An innovative programme aimed at giving small and medium enterprises and start-ups in some Sahel countries access to finance and the skills needed to promote their development has been introduced.
Dubbed “Investisseurs and Partenaires (I&P) Acceleration in Sahel (IPAS),” it is a four-year initiative (2019-2023) by I &P and financed by the European Union (EU) at an amount of €15.5 million.
It is expected to benefit about 300 companies in 13 countries in the sub-region, including Ghana, to promote the creation of decent and sustainable jobs.
The rest are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia and Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Togo and Senegal.
In Ghana, the implementing partner for the initiative is Wangara Capital (WC).
At an information session in Accra hosted by I&P, WC and the European Delegation in Ghana, the Chief Executive Officer of WC, Mr Ebenezer Arthur, noted that job creation by small businesses and start-ups could provide a key solution to the numerous challenges facing the Sahel.
Yet, he said those businesses faced challenges not only in acquiring the necessary skills but also accessing money to grow their businesses.
“IPAS seeks to solve such problems. Providing such seed capital just to get businesses to the next stage as well as give them technical assistance to make them efficient,’ he said.
The Programme Officer, Governance Section of the EU Delegation in Ghana, Mr Emmanuel Subiran, said the EU was funding the IPAS through the “EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa” (EUTF), a financial instrument aimed at delivering coordinated and rapid response to emergency solutions related to instability, irregular migration and forced displacement and at providing sustainable solutions to migration management.
He explained that most people in the sub-region embarked on irregular migration due to the lack of opportunities to explore their potential and to achieve their dreams.
“The EU is not against migration but irregular migration. We believe that we need to provide opportunities so that people will travel by choice and not through irregular means,” he said.
“To become an entrepreneur is not just about the mindset, so we try to support entrepreneurs to become better by providing training, facilitate access to finance and provide seed money to grow their businesses,” he said.
He said the delegation would continue to provide support to the private sector as part of its priority to work with them.
In an overview, the Programme Manager of the IPAS, Ms Sophie Ménager, outlined the programme objectives which include promoting the creation of formal jobs, creating a generation of African entrepreneurs and strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the target countries.
She said the programme targeted start-ups and small businesses that were managed by African men and women and settled in Africa, operating in the formal economy and committed to maximising their impacts (social and environment) through their business activities.
“Particular attention is paid to projects led by vulnerable populations such as young people and women.
“So far, IPAS has supported 41 companies and 10 incubators in eight countries in the Sahel. This programme has helped to 397 jobs and create 34 jobs.
Twenty-nine per cent of the small businesses are led by women,” she said.
She mentioned Eden Tree, an agribusiness company and iSpace, an incubator that offers co-working space, tools and facilities for entrepreneurs and SMEs to launch and manage their businesses as some of the beneficiary companies in Ghana.
The Senior Investment Manager at I&P, Mr Baafour Otu-Boateng, explained that I&P began 20 years ago and had been operating in Ghana since 2011. It believes in SMEs and supports them to generate essential goods and services locally.
He said that the company had over the years raised over $255 million to help small businesses across countries.
“Now we have about 200 companies that we have invested in across the region. We are committed to professionalism and we believe that it is through support to SMEs that Africa can grow,” he added.
"The EU is not against migration but irregular migration. To become an entrepreneur is not just about the mindset, so we try to support entrepreneurs to become better by providing training, facilitate access to finance and provide seed money to grow their businesses."