Deputy Majority Leader and MP for Efuttu, Alexander Kwamena Afenyo-Markin, Deputy on Sunday, September 12, 2021, addressed the Winneba Entrepreneurship Seminar held at the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) Auditorium, Winneba.
Here is the full speech
To begin with, let me say that the future survival, growth, and prosperity of any society depend on its youth’s quality today. The United Nations defines youth as persons aged between 15 and 24. In Ghana, some official estimates suggest that nearly 60 per cent of our population are under the age of 25, putting a significant proportion of them within the UN’s definition of youth. However, if we go by Ghana’s definition, which states that the youth are persons between 15 and 35 years, the proportion of the population falling to be categorised as youth will undoubtedly be more considerable.
The numbers above show that Ghana is blessed with a massive supply of talented young men and women on whose backs and shoulders we can build a more prosperous nation. However, as Chanda Kochhar, an Indian Banker and Business Woman once said, “To reap this demographic dividend, we need to enable the Youth to acquire skills required to get the job or become self-employed.” Based on the foregoing, it is such a tremendous honour to address you, the outstanding Youth of Effutu, today on the theme “Exploring Entrepreneurship Ideas and Strategies for the Youth of Winneba.”
As a term, Entrepreneurship can be loosely defined as the activity of taking calculated steps to set up a carefully thought out business by taking on financial risks in the hope of making a profit, no matter how small. As an active and successful entrepreneur and businessman with at least 20 years of experience in setting up and leading vibrant local businesses, the theme for this gathering is of profound significance for me. The reason is that I believe firmly that entrepreneurship and innovation are vital for Ghana’s economic and social development.
To be clear, national revenues from cocoa, gold, bauxite and crude oil continue to transform and modernise the Ghanaian economy positively. Also, the pictures of mega projects like the Tema and Pokuase Interchanges make all of us marvel, giving us some ideas as to what development connotes. However, for Ghana to achieve sustained social and economic development, there is a need to diversify the Ghanaian economy. This is where entrepreneurship and innovation come in. Why do I say this?
Ladies and Gentlemen, last week, I watched television news on the maiden job and career fair held in Accra by the National Youth Employment Agency. The sheer number of able-bodied young men and women who flooded the venue of the two-day event in a desperate search for job opportunities was striking. Weeks earlier, many of us here saw similar scenes on television and in the newspapers of so many thousands of young men and women inundating Ghana Army recruitment centres around our country, hoping for an opportunity to get enlisted in our Armed Forces.
While the scenes mentioned above show that many of our purposeful youth crave to secure honest employment to become helpful men and women of our society tomorrow, they equally emphasise an all too familiar national challenge –––– I am talking about disturbing levels of youth unemployment. Indeed, since coming into office, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo has taken bold and intelligent initiatives to confront the challenge.
These initiatives include the Planting for Food and Jobs and the One District One Factory programmes. The impact of these initiatives has been massive thus far. For example, figures from the Ministry of Youth and Agriculture suggest that the Planting for Food and Jobs programme alone has created more than two million jobs since the initiative started in 2017.
There are many more of these initiatives to create employment, wealth and ensure social cohesion and sustainability by keeping our youth away from the evils and temptations of idleness. However, the scenes we saw at the recently held job fair and career fair, for example, are a stark reminder that a lot more needs to be done and will be done.
The other side of the scenes mentioned earlier is that the mindset of many of our youth is to seek employment in government offices and receive monthly salaries instead of daring to be entrepreneurs, build sustainable businesses themselves, employ others and create sustainable wealth in the process. If you are one of such people, then I stand before you today to tell you that YOU NEED A NEW MINDSET! That new MINDSET must be deeply rooted in entrepreneurship. You must have a voracious appetite for it. It must drive you to become a millionaire or billionaire tomorrow through critical thinking, risk-taking, hard work and innovation. I am telling you about these values because I have relied on them to manage my businesses over the last two decades. They work like magic. They are briefly discussed as follows:
By critical thinking, I mean you should not be afraid to use the power of your mind to think critically and deeply about the problems Effutu and Ghana continue to face daily. I am talking, for example, about problems like the lack of efficient harvesting solutions and safe storage systems for our agricultural produce, inefficient means of tax collection, and the seeming lack of proper disposal of plastic waste in our country. When appropriately examined, these problems can be turned into rewarding opportunities for wealth creation if you can think deeply to propose practical solutions worthy enough to attract investment. For example, it is possible to, in your own small way, recycle the vast piles of plastic waste around Ghana into useful everyday tools in our homes and offices.
