A Partnership-Driven Process to Promote Entrepreneurship in Ghana


In Ghana, about 80 percent of the working-age population is self-employed in an economy of improvisation and self-reliance where the quest to make a living is played out daily. The complexity of operating in the business environment — characterized sometimes as fetching water with a basket — has deterred many entrepreneurs from upgrading their business skills, raising capital and taking risks to grow. So many remain in the informal sector — a fluctuating medley of businesses that are agile enough to navigate the ever-changing jumble of economic headwinds but unable to scale up in any meaningful way.

The hope and promise of local development is that people will be empowered to achieve a higher standard of living in terms of economic prosperity and quality of life. With the advent of Ghana’s formal decentralization policy, the nation’s 216 district assemblies are now the designated champions of local development, which depends considerably on strengthening small and medium-sized enterprises by improving local competitiveness.

In May, 300 representatives of Ghana’s metro and rural districts assembled in Kumasi, a sprawling city of more than 2 million people, for the second annual Conference on Local Government. Praxis Africa organized the conference on behalf of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, which focused on the United Nations sustainable development goals. Agreed to by 193 countries to mark out a roadmap for global prosperity, the SDGs have a goal of 7 percent growth per year in the world’s least developed countries. Ghanaian President John Mahama has been appointed co-chair of a group of SDG advocates by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, making the SDGs a prominent dimension of Ghana’s development plans.

Ghana’s ministers of Local Government and Rural Development, Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs, and Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, plus the deputy minister of Communication and the regional Ashanti minister all highlighted the need for sustainable, inclusive growth that creates employment and prosperity. Multi-stakeholder partnerships involving government, the private sector and civil society were hailed as the glue that holds the development process together. Collins Dauda, minister of Local Government and Rural Development, affirmed that public/private partnerships are a new way of dealing with the traditional Ghanaian way of doing things, which is known as the “do-and-share” principle.

Partnership-driven development is essential in an age where many successful enterprises are less the product of an individual entrepreneur than of the assembled resources, knowledge, and other inputs and capabilities that can be mobilized in a local entrepreneurial ecosystem. In Ghana, formalization and growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises is essential for development. There is wide agreement that lack of access to finance and markets, low levels of education, poor business skills and an absence of suitable mentors are among the biggest obstacles that entrepreneurs face. Praxis Africa’s guidance to the districts in working with entrepreneurs is to help them by:

  • Understanding the area’s economic advantages and opportunities.
  • Connecting with the business and financial resources that are available locally, regionally and nationally.
  • Navigating the local business environment, including permitting and regulations.
  • Championing infrastructure development that is essential for conducting business.

Decentralization of economic development is not unique to Ghana, as a confluence of potent forces is creating an era of localism and decentralization across the planet — driven in part by increasing global connectedness. There is no single formula for success for any community in the 21st century. Nonetheless, to foster and sustain a robust local economy, a community must take full advantage of its unique combination of resources, culture, infrastructure, core competencies in industry and agriculture and the skills of entrepreneurs and workers. 

Delore Zimmerman, president of Praxis Strategy Group in Fargo, N.D., and co-founder of Praxis Africa.

Photo: a panel discussion as part of the second annual Conference on Local Government, held in may in Kumasi, Ghana. IMAGE: PRAXIS AFRICA