A couple of weeks ago we launched a new project in Ghana together with the Jacobs Foundation, where we will tackle inequalities in the education system. The collaboration consists of a tailored support program that develops the capacities of education-focused social entrepreneurs, in line with their specific needs and goals.
As we start this new project I came to reflect more generally over the power of entrepreneurship to tackle pressing issues and reduce inequalities in Ghana. I would like to share some insights here, and explain how we at Reach for Change currently work to tackle these challenges.
Two big challenges at hand: Youth unemployment and gender inequality
To start with, I want to dig a bit deeper into two of the biggest challenges we face right now in Ghana. Firstly, we are seeing an increasing trend of youth unemployment. Each year there are around 150-200 000 students churned out from university, but only about 10% to 15% of these actually get jobs in the formal sectors. As a result more than 25% end up becoming unemployed or underemployed, more than double the national average. We consider this issue to be even a matter of national security concern - if you have a market where a larger percentage of your youth are unemployed, then of course this breeds all sorts of social issues, from crime to instability.
Secondly, we still struggle a lot with gender inequality and especially looking at it from an economic perspective. Women in Ghana are economically active, though economic activity among males (63.5%) is higher than that of their female (53.0%) counterparts, and furthermore almost 90% of these women are employed in the informal economy. In addition, there is a severe gender pay gap - in the public sector men earn more than women by about 43.8%. The financial condition of women is especially worse in rural areas. Even though we are an organization focusing on children and youth, we have seen a great need to increase women's economic empowerment. We know that once women’s lives are improved, then the children and the youth that they take care of will also be better off.
Unleashing the power of social entrepreneurs with hands on development programs
To tackle these two challenges we at Reach for Change keep doing what we do best. We run development programs to equip people with the right tools, knowledge, networks and seed funding to support them in establishing sustainable solutions that can have an extensive social impact. To tackle the issue of youth unemployment, we have lately focused on equipping young people with knowledge and skills needed for starting something on their own. To achieve this, we have designed training programs where we teach young people basic entrepreneurial skills - for instance building an entrepreneurial mindset, and learning how to launch and sustain a business. We also have some more advanced formats, such as our coaching program funded by GIZ, where we teach micro-businesses and enterprises more technical skills related to business modeling and financial management. The overall objective is to improve economic livelihoods and create jobs.
To tackle the issue of economic gender inequality, we focus on women for our basic entrepreneurship training and the coaching program for micro-businesses. Our target is that at least half of the job opportunities created through the program are for women. In addition, we developed a Women Leaders program together with the Swedish think tank Global Utmaning, where we targeted educated women in leadership positions. Our aim was to equip them with leadership skills which they can share with their female co-workers and help them scale their organizations. Find out more about the insights and learnings from this initiative in our Women Leaders Anthology.
We need to build bridges between social entrepreneurs and funders
The potential of local social entrepreneurs being catalysts for solving some of our most pressing issues is limitless and the startup ecosystem in Ghana is thriving. There’s a large pool of funding for entrepreneurship - both international funding (like GIZ, MasterCard Foundation) and local government investments. The government is planning on investing hundreds of millions into startups with the aim to create jobs.
However, our experience shows us that there is a low level of awareness about funding opportunities, especially among startups created by vulnerable groups. They also lack the necessary entrepreneurial skills and rarely speak the investor’s language, which makes their access to this funding very difficult. That’s why we need to keep working in partnerships across sectors. We need to make sure we build bridges, and maximize the opportunities which exist. Together.
Curious to find out more about our work and how to partner with us in Ghana? Drop an email to me at: [email protected].