Technoserve Business Solutions to Rural Poverty and Google Foundation, organizers of Ghana's National Business Plan Competition (GNBPC) yesterday announced 20 Small and Medium Scale Entrepreneurs as winners of their 2.250 billion cedis grant.
The GNBPC is an initiative to provide grants and business development support services for the development of the SMEs, through pioneering competition. The idea was to tap creative energies across the Ghanaian society to boost local originality, venture, job creation and poverty reduction.
The theme for the event was: "Believe! Begin! Become!" and 20 award winners out of 52 finalists short-listed were awarded Certificate of Appreciation at a ceremony where the 20 finalists were announced.
In line with the competition's national scope, the finalists represent 7, out of the 10 regions. 30 percent are females, whilst 85 percent are pursuing start-up companies with 45 percent living in the rural areas.
Mr Nicholas Railson-Brown, Country Director of Technoserve, told the Ghana News Agency in an interview that each finalist would receive about 90 million cedis business development services from local Ghanaian entrepreneurs. Ten finalists who would emerge in the "Who is Who" finale competition modalities would be awarded additional 135 million cedis.
Mr Railson-Brown said the targeted sectors included Agri-business, Waste Management, Agro-forestry, the Environment, Health, Education, Small-Scale Mineral Processing, Art and craft, Information Technology and Tourism.
He said the concept also identified entrepreneurs with good business ideas and to provide skills, knowledge and resources necessary to build those ideas into businesses that can achieve sustainable growth.
A team of jurors, mainly consultants assessed completed business plans submitted by the participants after a seven-week training, which included course work, industrial conferences and professional one-on-one consultants and chose 20 winners, who will be presented with the awards.
"If this first event goes well, given the enthusiasm we are getting from potential sponsors, we would want to see it become an annual affair for rewarding good business ideas and SME excellence in Ghana in a competitive and transparent manner," Mr Railston-Brown said.
Mr Tony Oteng Gyasi, Managing Director of Tropical Cable and Conductor Limited, said in Ghana, the best entrepreneurial dreams often go unrealised. "Without practical know-how and access to a network of experienced professionals many individuals are unable to nurture even a strong business concept to fruition."
He said the "Believe! Begin! Become!" concept connects the Ghanaian entrepreneur spirit with both information and experience and in doing so stimulates economic development for individuals, communities and for Ghana as a nation.
Mr Marco Marinucci, Strategic Partner Development Group of Google, said the project would help address the critical need of SMEs in Ghana, especially financing, skills development and business networking.
"With this programme, we seek to support SMEs as they transform business ideas into successful ventures. The vision and energy of SMEs in the country is evident, what is needed now is the support system that would help translate the dreams into a reality and overcome the inherent challenges in starting, growing and managing a business," he said.
Mr Marinucci said five of the remaining 32 SMEs who failed to make it to the last 20 would be paired with a Google employee, who would serve as a virtual mentor to assist them to refine their business plans.
The seed capital was mobilised through the support of local business entities and individuals in addition to Google.