Young Entrepreneurs must be encouraged – Ken Ofori-Atta

Young people who dare to set up businesses and employ others in the process are charting the course for an entrepreneurial future for the country and need to be encouraged and supported, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta has stated.


He explained that what we need is a thousand young people starting small and employing ten people each rather than wait for one person to employ ten thousand.

Government had therefore rolled out a number of interventions aimed at providing opportunities for the youth to become entrepreneurial in view of the high youth unemployment situation confronting the country.

“Listen to me, young people:  your job opportunities will either come from your depending on others to give you a job, or from you awaking the entrepreneur in you by making use of the opportunities that are available in the public and private sector,” he said.

The minister was speaking as the Guest Mentor of the Springboard Roadshow virtual convocation held in Accra today.

The event is an initiative of the Springboard Road Show Foundation and focuses on entrepreneurship, investment, career and talent development for young people between the ages 18 years and 35 years.

Mr Ofori-Atta spoke under the theme: Repositioning: Navigating through COVID-19 and finding career and business opportunities. He commended the conveners, Albert and Comfort Ocran for the initiative.

For over 15 years, they have been daring and consistent in this all-important national effort at inspiring young people. I have been a regular resource on Springboard Road Shows right from their inception, and I have always loved the opportunity to travel and interact with young people, he intimated.

The Springboard Dialogues started in Tamale last Thursday, June 3 and moved to Sunyani on Monday, June 7 before the Virtual Convocation in Accra.

Making a case for targeted interventions for the youth, he said: “I believe the robust implementation of interventions under the Ghana CARES programme will gradually create a conducive, compelling, and ultimately resilient economic environment fit for enterprise and innovation.”

“There are ample opportunities in agribusiness and manufacturing that must be exploited given their high economic multiplier and import substitution effects and, of course, job-creating potential.  Undoubtedly, this will require both the private and public sector to work together towards a common goal of creating jobs and opportunity for all.”

Giving context to the unemployment situation in the country, Mr Ofori-Atta said: “We have a situation where 71 per cent of the Ghanaian population is under 35 (compared to a global average of 57%). According to the World Bank, at least 109,000 students graduate from tertiary institutions in Ghana each year. Each one of these graduates needs jobs.

The World Bank estimated Ghana’s unemployment rate among the youth as 12 per cent representing 1.3 million. Alarmingly, about half of the youth population in Ghana who number 5.4 million are regarded as underemployed.

Mr Ofori-Atta explained that in the past 12 months, government had launched the Ghana CARES “Obaatanpa” Programme to transition the country from a commodity-dependent to a self-reliant industrialised nation.

Within the past year, he said government had initiated work on creating an integrated aluminium industry, which should finally free the country from having to import alumina to power the dormant national smelter (VALCO).

“Once the smelter is active, we can nurture an entire bauxite and aluminium ecosystem, creating jobs and opportunities for all.”

The Chief Executive Officer of MTN, Mr Selorm Adadevoh, who was also a speaker at the event, encouraged the youth to be positive-minded and believe in their abilities to make change.

He said when people believed in themselves, there would not be limits to the successes they could achieved, using his own journey onto the top of the country’s biggest telecommunications company as an example.

He said while challenges would come along the way, people needed to be bold and determined and remained focus on their ultimate objectives.

He also advised the youth to build trust in themselves by being consistent in the execution of trusts.

The Executive Director of the Springboard Road Show Foundation, Mrs Comfort Ocran, said after years of inspiring and mentoring many young people to go into entrepreneurship, Springboard took a new initiative this year.

She said the foundation had begun engaging with agencies set up to provide opportunities for the youth in the form of training, job placement, business financing and other critical business needs.

“We called the new initiative the Springboard Youth Dialogues. They simply involve connecting you the young people to opportunities and policy interventions to help accelerate your progress, especially in the areas of business.

“In designing these interactions, we reached out to the Minister of Finance, himself a veteran Springboard resource person from the very first five editions. Not only did he wholeheartedly embrace the ideas we shared, he personally offered to travel all the way with us, to listen to the concerns and challenges of young entrepreneurs and to provide much-needed answers to young people across the country,” Mrs Ocran said.

She commended Mr Ofori-Atta for the time and the invaluable contributions and expressed the hope that the ideas shared would help inspire the youth into positive action.

 

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