, we must all be entrepreneurial leaders with a lifelong learning mindset.
While a solid education is an important milestone, it must be complemented by knowledge that is being generated every day. This knowledge is freely accessible on digital platforms, in books and through experiences of people who have walked a similar path. The example of the Prince and Sampare, who are processing tiger nuts sourced from Ashanti, Central, Eastern, and Northern regions using home grown technology shows the need to engage with academia and experts.
While networks and mentors are important guides, successful entrepreneurs are self-driven learners.
Finally, as it is true in life, you cannot make it alone. Felix, who developed a thriving eco-friendly snail farming and vegetable business using greenhouses in the Greater Accra and the Ashanti Regions, is a great example. He was able to turn his idea into reality through the support of his family, UNDP, National Youth Authority, fellow entrepreneurs in Nigeria, Ashesi Design Lab, and Inno Hub Ghana. Felix benefited from this help to crystalize his innovation into an investment opportunity and business model that investors could buy into. He partnered with an engineer from Zimbabwe and others to grow a viable supply chain and market his products. He also has a strong connection to research and analysis that helps to keep him on the cutting edge of his field. Looking forward into the future, all young entrepreneurs must be able to effectively navigate the digital space.
Entrepreneurship development remains a key policy priority for the government and UN in Ghana and various development partners are working to support the development of a vibrant ecosystem for entrepreneurship. Key support programs for young agripreneurs are available through the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ghana Enterprises Agency, Ghana Investment Promotion Centre as well as the National Youth Authority.
As we look to a world beyond COVID-19, UNDP Ghana is investing in facilitating entrepreneurship and SME development as a pathway to a greener, inclusive and resilient recovery. We invite entrepreneurs, enablers and investors to engage with us in promoting integrated solutions to strengthen the ecosystems support to young entrepreneurs in Ghana.