One hundred and seven young people were ushered into the world of entrepreneurship yesterday when they received monetary support totalling about GH¢2.7 million under the Youth Enterprises Support (YES) initiative.
Some of them will be starting their own businessess, while others will expand theirs to employ other youth.
President John Dramani Mahama, who presented the amounts averaging GH¢25,700 per beneficiary at a ceremony at the Flagstaff House, said the beneficiaries would also receive technical support to grow their businesses.
They are the first batch of young entrepreneurs benefitting from the initiative, which was launched a year ago.
President Mahama said 63.55 per cent of the beneficiaries were into agriculture and agribusiness, while services and cottage industry covered the remaining 36.55 per cent.
"This conveys a message of hope for the agricultural sector which will, for the foreseeable future, remain the dominant sector of our economy even as we encourage other sectors to grow," he said, adding that it also belied the perception that today's youth had little or no interest in agriculture.
Applications received by the YES Secretariat numbered over 2,000, out of which 365 applicants presented and defended their business proposals, with the successful ones receiving the monetary support.
President Mahama said a second batch of 350 applicants would present and defend their proposals very soon.
The YES initiative, which was born out of a collaboration between the government and the youth, is aimed at growing young entrepreneurs to help address the country’s unemployment problem.
"It was instituted out of an awareness to go the extra mile to address one of the most pressing problems of world youth today — unemployment," the President said.
The initiative was launched with an initial capital of GH¢10 million.
President Mahama said one of the best ways to address unemployment was to fix the mindsets of young graduates that creating their own businesses was the way to go.
The facility is an interest-free loan which is to be paid back under flexible but stringent terms.
The President said monitoring and mentoring would be undertaken to ensure that repayments were done under the agreed terms.
That, he explained, would ensure that the facility lived up to its objective as a revolving fund.
"In this batch of young entrepreneurs we have sown seeds that will sprout into the next generation of major Ghanaian businesses," President Mahama said, adding that he was encouraged by the way Ghanaian youth had embraced the YES initiative.
Education is no barrier
The President said formal education was no barrier to accessing the facility and cited the example of one of the beneficiaries who did not allow his deficiency in the English language to prevent him from pursuing his dream of getting support to boost his business.
He said the young man, named only as Eric, a shoemaker, had, during the interview, made it clear that he could only speak in his native Twi language and when he was allowed to do so he excelled.
That, the President said, proved that YES was an initiative opened to all Ghanaian youth, irrespective of their social or educational background.
On the wider scale, he said the government had instituted direct and indirect support for businesses to push them to deliver even better.
Among others, he said, more than GH¢120 million had been extended to rice, poultry, shea butter, cashew and other areas in the agro-processing sub-sector, while local pharmaceutical firms had also received over GH¢51 million to expand their operations to enable them to create more jobs.