REDESIGNING THE FUTURE WITH YOUNG THOUGHT LEADERS

10155280_10203578344397752_4032608138738361861_n

Many young people do not have the required skills, awareness and investment to turn their potentials to their advantage. They also lack access to lessons that might help demystify the technicalities of starting own business as well as focusing on achievable better results.

Overcoming these challenges can be very tedious as there are no clear guiding principles to apply. The social entrepreneurship concept has managed to play a very critical role in the socio-economic transformation of nations. It could therefore be used as model of initiating new businesses to better the lives of young people in Ghana.

While social entrepreneurs often work through nonprofits and citizen groups, their channels of operation typically involves working closely with both the private sector as well as the government. Social entrepreneurship is therefore not in competition with government and the private sector but is a complimentary institution with the common goal of working for the betterment of the people. Innovation often happens when different disciplines collide and it’s becoming apparent that most values – certainly most social value – is likely to be created at the intersection of government, private and the social sector.

The main distinguishing characteristic is that social entrepreneurship aims at furthering social and environmental goals. Just like their private counterparts, they are people who are ambitious, self-driven, innovative, resourceful and focused on results. They use their skills to identify opportunities and approaches that can be exploited to change society for the better. Social entrepreneurship has become the so called “Third Pillar” in the development discourse and practice, and integral role in solving the social and economic problems we face in our communities today.

At the West Africa Social Entrepreneurs Network (WASEN Ghana), we have adopted business-like approaches to solving social problems and have succeeded in bringing about meaningful socio-economic change in Ghana. WASEN Ghana has initiated a Social Entrepreneurship Guide (tailored learning and training programs) to demonstrate the scale and diversity of social value using business principles – much of which is achieved through harnessing the power of young people’s creativity and innovation.

This guide further demonstrates the huge opportunities for social enterprises to harness their talents to generate insights, to drive more effective action and to fuel social change. This successful guide can be used as a template for young people looking to embrace social entrepreneurship as a means of transforming their societies. By combining the business–like ideals and approaches with their relentless quest, young people can use this guide to radically improve the livelihoods of their communities in a sustainable manner.

However, it is important to recognize that it is not just any non-profit organization that can use this model to address the development challenges that continue to confront us. It is those non-profits and other citizen-driven organizations (social business) who can clearly illustrate a “more-than-profit” motives, uses good business sense and a desire to bring about social change can benefit from this guide.

It is in the spirit that Isaac Aggrey, the Executive Director of WASEN Ghana granted an interview to Kweku Temeng of TV 3 Business Focus to further highlights his love for humanity and commitment to bring about positive change across the world. Watch the entire interview here!

 

 

WASEN Ghana Alternative Innovative Financing

images

Getting a business off the ground or build it once started is challenging and in some instances seemingly impossible. SMEs in both developed and developing countries are enormously challenged by myriad of factors – with one of the main challenges being access to finance.

It is therefore no secret that raising the needed capital to launch a business is by no means an easy task, most particularly for women and young entrepreneurs. Over the years, West Africa Social Entrepreneurs Network (WASEN Ghana) has been able to identify social enterprises, startup and SMEs who uses business principles to solve societal problems. WASEN Ghana has built mentorship and empowerment programmes around these businesses increasing opportunities for their growth and success.

Our peer-selected investment approach delivers strong results for both early-stage social enterprises and impact investors. Although WASEN Ghana seek more investment options to project the goals of these social enterprises, it has become evident that a growing investor demand with more diversified portfolios are needed – one which generates capital and build a customer base for social entrepreneurs simultaneously.

WASEN Ghana is therefore launching a new platform that will allow social enterprises, startups and SMEs to advertise and distribute their products to millions of customers thereby increasing exposure to potential impact investors and customers.

The platform will help social enterprises, startups and SMEs sell their products and seek for donations / finance through crowd technology. It will further connect early-stage startups and SMEs to accredited impact investors.

It intends to invest in key sectors, including but not limited to: improving education, increasing access to financial services, sustaining agriculture, making housing affordable, making healthcare affordable and accessible, supporting clean energy technologies and increasing job opportunities for women and young people alike.

The fund will give an opportunity to women and young entrepreneurs in financially underserved countries empowering them through international public investment, rather than foreign aid or charity.

