The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Seth Twum-Akwaboah, has urged the youth to tap into opportunities offered by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and venture into businesses.
He said AfCFTA offered businesses in the country the opportunity to access markets throughout Africa and that the youth must not let that pass them by.
Mr Twum-Akwaboah gave the advice yesterday during a panel session of a youth school as part of activities for the 74th Annual New Year School and Conference (ANYSC).
The event was organised by the School of Continuing and Distance Education, College of Education of the University of Ghana, in collaboration with the National AfCFTA Coordination Office.
It was on the theme: "Positioning the African market for sustainable economic development through African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)”.
The youth school, which brought together students from senior high and tertiary schools participating both in person and online, was on the sub theme: "Preparing the Ghanaian youth to access an integrated African market".
Age not a matter
Mr Twum-Akwaboah told the participants not to consider themselves as too young to start a business as AfCFTA was not for only big business.
" You can start a business and export your product no matter your age. Patrons of goods will not consider if the product is made by a young person before they buy. There are opportunities that you can take advantage of as youth," he said.
The AGI chief executive urged them to be passionate about what they wanted to do and put their best into it.
He said they could undertake apprenticeship to understudy other business owners in their chosen fields, especially by attaching themselves to small enterprises instead of the big businesses where they might not have the opportunity to learn because of their huge nature.
Where we can learn
"Do not always look at the big business. Do not discount the value you get from the small businesses," he said.
Mr Twum-Akwaboa urged them to ensure that their products complied with high standards as compromising on standards would undermine the goal of the AfCFTA.
"You cannot compromise standards as if you want to go into a market in a country; they will tell you what the standards are and you cannot do otherwise. If you want to go into business go into it the right way by knowing what the standards and requirements are and make sure you meet it and you can meet it," he said
Also, the AGI CEO encouraged operators of small-scale businesses to join business associations which would offer them the opportunity to network.
"A lot of businesses have succeeded because they belong to a wider network. You do not walk alone as a business. If you do so you don't create opportunities for yourself, you work in a corner and your business will die. Be part of an association such as the AGI and enjoy the benefits," Mr Twum-Akwaboah said.
A senior research development officer at the Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Services, University of Ghana, Diana A. Owusu Antwi, advised the youth to be innovative and take advantage of intellectual property tools to protect the products that they developed as entrepreneurs.
She urged them to avoid public disclosure of the invention as they might lose the right to protect it.
She said they could enter joint ventures with persons who had the financial muscle to help them with their inventions after securing intellectual protection right for it.
"Use a non-disclosure agreement prior to sharing sensitive information about your intellectual property with potential investors or partners," she said.
The Agric Investment Lead of the Ghana CARES initiative at the Ministry of Finance, Stephen Odarteyfio, said the YouStart initiative was set up by the government to empower young people between 18 and 40 years with technical and financial support to create jobs for the youth.
He urged the youth to be daring and take advantage of such initiatives.
The President of the Graduate Student Association (GRASAG), Christina Adu, urged the students to put their leisure time to good use by acquiring knowledge and skills that would help them to venture into business.
Some of the students who shared their views at the end of the youth school described the event as insightful.
A Form Two student of the Presbyterian Boys Senior High School, Legon, Bright Tetteh, said he had been encouraged to start a business after school to create jobs and reduce the unemployment rate.
Another Form Two student of Accra High Senior High School, Rosina Amoako, said she had learnt a lot about AfCFTA and she had also been encouraged to acquire the needed knowledge before starting a business to avoid making mistakes.
A final-year student of Accra Girls Senior High School, Theodora Fantevi, said she would endeavour to secure her inventions "so that l can reap the needed benefits".