RCA Flag
RCA Flag
Connecting Africa’s Skilled Professionals
RCA Flag

ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.

Library of Articles


“Regenerating Africa, one job at a time”


ImageIt’s not often that you get the chance to visit your home country and experience it objectively, warts and all, but that’s exactly what happened when journalist Sylvia Arthur visited Ghana recently as a volunteer Business Advisor to share her skills and to reconnect with home.

“As part of a team of sixteen Resource Persons on the AFFORD Enterprise Mission we were confronted head-on with the pitfalls, frustrations and challenges of doing business in Africa.  The Mission, which was sponsored by VSO and in partnership with Barclays Bank, offered a unique opportunity to engage in Ghana’s economic development.

Expectations meet Reality

On our first full day of training in Accra our pre-departure visions of rooms full of eager businessmen and women desperate for advice were instantly shattered. Instead we were greeted by twenty-eight hostile individuals who made it clear that there was no point in teaching them business skills if they weren’t able to access finance at the end of it. It transpired that Barclays Business Club members are automatically eligible for a c50m (£3000) loan after one year of membership but the glass ceiling for accessing funds above this amount is virtually impenetrable. After an hour and a half of heated debate it became clear that it wasn’t us who were the focus of these entrepreneurs anger but they were frustrated by a banking system that gives them carrots with one hand and keeps them begging for more with the other. 

“These were well-established enterprises with employees in double figures and annual incomes in excess of many of our salaries.”

The banking structure in Ghana for the average SME isn’t an enabling institution. For those with a good business but without the required three years audited accounts, there’s scant hope of getting finance to make the leap from SME to corporate. But the enterprise spirit is high and people are passionate about business. This is because there simply aren’t enough jobs to go round. The African Foundation for Development (AFFORD) says eight million jobs a year are needed to lift Africa out of poverty. Therefore, for a young Ghanaian looking for work the options are limited to self-employment or utter deprivation and that’s no choice at all.  

Micro-Finance in Ghana

ImagePerhaps the most surprising aspect of our trip was that the SMEs we advised were neither small in size nor small in turnover. These were well-established enterprises with employees in double figures and annual incomes in excess of many of our salaries. And therein lays the problem.

While micro-finance and business support initiatives have helped a small proportion of Ghana’s not so poor, the very poor, women and youth are still not being reached. The government, for its part, is engaging in joined up thinking. The Micro-Finance and Small Loans Centre was set up to map and co-ordinate the country’s small loans sector and a $50m fund for MSMEs will kick in soon. But there’s still much to do.

Lessons Learned

ImageOur legacy in Ghana was the formation of two new associations to advocate for the interests of SMEs – one in Accra and the other in Kumasi. Ghana is an individualistic society but the SME owners realise the benefits of working in union to further their collective cause, which is ultimately increasing access to finance.

While we vowed to stay in touch with our respective businesses there was a feeling of powerlessness because, deep down, we knew that the SMEs were right. While we can teach them all there is to know about bookkeeping, cash flow forecasts and marketing; without the funds to expand, their fledgling enterprises will stagnate, if not collapse, taking with them their livelihoods and those of their many employees. Job creation is crucial to Ghana’s development, especially if it’s to achieve its Millennium Development Goals.

Creating one Job at a Time

For most children of Africa living in the Diaspora, the idea of returning home is a romantic dream, something that forever lingers at the back of our minds but rarely materialises. When it does become a reality, it is, like many romantic liaisons, often not as good as was imagined. On a personal level, the Mission allowed us to see that living and working in Africa is vastly different from holidaying there once or twice a year. However, rather than put me off it only hardened my resolve to continue championing the cause of social and economic regeneration in Africa. It also reaffirmed my belief that the only way to pull our continent out of poverty is through a thriving private sector, sustainable enterprise development and us as individuals, creating one job at a time. “

Sylvia Arthur is a journalist and publisher of What’s On Ghana™ magazine – www.whatsonghana.com. For more information about the AFFORD SEEDA (Supporting Entrepreneurs and Enterprise Development in Africa) programme log onto www.afford-uk.org

The views expressed here are her own and should not be construed as representative of the views of the AFFORD SEEDA programme organisers

Welcome to the new, upgraded ReConnect Africa website.
Please help us provide you with information relevant to your needs by completing the fields below (just this once!)