Many creative and innovative ideas of women and young entrepreneurs fail before reaching the market due to lack of funding or slow sales. WASEN Ghana is partnering with the international community and other Impact investors to ensure funding is made available to these groups of entrepreneurs across Africa.

This initiative has the potential to become a complete game changer putting the needed “capital or fund to work” thereby enhancing the growth of women and youth enterprises in emerging markets.

WASEN Ghana Partners YALI Regional Leadership Center

659bd88a29944938104096a1439f71a3

On July 28, 2014, President Obama announced the creation of four Regional Leadership Centers in Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa. Beginning in 2015, these Centers will improve the availability and quality of leadership training programs and professional development opportunities for young African leaders.

Each will be run as a public-private partnership, capitalizing on the energy and dynamism of the private sector, the knowledge of African and American institutions, and the programmatic and educational resources of the U.S. Government. The Centers will focus on engaging young leaders from a wide range of organizations and backgrounds and with a diversity of experiences. The Regional Leadership Centers will:

  • Provide Quality Leadership Training: Centers will provide both long and short courses on leadership and issues across multiple sectors.
  • Support Entrepreneurship: Centers will provide entrepreneurship support services, including mentoring, technology, and access to capital.
  • Enhance Professional Networking: Centers will offer young leaders the opportunity to connect with each other, American professionals, and experts from across the region.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide $38 million for the creation of and programs in the Regional Leadership Centers. American and African companies and foundations have more than matched these funds, providing principal capital for the startup costs, equipment, and technology for the Centers.

The MasterCard Foundation will provide financial support over five years to develop the Centers. With financial and in-kind contributions from Microsoft, Dow Chemical Company, Intel Corporation, and Cisco Systems, the U.S. Government will be able to establish and maintain the Centers, and provide business software and hardware, mentoring, and information technology training through them. With in-kind support from Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Atlas Mara, and McKinsey & Company, the U.S. and its partners will be able to provide leadership training, technical support, and access to capital for young entrepreneurs.

The U.S. Government has joined with the following partners to establish and deliver high quality training, support, and networking through the Centers.

In collaboration with USAID, host institutions in Africa will provide instruction and collaboration space, expert training, and coursework for the Centers.

yali_country_mapThe Accra Regional Leadership Center (RLC) will cover all Anglophone West Africa countries and will have two main training sites: Accra and Lagos. The Accra RLC will bring at least 900 young West African leaders to both countries each year for leadership training and mentoring in key areas, including: Business Management and Public Administration; social entrepreneurship; and civic leadership.

YALI will also expand the number of young African leaders who participate in this program and will focus on areas like Science, Technology, Agriculture, Engineering, Math, Education, and the Arts.

A consensus has emerged with WASEN Ghana and YALI Accra Regional Leadership Center (RLC) to provide a platform for more cohesive sectoral learning; engaging 10,000 young leaders over four years. The proposed partnership will provide targeted investments in and support for activities across West Africa.

 

 

WASEN PARTNERS HIIL FOUNDATION TO EMPOWER SME’S IN WEST AFRICA

CSeQBNMW4AAj0_w

Startups and SMEs in East and West Africa need a more secure and just environment to grow

Start-up companies and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are vital engines of economic growth and employment throughout the world. They can give new generations much needed opportunities and enable a more equitable and sustainable development but their potential is all too often obstructed.

In the most challenging environments, SMEs face a stifling range of interconnected injustices and challenges such as harsh regulations, insecurity, high levels of taxation and corruption, a lack of transparency, demanding registration procedures and a lack of information. In some places it is practically impossible for local businesses to flourish because of lengthy and costly procedures to set up a business, obtain the necessary licenses or meet international standards. All too often, the growth opportunities are hampered by regulatory barriers or the lack of access to basic necessities or credit. Last but not least, for female entrepreneurs the challenges can seem truly unsurmountable due to discrimination.

Obstacles for setting up, and scaling up SMEs can be found around the developing world but in some regions, the potential for progress is particularly striking. The potential in East and West Africa definitely warrants closer attention. Nigeria is a case in point. Whereas the Nigerian population is growing at a fast pace compared to most other regions in the world, one would be hard pressed to make the argument that there are fair, equal opportunities for Nigerian entrepreneurs. They not only struggle to compete with vested business interests within Nigeria, but also with their counterparts in other (more competitive) countries.