Reference to risk-taking here means you must be prepared to invest resources in the solutions you come up with. This way, you will determine whether they are the proper fix for our problems or a better solution lies elsewhere. In so doing, you will find that devising the right solution to the problems we face is one of the most, if not the most reliable, ways of making money and becoming successful. There are times you fail along the way, just like I have failed in some business ventures in the past. However, it is through getting back on your feet, learning from your mistakes and getting back to work again using a new approach that will make you succeed ultimately as I have done.
The reference to hard work should tell you that entrepreneurship is a challenging field. It rewards only focused, intelligent, and diligent people who deploy their energies towards finding solutions that become fair money-making opportunities. There is no room for laziness or lethargy if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. Trust me, ladies and gentlemen, hard and smart work will drive you faster to success.
To be a successful entrepreneur in today’s world, you need to think about solutions no one else has thought about. In other words, you must be innovative, and your solutions to our common problems must reflect creativity. Currently, there is a technological revolution in Ghana led by Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia.
As a constituency, we must take advantage of the smart opportunities that technology brings to entrepreneurship and use them to create new businesses and enterprises that solve the problems we face, supply the goods and services we need and, in so doing, create the employment and wealth that Effutu needs to be a buoyant economy.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me emphasise that the foregoing qualities will be essential if you really want to succeed as an entrepreneur. Right here in Effutu, many of the youth are demonstrating each one of these skills, traits and values and are succeeding in their respective endeavours with my support. For example, many young men and women today own and run their own transportation businesses after receiving the necessary investment and support from the work and pay taxi scheme I have established since becoming your Member of Parliament in 2013. Also, over 80 outboard motors have been distributed at discounted prices this year to selected fishers across this constituency to help support their trade and help them expand.
Furthermore, since becoming your Member of Parliament, at least 5000 men and women have received 1000 Ghana cedis each in soft loans from a scheme I have established to invest in promising entrepreneurship projects within the constituency. All these interventions and more are creating new businesses and helping expand existing ones. In the process, we are creating wealth, reducing poverty, creating sustainable employment and above all, developing the next generation of intelligent businessmen and women. I am doing all of these knowing that one of the most notorious problems hindering the entrepreneurial spirit of many gifted people in our country is the lack of access to capital.
However, some dishonest beneficiaries either do not invest the capital they receive or invest them poorly. I intend to seek the assistance of some researchers to investigate and give us a credible report, accurately detailing those enterprises that are winning, those which are struggling and those that have become stale. These reports will identify what is working, what is not working and how to scale up the interventions that are promising to help them grow into giant businesses empires.
To illustrate, ladies and gentlemen, KFC, the popular fast food that many of you here often enjoy, was founded by Colonel Harland Sanders, an entrepreneur who started selling fried chicken from a roadside restaurant in Kentucky, USA, during the period known as the Great Depression in 1952. Today, what started as a tiny business has grown to become a global super brand and restaurant franchise that operates in multiple countries around the globe, including Ghana. Indeed, by the time Colonel Sanders died in 1980, there were an estimated 6,000 KFC outlets in 48 countries worldwide, raking in over 2 billion dollars (which is more than 6.3 billion in value today) of sales every year. In 2020, the KFC brand was valued at a little over 5.1 billion U.S. dollars. This is remarkable. You can also follow in the footsteps of Colonel Sanders. Through our collective efforts and perseverance, ladies and gentlemen, we can create the next Colonel Sanders for our world. We can also create the next Esther Afua Ocloo for Ghana and Africa. And we can create the next Akenten Appiah-Menka for our motherland. What is needed is to take that bold step –– i.e. start thinking about our problems and the right solutions for them.
As a parting comment, one of the biggest problems serving as a barrier to our development is the culture of one-person businesses. By this, I mean that many enterprises are so centred on those who created them that the entrepreneurs are unwilling to let outsiders invest in their businesses. I believe that the time has come for this country to emphasise creative or innovative partnerships to fast track the growth of enterprises by pushing them to reach markets and customers that were hitherto underserved or unserved. This will help boost incomes for the partners and created more incredible wealth for our economy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me say that it has been such a huge honour seeing so many citizens of Effutu gathered here to discuss entrepreneurship, which, to me, is the lifeblood of any functional economy. Further, our gathering here provided me with a perfect opportunity to share with you my own experiences as an entrepreneur. I hope the new things we have learnt here will spur us all on to reach greater heights in our quest to become the backbone of our economy, create wealth, and reduce unemployment.
God bless Effutu and our homeland Ghana!