Interview : Reeta Roy

How can international institutions function to support Ghana’s future development?

REETA ROY: International institutions must understand that African leaders, entrepreneurs and young people have solutions to the challenges they face. This means we need to listen to those who have the greatest stake in the economic and social outcomes of the continent. Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works strategy, for instance, is one possible way of addressing youth unemployment in Africa, setting out an approach to develop national and regional programmes that improve the quality of education, connect entrepreneurs and small businesses to financial services, and link job seekers with employers. It is this type of social change, enabled by international organisations, that will result in that transformation. In the context of Ghana, the agricultural sector will be an important part of achieving economic growth. There is a push for creating jobs beyond the farm and we see a great deal of opportunity for entrepreneurs along the value chain in agri-processing and agri-business.

How are innovative financial services helping small businesses and agriculture to develop?

ROY: Financial inclusion is a catalyst for economic growth. Mobile money solutions and agent banking are able to provide savings and credit services in places where no bank has ever established a branch. Mobile money services are changing lives, particularly by helping women to move from subsistence farming to running small businesses. For example, only 25% of Africans had access to a savings account in 2012. By 2017, that number had increased to 43%. Effective funding and the modernisation of the agricultural sector will transform the economy of the continent as a whole. The majority of young people in sub-Saharan Africa still live in rural areas and their livelihoods are associated with agriculture. We know investments in agriculture reduce poverty more than twice as much as investments in other sectors. Currently less than 25% of Africa’s arable land is cultivated, so with increased productivity and investment, there is huge potential for growth.

What challenges are created by population growth in Africa and the increased number of young people entering the workforce?

ROY: This demographic shift is an opportunity to transform the continent and the world. By 2050, one in three people will be living in sub-Saharan Africa, and a large proportion of the world’s workforce will be African. The challenge is to close the gap between the number of young people entering the labour market and the number of jobs available, and to equip young people with the skills demanded by employers. However, there are new opportunities opening up for young people, particularly in the emerging ICT sector. More than 55,000 direct ICT jobs are expected to be created in Ghana by 2020, and by 2025 more than 450,000 jobs are expected to be created in non-ICT sectors because of their increasing reliance on digital technology.

What is the state of entrepreneurship in Ghana, and what is being done to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs?

ROY: Ghana is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, with an 8.5% increase in GDP in 2017. It is home to a dynamic and growing private sector, and a rich culture of entrepreneurship. Education that develops ethical leadership helps build community and enables entrepreneurial young people to thrive. However, hands-on, problem-solving experience is essential in helping young people practise critical thinking and teamwork, as well as to develop and test their ideas. Mentoring and networking also play a significant role in running a business successfully.