This need not remain that way. If we can manage to unlock the potential of East and West African SMEs by finding and empowering the governance and justice innovations they truly need, the opportunities for investment and growth in that region are immense.

 HiiL Innovating Justice has accelerated innovative ways to create better access to justice for more than four years now. Together with the Global Agenda Council on Justice and supported by the Ford Foundation, HiiL Innovating Justice plans to launch a SME Empowerment Innovation Challenge specifically targeting the needs of East and West African start-ups and SMEs.

CSa3xtoWcAAwi11 (1)

The execution of the challenge will connect incubator partners throughout East and West Africa with the HiiL Innovating Justice Accelerator team in The Hague. This will build local justice innovation capacity and connect local partners to the international justice innovation community. Justice innovation will be interpreted in a broad sense to include public, private (for profit and not-for-profit) and informal initiatives. The goal of this initiative is to find and strengthen new initiatives that can protect or empower start-ups and SMEs.

 CSZZAEeWcAEGjeH

HiiL Innovating Justice will assess the most promising innovations and provide support to scale their impact. Besides providing financial support, The Ford Foundation will connect its regional and local networks to this Challenge to ensure its success.

In Ghana, not only is the environment challenging, but there is also a widespread culture that does not recognize or reward entrepreneurial endeavours. This is largely due to gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem that often prevent SME’s from accessing the needed support system to grow.

Entrepreneurs particularly have difficulties raising finance in the early stages of their businesses and have become frustrated at their inability or failure to secure funding to operate and grow their business.

Demanding registration procedures and a lack of information for SME development remain major obstacles and have alluded to the shallow and limited understanding of entrepreneurship activities in Ghana.

WASEN Ghana is enthusiastic about this partnership as both parties will work together to find and strengthen new initiatives that can protect or empower start-ups and SME’s across West Africa.

 

 

 

CREATING THE RIGHT ECOSYSTEM TO SCALE ENTERPRISES IN GHANA

wasen2

Africa currently faces a chronic unemployment problem, especially for youth under age 35. In the face of this chronic unemployment, the youth feel disempowered, frustrated and disoriented. This has key implications for political, social and economic instability as can be evidenced by the global increase in protest in other continent, many fueled by youth frustration and unemployment.

One of the most important factors contributing to youth unemployment in Ghana is the relatively low levels of skills among young people. The Youth need to be prepared to redefine “jobs” based on shifting opportunities and continue to adapt to bridge the skills-opportunity gap. To do that, the youth have to cultivate and exercise the skills of the future that can help them create solutions for complex problems while in turn bringing value to the labor market and creating a demand for their skills.

wasen1

Acquiring these much-needed skills, leadership (courage and confidence as initiators), hands-on problem-solving (creativity, agency for change making and critical thinking) and teamwork will enable young people to be at the helm of the reconstruction and development of Ghana.

Given the current state of youth unemployment in Ghana, the youth are been challenged to seize the opportunities created by the government in order to create a better life for themselves and their families. The long-term solution to Ghana’s unemployment crisis is to create a nation of entrepreneurs and not a nation of job-seekers and thus WASEN Ghana is confident that the Youth Enterprise Investment (YEI) initiative will help to reverse the youth unemployment trend through appropriate research, quality training and a relevant mentorship that responds to the needs of entrepreneurial development of young people.

The initiative is vital to future economic development and prosperity and will ensure young entrepreneurs are encouraged and cultivated. It will celebrate Ghana’s best and brightest young entrepreneurs whose successful businesses and achievements contribute immensely to local, national, global economies as well as to their communities.

The initiative has already began rolling out regional business clinics which seeks to develop, grow and sustain youth enterprises through skills transfer and support from experts in the field of business.

wasen3

The three biggest challenges most often cited by young entrepreneurs who apply for support are, acquiring financing, access to mentorship and advice, and network opportunities. Traditional financial institutions generally refuse to lend to early stage enterprises because they do not meet their established client criteria and are not seen as offering sufficient guarantees. As a result, YEI intend to support early stage entrepreneurs to build scale and market capacity as well.

It will offer the right levels of support to youth enterprises that often face difficulty in accessing loans from traditional banks. YEI business training and development support will focus on providing finance, business management training and problem solving support to budding and experienced young entrepreneurs.

The program will ensure young entrepreneurs have abundant opportunities to grow and develop their enterprises in an environment that nurtures the development of these enterprises and enhances their job creation potential.