Young people who dare to set up businesses and employ others in the process are charting the course for an entrepreneurial future for the country and, therefore, need to be encouraged and supported, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, has said.
He said what the nation needed was a thousand young people starting small businesses and employing 10 people each, instead of waiting for an individual to employ 10,000 people.
The minister said it was in line with that objective that the government had rolled out some interventions to provide opportunities for the youth to become entrepreneurial, in view of the high unemployment situation in the country.
“Listen to me, young people: your job opportunities will either come from you depending on others to give you jobs or from you awakening the entrepreneur in you by making use of the opportunities that are available in the public and the private sectors,” he said.
Mr Ofori-Atta was speaking as the guest mentor at a springboard roadshow virtual convocation held in Accra yesterday.
The event is an initiative of the Springboard Road Show Foundation and focuses on entrepreneurship, investment, career and talent development for young people between 18 and 35 years.
It was on the theme: “Repositioning: Navigating through COVID-19 and finding career and business opportunities”.
The programme started in Tamale on June 3, 2021 and moved to Sunyani last Monday.
Making a case for targeted interventions for the youth, the minister said: “I believe the robust implementation of interventions under the Ghana CARES programme will gradually create a conducive, compelling and ultimately resilient economic environment fit for enterprise and innovation.”
Giving context to the unemployment situation in the country, Mr Ofori-Atta said: “We have a situation where 71 per cent of the country’s population is under 35, compared to a global average of 57%.”
According to the World Bank, at least 109,000 students graduated from tertiary institutions in the country every year.
The bank has estimated Ghana’s unemployment rate among the youth as 12 per cent, representing 1.3 million people.
Alarmingly, about half of the youth population of 5.4 million are regarded as under-employed.
Mr Ofori-Atta explained that in the past 12 months, the government launched the Ghana CARES “Obaatanpa” programme to transition the country from a commodity-dependent to a self-reliant industrialised nation.
Within the past year, he said, it had initiated work on creating an integrated aluminium industry to finally free the country from having to import alumina to power the dormant national smelter, VALCO.
“Once the smelter is active, we can nurture an entire bauxite and aluminium ecosystem to create jobs and opportunities for all,” the minister said.
The Chief Executive Officer of MTN, Mr Selorm Adadevoh, encouraged the youth to be positive-minded and believe in their abilities to bring about change.
He said when people believed in themselves, there would not be limits to the successes they could achieve, using his own journey onto the top of the country's biggest telecommunications company as an example.
Mr Adadevoh said while challenges would come along the way, the youth needed to be bold and determined, while remaining focused on their ultimate objectives.
The Executive Director of the Springboard Road Show Foundation, Mrs Comfort Ocran, said after years of inspiring and mentoring many young people to go into entrepreneurship, the organisation decided to take a new initiative this year.
“We called the initiative the springboard youth dialogue which involves connecting you the young people to opportunities and policy interventions to help accelerate your progress, especially in the areas of business.
“In designing these interactions, we reached out to the Minister of Finance, himself a veteran springboard resource person from the very first five editions. Not only did he wholeheartedly embrace the ideas we shared; he also personally offered to travel all the way with us to listen to the concerns and challenges of young entrepreneurs and provide much-needed answers for young people across the country,” Mrs Ocran said.
She commended Mr Ofori-Atta for his support over the years and expressed the hope that the ideas shared would help inspire the youth into positive action.