Entrepreneurship vs. Intrapreneurship; Africa's dilemma in dealing with unemployment. A case study of Ghana

Africa has been described by many as a continent on the rise. According to the African Union Agenda 2063, It is estimated that by 2050, Africa would have the largest youthful population with a huge workforce. Despite the huge prospects and the enormous resources the continent is endowed with, Africa continues to face numerous challenges. These challenges include poverty, unemployment, inadequate infrastructure and many more. According to the latest World Bank Africa poverty report, Poverty across the continent may be lower than what current estimates suggest, though the number of people living in extreme poverty has grown substantially since 1990. In line with fighting poverty and dealing with unemployment, a lot of calls and efforts has been put into encouraging young African's into creating their own businesses or being entrepreneurs. In this feature, as a case study I would attempt to explore if Ghanaian entrepreneurship is booming and why. I would also want to delve into the issue of graduate employability. Specifically, I would want to look at ways to make graduates employable in response to the loud outcry concerning graduate unemployability from our many industry employers.

Is Entrepreneurship in Africa booming and Why?

Once, I lived in a very rural community close to the Bui Dam located in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. During my 7-week stay- in this community, I noticed the community lacked many things.  They neither had electricity, a market, nor a lorry station. The community also lacked a Clinic too. I noticed huge piles of packed charcoal packed under a big baobab tree that I use to relax under. Usually, a mini-truck would come and load it away to the city where many households would source their fuel for cooking from. Aside the charcoal business, they also farmed cashew and would sell them after harvesting. They usually sell to some big corporations whose trucks came passing by the community many times. My experience in this community is not different from most rural communities in Ghana these days. Many indigenous businesses are adapting to the changing trends in doing business with the help of startups. In recent times, many young people are venturing into entrepreneurial ventures as compared to time past.

Photo Credit: Owula Kpakpo Photography / Enterprise Africa Summit

According to Ndubuisi Ekekwe, "the collapse of the commodity boom has pushed countries and their citizens to invent other ways to survive because benefits like unbridled imports are no longer sustainable. Now many things are coming together which will help transform some African economies by the sheer power of their entrepreneurs." The era of technology just like it happened during the industrial revolution is shaping how Africans think and do business.

However, in the midst of all this progress, a lot of concerns have been raised on the impact of all these startups in the development of economies and their contribution to eradicating poverty. Also, there's been a lot of buzz about social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship is the use of techniques by startup companies and other entrepreneurs to develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. This concept may be applied to a variety of organizations with different sizes, aims, and beliefs. Many young people today, are engaged in social enterprises. However, there is some misconception on what social entrepreneurship is. Many young people are engaged in charity work but most often classify that as social entrepreneurship. It's important we distinguish between not-for-profit work and non-governmental work (social enterprises). Bear in mind a non-governmental organization could be described as an organization that makes profits out of the services they provide.


Intrapreneurship in Africa booming and Why?

Lately, the term "intrapreneurship" is becoming popular in Africa. Though discussions around this isn't rife yet, many small and medium enterprises require that if you are joining their team you must be an intrapreneur and not just any graduate. This is because most of these firms are looking for employable graduates who can lead teams, are available, dependable and need little or no supervision. They are called ‘intrapreneurs’. They emerge from the confines of existing businesses. According to Gifford Pinchot (1985), “An Intrapreneur is an entrepreneur within an already established organization.” In large organizations, the top executives are encouraged to grab onto new ideas and then convert these into products through research and development activities within the framework of the organization. The concept of Intrapreneurship is gradually becoming popular in developing economies. However, there exists a gap in producing or feeding industry with "intrapreneurs". This gap could be attributed to the nature of curriculum in our tertiary or higher education institutions. Most of the entrepreneurship courses taught in these institutions are theoretical. Students hardly get the chance to practice what they are taught. Also, they are deprived the esteemed chance of having a guest lecturer from industry to share industry experience with them. In some cases, many students are left to their own fate of finding a place for industrial attachment or internship. Currently, many organizations such as SEO AfricaAfrica Internship Academy, among many others provide internship opportunities to students in Higher Education Institutions. These organizations recruit, train and deploy students. Hence, they are equipped with the relevant skills for the roles they would be playing. 


2017 SEO Africa Class  Photo Credit: SEO Africa

According to the latest World Employment Social Outlook (WESO) trends reports 2017 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Sub-Saharan Africa’s unemployment rate is forecast to stand at 7.2 per cent in 2017, unchanged from 2016. Though the report establishes that the unemployment rate remains stable, the number of unemployed is expected to increase from 28 million in 2016 to 29 million in 2017 due to the region’s strong labour force growth.


Way Forward:

It is critical that, as a continent, we define the Ghana we would want to see in the next 50 years. So, we can spend the next decade or less in preparation for a takeoff. In September 2015, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. If these Goals are achieved, it would mean an end to extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030. Our governments have a plan to save our planet. However, we are yet to see commitments towards realizing this goal. We as a people, country and continent ought to define for ourselves and the leaders what our blueprint is for achieving these goals. It’s our job to make sure our leaders stick to these goals and work towards it with our support. If we want to end poverty, let's push on manufacturing, build global businesses locally and scale up startups.

1.         Collaboration and Partnerships between Industry and Higher Education Institutions:

In order to invest in the youth in our bid to harness the demographic dividend of the continent, there is a need for educational institutions to collaborate with industry to exchange ideas and improve curricula that would make graduates employable. Through these partnerships and collaboration, funding and human capital can be sourced to undertake impact projects and nip the issue of unemployment in the bud. Also, business leaders can be invited as visiting scholars to share insights and lecture students regularly for them to have a grab on workplace or organizational culture, understand the demands of these firms and receive mentorship.

2.  Support Rural and Indigenous Businesses to Scale:

Today, no week passes by without the announcement of pitch event A or B or C on social media. Whilst there exist a wide range of opportunities for young graduates to grab and become useful, the fate of our indigenous and rural enterprises seems to be bleak. Most entrepreneurs in the city have access to a wide range of business development services unlike the "village entrepreneur". Who if given such an opportunity could employ a few more hands. Thereby, mitigating the rate of rural urban migration. It is very important for us to reconsider all these small businesses who don't have access to social media or technology to be able to scale their businesses. In any case, I have discovered that, many communities have very unique and rich indigenous knowledge in business which we must not undermine.

3.  A Positive Attitude:


Attitude is everything in life and essential to the progress of every society, group, continent or the world as a whole. Africa needs people who are willing to do right no matter what. Africa needs people who respect diversity but prioritize participation and inclusivity. From the employer to employee, there must be respect for labor laws. The government must honor its promises. Leaders must shun corrupt practices. As citizens, we must be our neighbor's keeper and protect assets of the state. Society and its institutions, thus, has a great responsibility to ensure that its grooms people with positive attitudes and progressive mindset to liberate Africa from the chains of underdevelopment. Africa would only rise if we combine our positive attitude with thinking globally and acting locally.


Author: Sampson Adotey Jnr

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