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22.10.2008 Business & Finance

Golden Age of Business - Volta Region In Perspective

By gna

The Government's announcement of a "Golden Age Of Business" was welcomed with much anticipation and expectation by many players in the private sector.

It sounded like a dream come true for entrepreneurs, who had been in the wilderness of business for a number of years.

Few years after the pronouncement, the Government demonstrated its commitment to the sector by waiving taxes on some imported items.

That initiative saw the rise and expansion of many privately owned businesses including small and medium scale industries in the cities and other urban areas.

The slogan "Golden Age Of Business" quickly captured the spirit and personality of some polytechnic graduates, who ventured into establishing their own businesses instead of chasing non-existing white colour jobs.

However, indications are that a barrage of problems and challenges are fast strangulating the Government's brainchild to death.

In the Volta Region for example, the "Golden Age Of Business" has seen a boom in buying and selling but many entrepreneurs continue to struggle to resuscitate collapsing handicrafts and other indigenous businesses.

Many of such enterprises had either retrogressed or remained in small 'hideouts' where they started many years ago.

The plight of those venturing into the risky minefield of real productive activities in the small and medium scale sector has been worsened by what some of them described as "political labelling and name calling", by some local government officials and politicians.

These "local champions" are said to be the controllers of the local political economy and pull strings to please their whims and caprices depending on how they perceived any entrepreneur behind their political blinkers, so the entrepreneurs alleged.

As a result, many well established enterprises, which had gainfully employed youths in the localities collapsed.

"The business is now the survival of the fittest", a local Kente Weaver observed.

It was also realized that district assemblies were doing little to promote the private sector in their areas as engine of growth. Instead, they "milk" those that are doing quite well till they become weak and drop dead. - The assemblies allegedly engage the services of these enterprises on credit transactions spanning months resulting in mountains of indebtedness to these entrepreneurs only to be abandoned for others.

Frustrations in securing loans are yet another setback for small and medium scale industries in the Region.

Despite the efforts of officials of the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) to help local entrepreneurs to access credit, the situation is not getting any better.

Mrs Doris Asiama-Agbeko, Batik/tie and Dye Operator, said her bitter experience of using her meagre resources to chase small loans does not encourage her to go for any loan.

Many have also complained about the difficulty in accessing the Government's latest small loan facility administered by the Micro Finance And Small Loans Centre (MASLOC).

Some grumbled about cumbersome procedures in accessing the loan, which they said discouraged them from going for the facility.

Clearly, the business environment had not been enabling enough to propel the Region and the country as a whole to a middle-income status.

Until recently this category of the business class lacked the voice and thus has had to endure its pains and frustrations quietly, so when the Ghana Journalists Association, the KAB Governance Consult and the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) threw in the life line, its members have minced no words in pouring out their pent up frustrations daring officialdom to defend itself.

Mr Kwasi Afriyie Badu, Chief Executive Officer of KAB Governance Consult, said research had revealed that small and medium scale industries constituted about 80 per cent of the manufacturing sector and wondered why local executives were not taking advantage of the sector to develop their areas.

He said such industries did well in the local economy and expressed regret that stakeholders were not prioritizing the sector in the districts.

Meanwhile, Mr Pius Adanuti, Kpandu District Chief Executive, blamed the situation on the inability of entrepreneurs to form viable groups for easy identification and support.

He said though much potential abounded for SMEs in the districts, entrepreneurs were unable to take advantage of the opportunities due to individualism.

The DCE, however, promised to give new lifelines to entrepreneurs in the District with a mega first ever district exhibition and urged the people in the sector to take advantage of the initiative and the establishment of a District Rural Bank to expand their businesses.

The business environment in Ho, the regional capital, is no better. The town remains largely an administrative town with the few "buy and sell" businesses withering.

The performance of common indigenous businesses including kente weaving, batik/tie and dye, carpentry, carving and sewing could best be described as poor.

Kente weaving, which seemed lucrative is no longer yielding much according Mr Paul Gbortsyo of Pagbo Kente Village, who had trained more than 40 young people since a decade ago and currently have 15 young men in his employment.

The entrepreneur said marketing the kente was becoming a big challenge in view of the influx of inferior kente designs into the market.

The other handicrafts are said to be seasonal thus sells at particular seasons or remain forever on the shelves.

These problems perhaps are the reasons for which many young people fear to venture into entrepreneurship resulting in high unemployment and increasing rate of poverty among the populace.

The private sector remains the engine of growth for economies all over the world and needs to be given the necessary attention and support to enhance the socio-economic development of communities.

Stakeholders, especially government officials must prioritize the sector and help it to grow to alleviate unemployment and poverty in the districts and the country as a whole.