Mr. Isaac Amoako-Mensah, Chairman of CAGL Group of Companies, a successful Ghanaian entrepreneur said Ghana has many promising young entrepreneurs who have been able to surmount the hurdles in their businesses, and have been recognized and honoured by international organizations, but government must do more to create the enabling environment for them to flourish.
He said like Mo Ibrahim, Dangote, Paa Kwasi Ndoum, Kofi Amoabeng, Kwame Despite who have made great strides, Ghana needs to create its own Steve Jobs and Bill Gates by supporting its young entrepreneurs.
African governments he said must focus on entrepreneurship if they are to transform the African economy from raw material to industrial and service based economy to create opportunities and prosperity for all.
“If we are serious about solving the unemployment challenges we face in Africa, then, we must fully address the issues restraining entrepreneurs from reaching their full potentials.”
Speaking at this year’s GRASAG-KNUST Entrepreneurship Program on the theme ‘Transforming our continent through Entrepreneurship’, he indicated Africa cannot achieve its full potential unless it taps from its own people hence as future Entrepreneurs, business leaders and policy makers; their perspective on development will influence policies and investments to change lives, communities and the continent as a whole.
He said “Entrepreneurship means ownership and self-determination, as opposed to simply being dependent on somebody else for your livelihood and future. Entrepreneurs are people who see challenges as opportunities and take practical steps to turn these challenges into solutions and get profit or social recognition as their reward. They are the world’s pacesetters who transform society.”
Quoting the former US President Barack Obama, Mr. Amoako-Mensah said “One thing that entrepreneurs understand is that, you don’t have to look a certain way, or be of a certain colour, faith, or have a certain last name in order to have a good idea or become an entrepreneur.”
According to him entrepreneurship brings down barriers between communities and cultures and builds bridges that help them take on common challenges together.
Narrating his experiences, he said “I was once a student like you, full of ideas with very limited resources to pursue them. But the difference between some of us and others lies in the transformative power of entrepreneurship,” and added that entrepreneurs must turn Africa’s challenges into business opportunities and help make Africa the next super power of the world.
But he said, being an entrepreneur is tough, and that building a successful company from the ground up isn’t for the faint of heart; building and legitimizing a business from the ground up is no easy feat.
“It’s a risk — one that ends in failure for many young entrepreneurs. But the joy of accomplishment is unrivalled and unmeasurable. I started life as a mango seller “christened: sweet mangoes for affordable prices” became a gardener at GHPA, then moved on to one of the finest jobs on the planet “an executive Naval Officer” but then my entrepreneurial candle kept burning so even as a naval officer .. … I was an officer by day and taxi driver cum a supplier of cooking oil by night”
He said his conviction made it possible adding that, as young entrepreneurs, they need to realize that to dream is one thing but bringing that dream to reality a different ball game, whilst translating the dream or purpose into action is what brings success.
“Having focus, determination, resilience, persistence and a failure defiant attitude is what makes it work. Being an entrepreneur is challenging and even more so in Africa where issues like access to capital, government tax policies, human capital, regulatory frame work, government bureaucracy all work to favour non-African entrepreneurs to the detriment of African continent.”
According to Mr. Amoako-Mensah, there exist some barriers to the growth of young entrepreneurs since Africa does not have a developed venture capital market, and banks are also only interested in killer interest rates.
“As if that is not bad enough, the banks don’t do unsecured or non- collateralized lending no matter how great your business plan and prospect is… EVEN with a legitimate contract, the banks will ask you for a collateral so be prepared.”
He stressed that entrepreneurs are the key to Africa’s transformation agenda since they create new businesses, jobs, wealth hence they are Africa’s hope to prosperity.
“Entrepreneurship can offer a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that can all too often fill the void when young people don’t see a future for themselves. By 2050 more than half of the global population growth is expected in Africa. 1.3 out of the 2.4biIIion will be in Africa (United Nations Report).”
He averred that Africa’s large and growing population of young people will mean millions of new jobs need to be created each year, an explosion he said will spell an economic boom for the continent if rightly harnessed by entrepreneurs.
“Governments and big corporates alone cannot provide employment for the millions of young Africans entering the job market every year.” Adding that “Entrepreneurship is Africa’s only hope”
Mr. Amoako – Mensah commended the Akufo Addo led government for the establishment of the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation plan(NELP) to help get more entrepreneurs among the Ghanaian youth.