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Opinions of Saturday, 30 June 2018

Columnist: Esther A. Armah

The Presidential Pitch: What a wow!

Esther A. Armah is the author of this article Esther A. Armah is the author of this article

Vanessa Aisha Limann is her name.

She is a 19-year-old senior high school graduate. And she wowed the President and a packed room full of diplomats, dignitaries, entrepreneurs and business people with her presidential pitch for a breakfast product she called, Nestlac. Vanessa would go on to win the debut Presidential Pitch – an initiative by the Ministry of Business Development – to encourage 18-35 year olds to engage their entrepreneurial spirit and undertake to kick-start a business. She beat her 10 contestant colleagues. Her winnings were GhC50,000. And the President would then make an additional personal donation of GHC25,000 which, he told us, amounted to his monthly salary.

There were cheers for the winner. Her confidence, clarity, specificity and entrepreneurial spirit were a welcome breath of fresh air.

There were 10 contestants. Their entrepreneurial ideas came from the worlds of agriculture, technology, construction, agribusiness, health, energy and agro processing. Given the strength of ideas – even where the presentation required some work – it is worth naming each of the contestants. They were Nana Newman, Aicon Andah, Joelle Eyeson, Kwasi Adai Munumkum Otchere, Emi-Beth Quatson, Abdulsalam Mohamed, Ahmed Tijani, Zeenatu Suglo Adams, Richmond Zissu Nutsuglo and the winner Vanessa Limann.

Two powerful stands out ideas were on housing and health. One involved building ecofriendly, affordable housing – a crucial intervention in our city Accra that is teeming with unaffordability and requires urgent resolution to a housing crisis that spills into sanitation, sewage and drainage challenges. The other was the ambulance service for rural communities designed particularly to serve pregnant women and address maternal mortality issues.

It was a packed morning of activity that reminded the most cynical or pessimistic among us that in the hands and minds of Ghanaians are the kinds of ideas that resolve problems and offer the practical leadership that helps transform an economy.

There were also valid questions about offering such initiatives the benefit of communications training to assist those pitching – all of whom were nervous and some of whom appeared unprepared and ill-equipped to face the three judges; Ebenezer Ato Simpson, Dzigbordi K Dosoo and Dr. Daniel McKorley.

This was a powerful morning and moment. It is one that offers us an opportunity to explore entrepreneurship, youth, power and possibilities.

The Presidential Pitch was a success of sorts for this Ministry. The Ministry of Business Development is a new ministry. Its mandate is to elevate entrepreneurs as a vital tool to building a thriving private sector in a bid to offer practical solutions to the myriad problems faced by Ghana’s economy.

It is an admirable intention.

It comes with a range of challenges. And it requires continued scrutiny.

We must cast our minds back to the Ministry’s announcement of a GhC10m fund for women entrepreneurs at the February 20th Women Entrepreneurship Conference whose theme was ‘Unleashing Women Entrepreneurship for Inclusive Growth’. At the actual conference, the Minister had no details about how women would access this fund. He said the details would be released shortly. It is now the end of June. At the Presidential Pitch I asked about this GhC10m fund. The question was dodged and avoided – but essentially went unanswered.

It is such failures that raise concerns about the direction of a Ministry and the work they claim they are doing. Such failures prompt necessary questions and challenges to that Ministry.

On June 4th and 5th, Ghana Womens’ Entrepreneurship Summit was held. It brought together leaders from the public and private sector, development partners and NGOs, civil society and the media.

It cannot be said enough that Ghana cannot entrepreneur her way out of poverty and into progress. Entrepreneurship is a valuable part of building economies; it cannot substitute for strong, functioning indeed thriving institutions.

Entrepreneurs – and especially women entrepreneurs – are described as the economic backbone of Ghana’s economy. Their initiatives provide employment. They are also part of what is called ‘the informal sector’ – a problematic term that in essence denies them access to the tools that would solidify and grow their businesses; even as those same businesses put food on our table and ensure others can put food on theirs.

The Presidential Pitch winner, Vanessa Limman, is a young woman entrepreneur. She will become a job creator as she builds her business. Research reveals the impediment for women entrepreneurs is access to finance. It is this weakness of institutional assistance to assist the building and sustainability of women entrepreneurs that contributes to business failure.

The World Bank reveals that worldwide only 47% of women have access to financial institutions. These numbers are not new. The ongoing challenges of access to finance dooms budding entrepreneurs to struggling business people and in too many cases ultimately failure. That must change.

Entrepreneurs matter. Strong, thriving institutions do too.

But this week, entrepreneurs got a boost and a nation was reminded that the best of us in Ghana lies in the youth.

Vanessa Aisha Limann: what a wow!

Banned: Ministers on the Move!

From entrepreneurial good news to the ministerial kind.

It’s a good news moment!

President Akufo-Addo has issued a temporary ban on foreign travel for all Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MMDCEs and Heads of Government Agencies – except the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

This welcome news is a call to prioritize domestic work, but also a reminder that protection of the public purse means casting a wide net over the activities engaged in by Ministries.

Reading the circular, it prompted me to return to the May resignation of the Deputy CEO of Ghana’s Tourism Development Company (GTDC). Oheneba Akua Manfo – known as Akua Blafoe. She made multiple complaints about her CEO boss, Kwadwo Antwi. She claimed he was failing to hold management meetings, sidelining her personally, failing the office’s mandate and instead travelling extensively. While it is impossible to comment on the alleged CEO’s failures, the administration’s decision to temporarily ban all foreign travel by Ministries is a moment of good news following consistent accusations about the public purse being squandered.

Now to the small matter of implementation…….


Drunk on the Job: who polices the police?

A drunk police officer, in uniform, wielding an AK47, sitting in a tro tro hit the headlines. The disturbing video prompted discussion about the issue of drunken law enforcement carrying weapons and holding the power to detain citizens.

Listening to morning radio, I heard arguments that issued a call for understanding and a need to recognize the man beneath the uniform. Such arguments may be compassionate, but they have no place in such a moment. The notion that the officer may need help is valid – but that help cannot come at the expense of a public who deserve lucid, sober, authority holding and weapon wielding law enforcement to do what is an already difficult job.

A police officer carries power, authority and a deadly weapon. In the hands of a drunk, mayhem and murder could happen. Being drunk on this particular job should be a fireable offence. Anything other than that makes little sense. He needs to not be carrying a gun in this position that holds this power. An investigation should indeed occur.

Fire him first, help him afterwards.