They are young, passionate, innovative, bold, and committed to making a difference in the various communities. Social entrepreneurs play a fundamental role in finding a lasting solution to some of Ghana’s most pressing issues. Right from the areas of health, education and agriculture, they are using technology to drive change and improved standards.
They are the new breed of people, who have giving themselves the mandate to use technology to address social problems. Gradually across the continent, the role of government in the socio-economic development is shifting to privatization.
This is giving impetus to the rise of social entrepreneurs. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM)’s report on social entrepreneurship, Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the highest social entrepreneurial activities, 9 percent, followed by South-East Asia at 3.8 percent.
The stark reality is that social entrepreneurs, while in their quest to solve social issues have some fundamental challenges. They include funding, access to resources, finding the right calibre of staff and developing a sustainable business model.
Notwithstanding these challenges, the social enterprises also need an enabling environment and the necessary support to grow, just like the private sector which has over the years been touted as critical for economic growth and job creation.
It is a fact that Ghana’s social and economic challenges are rooted in regional disparities between the north and south. And to tackle some of the challenges at the community level, social enterprises can support both public and private sectors in addressing social issues while at the same time creating jobs.
For instance, social entrepreneurs like Hayford Siaw who runs a street library service is helping to reduce illiteracy rates among children in rural Ghana. With a mobile library van, he has expanded his reach from three communities to thirteen and reached out to a total of 5,000 children in 2016.
Like most social entrepreneurs, however, Hayford needed help and was grateful for the partnership with telecom operator, Tigo. They came to his rescue with a boxer van retrofitted with tables, chairs and laptops. In total, he has reached out to over 20,000 children and he plans on rolling out to neighbouring countries like Liberia, Mozambique and Cameroon.
Abdul Razak Gausu, Abdul Alhassan and Damien. T. Punguyire are also social entrepreneurs based in Techiman in the Brong Ahafo region — they run an initiative called Child Care Information Centre (CCIC). They are helping to improve on infant health by providing parents and caregivers with health information via SMS and automated voice calls.
Out of the 26,000 social enterprises operating in Ghana, 98 are employing more than 900 young people annually with an economic gain of more than GHS 8 million, says British Council report titled “The State of Social Enterprise in Ghana”.
The report released in 2016 concluded that the social enterprises are most likely to have the dual aim of making a profit and having social impact, rather than just focusing on social impact alone.
“This is significant for policy-makers in particular, who have expressed concern about the social element of social enterprise dominating over financial sustainability,” said the report.
Though there is still much work to be done in Ghana and on the continent in the areas of education, health among others, the investment provided by Tigo and other organisations to support social entrepreneurs, so that they can scale their enterprises and create sustainable social impact for children and young people is laudable.
However, with lack of basic necessities like education and healthcare in many rural communities in Ghana, further investments in social entrepreneurship sector will help alleviate these issues by putting those less fortunate on a path towards a worthwhile life and drive the social progress faster.
“We need more investment in the sector. Social entrepreneurs in Ghana are making great impact in the country by tackling societal issues (affecting direct beneficiaries) and solving them,” opines Ato Ulzen-Appiah, a consultant, social media influencer and blogger in Ghana.
According to him, social enterprises in the country are providing jobs, helping people gain experience and directly improving the livelihood and capacity of millions of Ghanaians.
Ulzen-Appiah, who is also the Director at the GhanaThink Foundation which mobilizes and organizes talent for the primary benefit of Ghana added that policy support and its implementation is needed to help social entrepreneurs scale. “Further understanding of the space is needed for better training, best practices and regulation.”
He urged the private sector to invest in social enterprises’ as well as partnership with public sector agencies on programmes to develop communities.
Also, the investments in young Ghanaian social entrepreneurs will create a real, meaningful impact in the lives of the poor. It will also build an ecosystem of emerging leaders, no matter their circumstance to uplift the lives of people at the bottom of the pyramid.
There is no doubt that public and private organisations investment into the sector will create a sustainable value for all of its stakeholders; employers, investors, community, clients among others. It is time to pay more attention to social entrepreneurs – no shortage of ideas to address social problems in Ghana.