‘YouStart’, a great idea, but more help for existing private sector too

BY: By Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Going through the Highlights of the 2022 Budget presented to Parliament by Finance Minister Mr Ken Ofori-Atta on Wednesday, November 17, I found especially stimulating the following paragraphs: “Addressing the Youth Employment and Skills Challenge

To help address the youth unemployment and skill challenge, Government through special programmes …has created significant job opportunities for the youth and (small and medium-sized enterprises).

“Following extensive consultation with stakeholders, including youth associations and educational institutions, Government in 2022 will implement the YouStart Initiative as a vehicle to use 1 billion to create 1 million jobs in 3 years under the GhanaCARES programme.

“The YouStart will support young entrepreneurs to gain access to capital, training, technical skills, and mentoring to enable them launch and operate their own businesses.”

Budget 2022 is themed ‘Building a Sustainable Entrepreneurial Nation:
Fiscal Consolidation and Job Creation’ therefore no surprise that it has a special focus on job creation for the youth.

The Minister also termed it as the “Agyenkwa (Saviour) Budget”, so evidently the massive potential of the youth has to be harnessed to achieve that objective.

As explained by ‘Citi Newsroom’:
The government is launching another initiative to help young people start and grow small businesses.

The initiative, dubbed, ‘YouStart’ is looking to create 1 million jobs with a seed capital of GHS1 billion (taking) effect from March 2022.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta said the YouStart initiative would be a vehicle for supporting young entrepreneurs to gain access to capital, training, technical skills, and mentoring to enable them to launch and operate their own businesses.

“The YouStart initiative which proposes to use GH¢1 billion each year to catalyze an ecosystem to create 1 million jobs and in partnership with the Finance Institutions and Development Partners, raise another 2 billion cedis,” he said.

“Mr. Speaker, YouStart will provide our youth with the following:

i. Training: Skills Development, Entrepreneurial Support, and Business Advisory services;

“ii. Funding: Access to Competitive Credit and Starter Packs;

“iii. Enterprise Promotion: Mentoring and Access to Markets, including Portals to facilitate “digital linkages” between youth-led enterprises and other businesses and relevant Government agencies.”

The launch of this job-creation offensive, YouStart, has all the makings of a pragmatic scheme because it includes not only loan possibilities, but, critically, training and mentorship as well as support to buy equipment.

No doubt more details will emerge later, but my initial impression is that it’s a great idea, showing evidence of careful thought and planning.

To me the YouStart is a refreshing change from the thinking that the solution to the youth unemployment problem, is for school-leavers to start their own businesses straight from the classroom.

Rising youth unemployment is not a new problem in Ghana, as is well known.

Indeed, youth unemployment is described as a time bomb in many countries.

As this column has noted before, the veritable explosion of tertiary and other institutions in Ghana has resulted in many more candidates for an increasingly contracted job market.

There is plenty of evidence all around us that the unemployment trauma is the big issue for families:

The numbers of people risking their lives in ‘galamsey’ or illegal mining, despite the regular fatalities; the growing number of young people from rural areas trying to earn a living on the streets of Accra by hawking; the scores of youths idling about in neighbourhoods; and the regular, frantic pleas from parents and guardians to anybody who looks like they could help to find a job for their wards.

These all underscore the jobs-shortage crisis.

Clearly the government is having to shoulder most of the employment burden because the private sector has lost its capacity to assist meaningfully, although the situation is improving under the administration of President Nana Akufo-Addo.

Evidently it is only when Ghana’s private sector is flourishing, producing and hiring to complement the government’s efforts, that the unemployment will cease to be a national headache.

Thus, while the YouStart and other Budget 2022 employment initiatives are extremely commendable and exciting, it seems to me that the Government should also target helping to resurrect many more existing businesses to prosper and expand.

I have stated it before in this space, that of course it is possible for a fresh school leaver to start a business and succeed – after all Ghana, too, has its share of whizz-kids and geniuses.

But what are the chances of the average school leaver starting an enterprise straight from school and succeeding?

Even where the start-up capital is available, what about that very important ingredient for business success: EXPERIENCE?

Although the world, and Ghana, is in a new era, where the awesome technological advances facilitate all sorts of business endeavours, I believe that people need to acquire some proficiency in the workplace before they think of establishing their own enterprises.

Also, despite the visionary and pragmatic Budget 2022, employment strategies, I think it should not be forgotten that not everyone is a born entrepreneur.

My guess is that out of those graduating every year, very few of them will be able to make effective use of the creative opportunities being proposed for youth employment in the 2022 Budget.

Some of them may have the right genes to unearth their business acumen, but there are certain aspects of operating a business, or getting a business plan to take off, which requires a deep intellect, skill and foresight.

Even if they have business talent, with only a few months training how many of them will have the necessary expertise to manage the financial side of a business successfully?

So while I applaud the innovative YouStart and similar job creation schemes, I believe that even more support should now go to ensuring that the existing private sector, too, is healthy.

When private businesses are thriving, they are certain to expand and assist the Government to solve the unemployment crisis.

Both have a role.

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