Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama, on Wednesday described as historic the initiative of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to launch a media advocacy programme to promote the interests of small-scale businesses.
The programme is being collaborated by the GJA, the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC), an independent project being funded by the Danish International Development Agency; Department for International Development of the UK and the United States Agency for International Development and KAB Consult, a non-governmental organisation engaged in governance programmes.
BUSAC is providing 90 per cent of the 771 million-cedi project while the GJA provides 10 per cent.
Launching the 12-month programme, which spans Greater Accra, Ashanti, Central and Western regions, at the International Press Centre in Accra, the Vice President used his maiden visit to the Centre to task the media to be at the forefront of promoting specific initiatives and policies that advanced the well being of the average citizen.
He said the greatest challenge confronting the country as far as governance was concerned was poverty.
Vice President Mahama said: "The question of how to increase economic growth and decrease poverty will continue to confront the leadership of this country in the foreseeable future."
He said Government was prepared to tackle the problem of poverty from its roots by broadly defining in the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy document the strategies that would help Ghana to move faster to combat the problem.
He lauded the GJA programme as a proactive effort to articulate the concerns of the small-scale business sector by exposing journalists to the nature and concerns of the entrepreneurs.
Vice President Mahama said it would create advocacy platforms for the media and entrepreneurs to raise the concerns of the small-scale sector with policy makers.
"The small-scale sector is critically important to the growth of Ghana's economy. Yet on its own, the sector has been fairly weak in the articulation of its concerns and needs."
He stressed: "The weakness of advocacy in the sector has affected the timely and adequate responses from public officials to the needs of small-scale entrepreneurs."
The programme is being collaborated by the GJA, the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC) and KAB Consult, a non-governmental organisation.
BUSAC is an independent project being funded by the Danish International Development Agency, the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Vice President Mahama said the small-scale enterprises sector of the economy remained one of the feasible options for accelerated economic development.
Mr Ransford Tetteh, President of the GJA, said access to credit and inappropriate technology were some of the bane of small-scale entrepreneurs.
He said despite the advance technology available globally, most farmers could not go beyond peasant farming because they practised rain-fed agriculture and depended on obsolete tools for production.
Mr Tetteh said farmers were also prone to post-harvest losses, hence the need for the programme to improve the lot of small-scale entrepreneurs.
Mr Kofi Atua-Ntow, Fund Manager of BUSAC, said since the project started in March 2004, it had committed grants in excess of 34 billion cedis towards the implementation of private sector advocacy actions in all the 10 regions.
"These grants are supporting 136 successful applications out of the more than 470 applications received."
He said more than five million dollars still remained to be accessed till 2008.
Mr Kwasi Afriyie Badu, Chief Executive Officer of KAB Consult, said the programme would reverse the counter productivity of the small-scale sector due to the inability of entrepreneurs to tap the influence of the media to address their concerns adequately.