Guest of Honour, Corporate Heads, Heads of Schools and Teachers, Cherished Students, Partners, Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
I’m happy and excited to welcome all of you to the 2nd Pitch Day of LeadAfrique’s Business Plan Competition for High Schools. Happy because what started as an idea and a brainstorming session is gradually taking shape and today will see the climax of Season 2. Excited because we passionately believe what we’re doing here in our schools is contributing towards preparing a new generation of Ghanaians who will come and cause transformational change.
According to the IMF sub-Saharan Africa will have more working-age people than the rest of the world combined by 2035. This prediction is often cited as a reason for business to be excited about Africa’s economic potential. In principle Africa’s fast-growing and young population – 60% are estimated to be under 25 – represents a massive opportunity for growth and investment.
Yet without a radical overhaul of education systems on the continent much of this working-age population will be unemployable. Across the continent outdated curricula are already out of synch with the needs of industry. Already high unemployment and a yawning skills gap – only 6% of young people in the region make it to tertiary education – look set to be compounded by the ever-shifting landscape of contemporary work. It is estimated that about 120,000 young people graduate from Ghana’s educational institutions around June-July every year. The formal sector can however only employ between 16,000 – 18,000. In 2014, a British Council study estimated Nigeria’s graduate unemployment at 23.1%. In Kenya, it takes an average of five years for a graduate to find a job. The story is the same for Ghanaian graduates.
What we have inadvertently produced is a large army of disappointed, disillusioned and directionless youth. I believe we all know the economic, social and security implications of such a situation.
Yet business leaders frequently say there are jobs – just a lack of skilled talent to do them. How can this be? A fundamental explanation has to do with how students are educated, irrespective of what they study or the resource constraints they face. How students learn matters to employers because it shapes how they think and what they do at work.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as all the corporate chiefs here will attest to, a growing number of employers are no longer looking for graduates with the most impressive degree certificates. In fact, trailblazers like Ernst & Young have removed degree classifications from their entry requirements because they do not believe that academic success is always a sign of professional success.
Many education reforms have taken place in Ghana but none of them have yielded the required mix of capabilities, thinking and skills needed to propel Ghana to the commanding heights of the 21st Century knowledge economy.
Universities and the other actors in the educational system need to rethink their approach to learning if they are to produce people with the critical thinking, leadership, collaboration and problem-solving skills needed for modern life. Learning in many African universities and schools still happens in large lecture halls and rewards the ability to remember and repeat information. This can no longer prepare our students for the world of work.
This is where initiatives such as the CR8TIFF Business Plan Competition come in. By participating in such co-curricular initiatives and programmes, students learn to problem-solve, think critically and create solutions. This will prevent Ghana’s young people from writing 27 application letters after schools.
Invited guests, ladies and gentlemen,
In her classic book, “Youth, Waithood, and Protest Movements in Africa”, Mozambican author, Alcinda Honwana, argued that young Africans are living in waithood, a prolonged period of suspension between childhood and adulthood. According to Honwana, “the majority of African youths are today grappling with a lack of jobs and deficient education. After they leave school with few skills, they are unable to obtain work and become independent – to build, buy or rent a house for themselves, support their relatives, get married, establish families and gain social recognition as adults. These attributes of adulthood are becoming increasingly unattainable by the majority of young people in Africa”. She uses the notion waithood, a portmanteau term of “wait” and “-hood”, meaning ‘waiting for adulthood’, to refer to this period of suspension between childhood and adulthood. On the one hand, young people are no longer children in need of care, but on the other, they are still unable to become independent adults. While chronological age defines them as adults, socially they are not recognized as such.
This is the fate of many young adults in Ghana. It is common to see 28-year olds, sleeping on student mattresses in their parents’ chamber and hall at night.
In this 21st century knowledge, employers buy skills whilst our educational system places importance on marks and academic excellence.
Invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, what must Ghana as a country do to address some of the issues I’ve raised? To solve this national problem, here is what I think we must do;
- Start teaching attitude in class: Once a basic level of numeracy and literacy has been attained at the primary level, we should focus the entire secondary and tertiary experience on teaching subjects like Analysis, Critical Thinking, Discovery, Problem Solving, Goal Setting, Communication, and Self Confidence etc
- Expose students to real life situations: Let them actively participate in running schools. Students should initiate and solve problems in schools and at home.
- Like Singapore, we must focus on “Values in Action” in schools, and we must also focus on community leadership and community involvement during national service.
- Work to double Ghana’s efforts to engage our youths at this important stage of their lives. We at LeadAfrique have observed that there is very little for students to do after they finish their BECE and WASSCE exams. That is a very important period to waste in the life of our young people. We must find internships and mentoring programmes to engage them.
- Establish micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) incubators in every district capital. “One District One Business Incubator”. These will be well equipped business centers where any young person with a good business idea, model and plan can set up office for the first 3 years. They move out after 3 years to make way for others.
- Entrepreneurship and French must be taught in all Ghanaian schools from Class 4 to tertiary…compulsory. We can’t expect the youth to run businesses and solve social problems without equipping them properly.
- Every Ghanaian company and business organization must engage in compulsory internship for young people from JHS to tertiary every year. They must file an internship return at the end of the financial year with the Registrar General and the National Youth Authority.
- Establish a National Apprenticeship Week, just like in the UK, a week set aside nationally to put the spotlight on youth economic participation and job skills. This is what will make Ghana world-competitive and adequately prepare its youth for the corporate world.
- We must actively encourage Ghanaian students to take an interest in the start-up ecosystem, withinvestment clubs at Ghana’s universities. These clubs will accept members from all faculties and training the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Ghana must seek new sources of growth, and position itself to become West Africa’s start-up hub. By promoting outside-of-the-box thinking, Ghana could control the commanding heights of the 21st century information economy in Africa. LeadAfrique is ready to do its part through complementary education programmes like the CR8TIFF Business Plan Competition. What we need is support from corporate Ghana and then the Government.
Ladies and gentlemen, before I take my seat, let me offer our sincerest appreciation to all the corporate partners that have supported this initiative.
- Altimate Advertising
- The NINANI Group
- BF Energy Group
- Atlas Rent-A-Car
- Vision Art & Publicity
The above organisations believe in young people’s development and we pray for blessings over their businesses. We also say thank you to kind-hearted individuals like Mrs Denese Darkwa, Mr. Akwasi Marfo, Kobina Ebow Armah and Joel Nettey for their generous support. To the business coaches,
- Mercy Akaligah-Wemah
- Kofi Baiden-Ghartey
- Kofi Siabi
- John Armah
- Andrew Ayiku
- Robert Bennin
- Robert Yakohene
- Jay Jay Segbefia
- Korshie da Seglah
who freely and generously offer their time and expertise to groom and shape the business acumen of our next tycoons, we say God bless you.
To all the school heads and teachers who support us and allow us to test our concepts and initiatives, God bless.
To the LeadAfrique Team that works tirelessly to bring our crazy ideas to life, God bless you.
God bless each and every one of you for coming. Enjoy the Pitch and make a friend or two.
May God bless our homeland Ghana and continue to make her great and strong!
Co-Founder, LeadAfrique International