Imagine you wanted your child, Kofi, to take a swim class. You hire the best tutor you can find, Teacher Ama. She then proceeds to teach Kofi every single muscle movement necessary to make him an expert swimmer. Kofi learns breathing techniques, body positioning, arm-and-leg coordination, and he memorises every one of them perfectly. By the time Kofi is done with the classes, he might as well be a tutor to you yourself because he can remember everything Teacher Ama taught during the class.
By that standard, A+ is all but guaranteed.
When the exams are due, and you are confident. Kofi is confident. He knows what to do. Kofi remembers what to do and is very ready to do it. Let us all now remember that Teacher Ama hadn’t given a single one of those lessons in the water. She did what she was hired to do: teach swimming.
If Teacher Ama throws your child Kofi into the pool on finals day, what do you think will happen? Will all the book knowledge in the world help? I mean, Kofi knows what to do. But what you and Kofi will both realise very fast is that some things can be taught, like accounting cycles and business administration principles.
If we want to truly train entrepreneurs to fight COVID, we need to get people to practice it as this is the only means to get meaningful results.
Some things, like true entrepreneurship, are only learnt, through practice.
If you wonder why many companies fail though their leadership are very highly educated, the above analogy is my theory. You might know how to add numbers, understand the principles of trading, and be an accounting wiz but without getting into the proverbial water, that wouldn’t make you a seasoned entrepreneur. I am still learning to appreciate this fact even the more.
Some of Ghana’s biggest companies have been built by seasoned entrepreneurs who started out without much of a formal education. Yet, side-by-side, their financial ratios would trump many businesses in the formal sector, easily. Our Makola Market Millionaires remain proof of this. And oh they are; those market women really are millionaires, dollar millionaires.
Relevant to the subject matter, classroom entrepreneurship is an unnatural environment.
The fundamental flaw of most efforts at entrepreneurship education is that it occurs in the most common artificial environment: the classroom. Entrepreneurship education has been very necessary and should be all the more encouraged. In today’s world, some degree of formal education is always necessary if one wants to acquire wealth. Most people know that by now.
I am only saying that the theories and principles taught in the classroom can only be well applied in practice, and mastered through practice in a real situation. Classroom entrepreneurship, just like with Kofi, is an unnatural environment as far as the subject matter is concerned and not a real business environment executing a real business idea into which you’re willing to invest your money and that of your friends and family.
One can say business entrepreneurship is social entrepreneurship.
One main reason for running a business is to make money – profit. Nonetheless, the inadvertent result of this is social services because businesses creates jobs, contributes to public fiscal health and boosts the overall economy. Arguably, wouldn’t that be in line with the literal definition of “social” “services”?
I assume the economic preposition is that when 1 Ghana Cedi is spent, it triggers about 10 Ghana Cedi worth of indirect investment. When you pay for labour, the recipient of said payment will spend that money buying consumer goods or services. Indirectly, you have contributed to the growth of all those other relevant sectors.
The moment that labourer spends that payment you gave him, you then have affected all the suppliers and distributors and the transporters connected to the relevant sectors of his spend, and those connected to the just aforementioned sectors as well. Even the Government gets to benefit through taxation.
This has been the singing tune of some of the world’s rich and wealthy, as their response to being called out on their relative inactivity in charity and other philanthropic deeds. Because the fact is that the original intention of an entrepreneur might not be to engage in social welfare, but it inevitably ends up there by default, in a sense.
Business/Social entrepreneurship and COVID-19
Even with a vaccine in sight, this novel coronavirus continues to cause unparalleled havoc in almost every sector of our lives. Our medical practitioners and other key volunteers have served as essential frontline workers. Without their immense efforts, the already very bad situation would be much worse.
Do you know who else we need to thank God for – Veronica Bekoe, the inventor of the now famous Veronica Bucket. Her invention is now being used all over the world. It is indeed a global village and in this village, Veronica Bekoe is worthy to be counted as a frontline responder in this period of great peril. Her invention might have come before the COVID outbreak but look at how much in demand the Veronica bucket is now. It’s currently a staple in our homes, offices, schools and churches.
Auntie Veronica’s invention helps to fights a health crisis. She’s a biological scientist who did not patent her invention, her gift to the world, be in intentional or unintentional. A welcomed gift that we are lucky to have had. I’m just saying that bucket is very important.
Ask yourself this: what and who are going to fight the economic effects of the coronavirus? Heavy borrowing of money? I hope not.
If, as I tried to illustrate earlier, indeed business entrepreneurship is social entrepreneurship, and business entrepreneurship is crucial to social economic welfare, it is safe to suggest that promoting business entrepreneurship amongst Ghanaians should do a great deal to fight the economic effects of COVID.
The World Bank thinks same… or close.
In a report titled The African Continental Free Trade Area, Economic and Distributional Effects, the World Bank stated, “A successful implementation of AfCFTA would be crucial. In the short term, the agreement would help cushion the negative effects of COVID-19 on economic growth by supporting regional trade and value chains through the reduction of trade costs. In the longer term, AfCFTA would allow countries to anchor expectations by providing a path for integration and growth-enhancing reforms.
Furthermore, the pandemic has demonstrated the need for increased cooperation among trading partners. By replacing the patchwork of regional agreements, streamlining border procedures, and prioritizing trade reforms, AfCFTA could help countries increase their resiliency in the face of future economic shocks”.
This same World Bank estimated that 100 million people could end up in extreme poverty as a result of COVID. And guess what… that number could easily go much higher. The many business sectors that have been hit continue to lose anywhere between 20% and 80% of their turnover. This affect employees thereby affecting their dependents.
Africa’s entrepreneurs will be frontline in fighting COVID on the economic front.
A frontline worker is one that provides essential services key to the survival of the sector. I paraphrase; hear me out. We need more entrepreneurs right now. We need more innovation to facilitate this need. This is how we rebuild.
If we want to fight the devastating effects of COVID on our pockets, a lasting solution that’ll stand the test of time will be pushing policies that encourage the public to start some basic form of entrepreneurship and/or trade in Ghana. It’s a all-hands-on-deck approach: government, banks, private institutions and the public at large.
In order for this to work, we need to normalise (even necessitate) entrepreneurship alongside creating an ecosystem that allow entrepreneurs and their businesses to thrive. Access to capital, the systems that facilitate secure funding and other support services all help create this ecosystem I speak of.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
I just read through the whole article and I seem to type like I know all the answers huh? No I don’t have all the answers. I write all this only because the more I embark on this path of entrepreneurship at the level I’m operating, the more I know what I do not know but previously thought I did, leading me to conclude that I, and many others, do not know the lot that we do not know. Knowing you don’t really know is still knowing something, right? It is vital step to effective learning.
Join me on other episodes of the ‘Entrepreneur In You’ Podcast to know more.
‘Entrepreneur In You’ Podcast – where you’ll find real value all year round.
This year, my outlet of choice will be the ‘Entrepreneur In You’ column and podcast – audio and video. I will be sharing articles, funding offers, job opportunities, trade deals, mentorship programs, while also having conversations with famous and successful people we all know and read about. We will discuss their journey, how they got their spark, what drives their inner entrepreneur, and how they’ve been ‘creating or extracting value’ in many ways than we know. All these are in an effort to share ideas, offer real help and demonstrate life hacks that equip our audience with the proper tools needed to bring out the Entrepreneur In You.
Maxwell Ampong is an Agro-Commodities Trader and the CEO of Maxwell Investments Group. He is also the Official Business Advisor to Ghana’s General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) of TUC Ghana, the largest agricultural trade union in Ghana. He writes about trending and relevant economic topics, and general perspective pieces.