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YouStart kicks off April, pilots successful- Ofori-Atta

BY: Maclean Kwofi
Ken Ofori-Atta (2nd from right), Minister of Finance; Dr John Kumah (right), a Deputy Minister of Finance, and others inspecting products of one of the youth enterprises
Ken Ofori-Atta (2nd from right), Minister of Finance; Dr John Kumah (right), a Deputy Minister of Finance, and others inspecting products of one of the youth enterprises

The government is pursuing a policy direction to create an enterprise-driven economy to generate jobs for the teeming youth, the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, has stated.

For that reason, he said, it would continue to strengthen the links between education and job market stakeholders and provide access to finance, skills and markets for young entrepreneurs, so that the private sector would be well resourced.

The minister said in the face of Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) findings that 1.5 million people, out of the 11.5 million economically active population, were unemployed, the government had responded with YouStart, a comprehensive initiative to provide an effective solution to Ghana's youth unemployment challenge.

At a business pitch in Accra on Wednesday, March 2,2022, organised as the final part of the pilot phase of the YouStart programme, Mr Ofori-Atta said the initiative, which would start from next month, would create about one million jobs for the youth in the next three years.

The GSS estimates the unemployment rate among the population 15 years and older at 13.4 per cent.

Background

YouStart, the government’s flagship youth entrepreneurship support programme, will take off next month after the programme was successfully piloted in the northern and the southern sectors of the country.

The northern sector had its pilot in Kumasi, the Ashanti Regional capital, while in the southern sector it was piloted in Accra.

The initiative is expected to 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 pilot was to test the overall feasibility of the initiative and its potential impact.

The implementing agencies brought the beneficiaries of the pilot programme from across their regional zones.

The participants received training and funding support to enable them to scale up and expand their businesses.

Business pitch

The Ghana Enterprises Agency (GEA) and the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) will implement YouStart with up to GH¢10 billion government funding.

The pilot pitch event in Accra provided a platform for beneficiaries of the pilot, such as the IoT Network Hub, Packway Ghana Limited, SheaMe and many others drawn from all five zones of the country and from sectors such as agribusiness and technology, to pitch their business ideas and demonstrate how government support for their businesses will help create opportunities for the youth of the country.

 

Ken Ofori-Atta (5th from left), Dr John Kumah (6th from left), his deputy, with other dignitaries after the business pitch

Present at the event were the two Deputy ministers of Finance, Dr John Ampontuah Kumah and Abena Osei Asare, key government officials from the Ministry of Finance, as well as representatives from the GEA and the NEIP.

Rising unemployment

Mr Ofori-Atta said the country’s unemployment rate was inching up, occasioned in part by the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, he said, the government had put in place measures, including the YouStart programme, to address the concern.

Mr Ofori-Atta explained that the programme was expected to remove the primary impediment to the growth of enterprises in the country and improve access to credit by young Ghanaian entrepreneurs who were in need of support to start or expand their businesses.

“So, today, the government is acting with a plan that gives our people confidence to pursue their ambitions. Our strategy is a simple one — back hardworking people, create local businesses and support existing ones,” the finance minister stated.

Modalities

YouStart is meant to support start-ups with founders under 35 years, university and high school leavers with unique and innovative ideas and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) run by the youth.

Specifically, YouStart will support youth-led enterprises with soft loans of up to GH¢50,000 to help start-ups (in particular by young graduates and school leavers) and small businesses to expand.

Others will also get starter packs (soft loans tied to equipment acquisition) of up to GH¢50,000 for individuals and GH¢100,000 for associations and groups and a standardised loan package of between GH¢100,000 and GH¢400,000 at concessional rates for SMEs from the financial services sector.

Additionally, it will provide skills development, entrepreneurial support and business advisory services for young businesses, provide access to competitive credit and starter packs and create access to markets for businesses, including portals to facilitate “digital linkages” between youth-led enterprises and other businesses and relevant government agencies.

How to take part

A website will be announced at the launch of the programme next month to receive applications from potential beneficiaries.

Applicants can also walk into any of the offices of the GEA, the NEIP and any of the partner financial institutions to pick up forms to apply.