A lot has been said about social entrepreneurship around the globe. Whilst many are in the known, great percentage of the youth in Ghana are yet to be introduced to the concept of social enterprise. This percentage includes young men and women hustling on the streets, teenagers in school and the rural folks in our rural communities.
I was fortunate to be introduced to the concept of social enterprise for the first time in the university. I had joined the” Entrepreneurship Among Us” – ENACTUS CUCG Chapter, after a course mate and friend asked if I could join a team of students taking entrepreneurship to the next level.
ENACTUS operates around three core values thus People, Planet and Profit. Two months after I joined, we had a boot camp, which was a collaboration between ENACTUS CUCG and the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), which focused on the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) concept.
After the three days of training, we embarked on the task to help a farming community at the outskirts of the university. I must say it was an experience. One thing I realized was, our rural communities over the years have developed a sense of depending on aids from NGOs. It was difficult for them to see and accept the novelty of social enterprise.
What is Social Entrepreneurship or social enterprise?
You may be wondering what the fuss is all about anyway? The concept of Social Enterprise is likely to be mistaken for a Non- Governmental Organisation(NGO) or a Not for Profit Organisation due to its nature of focusing on impact.
The British Council (one of the stakeholders championing the course of social enterprise in Ghana) defines social enterprises as “businesses that exist to address social and environmental needs, [and] focus on reinvesting earnings into the business and/or the community”. A social enterprise is, therefore, a “hybrid business forms – using a modification of commercial operations, such as sharing financial profits with co-owners, staff or other social ventures, paying above-market prices to suppliers or wages to staff, cross-subsidising core businesses to achieve social aims or seeking long-term partial subsidy”.
Just like the three Ps(people, planet and profit) model, the focus of a social enterprise is to first solve a problem within the community(People). Success is measured via impact and ability to generate income to ensure the running of the business in the long-term. Social enterprises are usually guided by the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which is a framework that succeeded the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs) which ended in 2015. The SDGs aim to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” by 2030.
“Social Entrepreneurship in Ghana:
In a country where unemployment is believed to be approximately 6.78 % with a youth unemployment rate of 13.69% as at 2019; which likely to worsen in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Building businesses that tackle social problems looks like a step in the right direction, as such business models tend to be sustainable in a very long term. Since the idea of social entrepreneurship was sold to Ghanaians, a great number of the youth usually in the age bracket of 25-35years have ventured into it over the past few years.
It is believed that nearly 60% of those championing the course of social entrepreneurship are returnees who have studied or might have grown in a developed country such as the United Kingdom or the United States of America.
This is hard to dispute, as it is a fact that most of the social entrepreneurs have at a point, had an opportunity to travel abroad for education or training. There are close to over 28,000 social enterprises operating in Ghana currently. Many such social enterprises are trying to achieve national scale and medium-sized operations whilst a vast majority operates on small scales or as pilots.
In a report by the British Council on the state of social enterprises in Ghana in 2015, “nearly 40% of social enterprise leaders in Ghana are female – almost three times higher than the proportion of female senior managers in mainstream businesses. Female social enterprise leaders are more likely to focus on health objectives, to support beneficiaries in their local community, and to hire female staff”
Social Enterprise Ghana (SE) is the network of high impact social enterprises and entrepreneurs operating in Ghana.
It has a registered membership of 590 businesses nationwide operating in climate-smart agribusiness, agroforestry, waste management and recycling, health services, education, technology, etc to solve challenges for the poor, vulnerable, marginalized in an inclusive and dignified way. Some top social enterprises in Ghana include iSpace, Innohub, NBU, Soronko academy, Ho Node, Health Beyond Boundaries etc.
Other stakeholders driving Social Enterprise in Ghana include the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur InternationaleZusammenarbeitGmbH (GIZ).
The benefits of social enterprise:
Social enterprises aside tackling social and environmental problems, do offer job creation potentials. Many social enterprises seek to recruit tertiary-education graduates and students to train and ‘upskill’ them.
This helps increase their potential engagement in the workforce and help them shape their business ideas be it on campus or after graduating.
This is usually done via volunteering role offers, internships and national service programs. One such social enterprise in this regard is the Ho Node in the Volta Region that offers fresh graduates an opportunity to undergo a National Service Programme with the hub. Other social enterprises provide business training, mentorship, incubations and acceleration to startups and their network.
Without a definite national policy aimed at driving the course in Ghana the future although clear starts to look blurry. The British Council, the Social Enterprise Ghana and other stakeholders are advocating for the policy as it will help social enterprises to be registered as such.
Currently, to register as a business entity one is in a dilemma as to which business type to register as, leaving a majority of social enterprises being registered as NGOs. A policy will, therefore, increase our understanding of social enterprise and promote an enabling environment for social enterprises to thrive in Ghana.
Obtaining grant funding remains a major setback, followed by Capital (debt/equity), lack of access to support and advisory services, Cash flow, Understanding or awareness of social enterprise among banks and support organizations and a shortage of technical skills as reported by the British Council’s State of Social Enterprises in Ghana.
With funding from BUSAC, DANIDA and USAID, SE began advocacy to ensure policymakers and government pass and adopt the social enterprise and impact investing policy. Social entrepreneurs hope to see a policy in full effect for a future now.
However, more needs to be done to get the youth exposed to the concept of Social Enterprise. We can start this by including the study of the SDGs in the new curriculum for children from upper primary upwards. These children are usually between the ages of 12-15.
This will help these children better understand what needs to be done by the next ten years when the SDGs end. This can ensure social entrepreneurship does indeed become the future now. As aspiring entrepreneurs, our business ought to tackle at least an SDG. This will ensure the continuity of our human race and protect our environment.