Ghana’s Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta has this week advised the 2021 graduating class of UPSA to venture into entrepreneurship. According to him, the government payroll is full. The finance minister further explained that adding more numbers to the already populous public sector payroll will be unsustainable. This has generated a lot of “talkability” and I have a viewpoint.
I do not honestly see anything wrong with what the finance minister, Ken Ofori Atta said but I have some issues to highlight.
All the nations that developed, and have won the war over poverty, did so on the back of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship has been the engine for job creation and inclusive growth in Europe and Asia. Entrepreneurship has been a driver of economic growth throughout the world and Africa should be no different. There is already a highly entrepreneurial culture in place. With the right policies and conditions, the private sector can act as an engine for inclusive prosperity across the continent.
For example, Microsoft got a profit of $44 billion in 2020. Ghana since 2011 generated $6 billion after a decade of oil exploration, with all the associated ecological challenges. So I agree with the minister, entrepreneurship is the way. It is what underpins the growth of advanced nations.
However, it looks very easy and simplistic to tell teeming youth who are unemployed to become entrepreneurs. It takes a conscious effort and deliberate fine-tuning of policy and programs to help boost the industrialization drive of any country.
The 2017 African Economic Outlook report listed issues that have been known to suffocate small businesses in some side of the equator, Africa. These are limited access to finance, unstable and costly access to electricity, political instability, high tax rates, corruption, and customs and trade regulations. Governments have a critical role in creating supportive environments for entrepreneurs to grow in key economic sectors. Businesses cannot spring up or thrive when these enablers are missing.
Again, we vote for government and leaders to solve issues and not lament and as such, the regime of the day must stop the lofty promises and throwing about of unsubstantiated figures in the name of employment figures.
I do not doubt that when our universities develop entrepreneurial curriculum, have business incubation centers for entrepreneurs. The African Economic Outlook, 2017 stated that entrepreneurs driven by opportunity are more productive and innovative. Unfortunately, 7 percent of Africa's working-age population are survival entrepreneurs who would contribute more to growth if they were in the formal labor market. This means we have to continuously have a mechanism to train, teach and refresh entrepreneurs. We have the Ministries of Science and Innovation, Youth, NEIP is also there and others. It’s a continuous deliberate effort tailored to make the dream live on.
It is equally incumbent on the government to subsidize regulatory fees, digitize the business registration process and chain, reduce the human interchange and by extension corruption, waive taxes as we eagerly do for foreign businesses, the Ghana business will thrive, flourish, expand and employ more.
Slewing through parliament hansards of the 7th parliament. Ghana waived $901 million in tax waivers between January 2018 and February 2020. Most of the gargantuan sums were waived for foreign business. Enabling them to set up. Many of them end up fleecing and looting us with the aid of state officials. If local businesses are getting even 10% of these monies, many will be expanded and take on more people.
When these enablers must set in, entrepreneurship will be the heart of efforts to transform Africa’s economic prospects catalyzing a new era of economic prosperity. Entrepreneurship has been a driver of economic growth throughout the world and Africa should be no different. There is already a highly entrepreneurial culture in place. With the right policies and conditions, the private sector can act as an engine for inclusive prosperity across the continent.