Innovation, now a must for entrepreneurs—GEA boss

BY: Maclean Kwofi
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Mrs Kosi Yankey-Ayeh, CEO, GEA

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Enterprise Agency (GEA), Mrs Kosi Yankey-Ayeh, has advised entrepreneurs in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) space to keep themselves from ventures which are no longer relevant in today’s changing world.

Rather, he said entrepreneurs must be adaptable, with the ability to pivot to deliver new products and services or to form novel partnerships in order to strengthen operational capacities.

The forum

Speaking at the maiden Africa Business Innovation Forum (ABIForum2021) in Accra, Mrs Yankey-Ayeh observed that innovation was no more an option, rather a must with the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

On the theme, "Journey to a Sustainable Future: Building Resilient and Innovative SMEs for Economic Transformation," the forum forms part of the series of activities outlined to help businesses navigate their way and overcome the negative impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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The overarching objective of the forum is to broaden the horizon of the entrepreneurs as well as create a platform to inspire MSMEs to be globally competitive.

It hosted speakers such as Senior Advisor to the Vice President and former Dean of Central Business School, Prof Kwaku Appiah- Adu, the Head in-charge of Commercial and Business Banking at First National Bank, Mr Mark Acheampong, CEO of AppsNmobile Solutions, Mr Richard Bansah and Executive Director for the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), Prof Mathew Tsamenyi.

Today’s business environment

Mrs Yankey-Ayeh stated that in today’s business environment, there was no word more powerful and all-encompassing as the word innovation.

She said from finance, through to education, healthcare and retail to transportation: no sector was immune.

“Every day, new companies are introducing technologies that have the potential to reshape their entire industries and how people conduct their day-to-day transactions,” he said.

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“MSMEs account for a sizable proportion of the total number of global businesses. They are a significant source of employment, and Ghana is no exception.

“Although COVID-19 wreaked havoc on businesses while also exposing the structural flaws in the economy, it also created opportunities for change and innovation in 2020,” she said.

Similarly, said while many businesses suffered a downturn, those who had foresight and had incorporated digital tools into their operations profited.

Agency’s contribution

The GEA boss stated that over the last four years, the agency has focused on transitioning micro businesses, which account for the majority of the country's MSME sector.

She said over 700,000 businesses have benefited from the agency's assistance through a bouquet of business development services, business formalisation and access to finance.

The agency, in collaboration with partners, is implementing various support schemes to support MSMEs to respond to the changing dynamics of the business environment as a result of the pandemic, more importantly to enable these MSMEs to become innovative.

One of such programmes is the GIZ COVID-19 SME Innovation and Digitalisation Support Scheme, which is expected to provide digital solutions to Ghanaian SMEs.

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Over 500 SMEs were supported and through this at least 1600 jobs have been sustained.

“As we speak today, COVID-19 Pandemic has changed how people shop and access services, changed how people communicate, changed how people travel, and even how people dine. So, businesses must be innovative to stay afloat,” she said.

According to her, all business organisations that want to survive in a world characterised by competition, technological change, and recurring crises must be innovative.

“I will conclude by urging all entrepreneurs to think creatively and mobilise resources in order to accelerate toward sustainability, which is critical for building resilience across SMEs in preparation for economic transformation.”