Successive governments in Ghana have designed and implemented various employment and entrepreneurship interventions for the youth. This is due to the notion that creating sustainable opportunities for the youth serve as a vehicle for ensuring they are able to access the means for sustainable livelihoods.
Much as the efforts of governments are appreciated, it is widely acknowledged that governments alone cannot address all the livelihood challenges confronting the youth. It will take the concerted and coordinated efforts of government, the private sector, and civil society to ensure that employment and entrepreneurship interventions are tailored to the needs of the youth and the nation at large. It is in light of the above that the role and contribution of civil society and NGOs become important in complimenting the efforts of government.
Scholars and Transition Programs
CAMFED Ghana has an ongoing 10-year partnership with the Mastercard Foundation called the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. The partnership between the two organizations is underpinned by shared values and commitment to the provision of quality education and comprehensive support to academically-gifted young women in the rural communities within CAMFED's operational regions.
With a goal to contributing towards raising social, political and business leaders for the African continent, the Scholars Program is designed to unlock the potential of a critical mass of academically-bright yet disadvantaged girls and young women from rural Ghana through secondary and tertiary education, enrichment and service leadership opportunities.
On completion of secondary and tertiary education however, Scholars, like many Ghanaian youth, are faced with challenges in their transition to the next phase of their lives. In response to the need for the creation of educational, employment and entrepreneurship pathways for the youth, CAMFED Ghana, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, is implementing a transition program titled "Enable young women to transition from school to entrepreneurship, further study and transformative leadership in Ghana". The program is designed, amongst others, to enable young women to transition from school to entrepreneurship, further study, employment and transformative leadership in Ghana.
Under the transition program, young women who complete secondary school are equipped with knowledge and skills to make informed decisions on their pathways to successful livelihoods. Scholars who tread the path of entrepreneurship under the transition program are provided with training, start-up kits, internships, peer mentoring and tailored business advisory support from the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), successful entrepreneurs from CAMFED's Innovation Bursary Program and other institutions. Scholars are also connected to accessible and affordable sources of capital and financial education for business launching and growth. To ensure they are successful in their businesses, young women from the Northern, North East, Savanna, Upper East, Upper West and Central regions continue to benefit from residential entrepreneurship training programmes designed to provide them with the requisite business development, growth and management skills.
Scholars Entrepreneurship Fund
As a step towards ensuring that Scholars who tread the path of entrepreneurship are resourced financially to be able to start their businesses, an entrepreneurship fund designed to provide funding to Scholars and alumni with viable, sustainable and scalable business ideas that also have a social impact, is being implemented by CAMFED, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation.
Known as the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Entrepreneurship Fund (SEF), this is a USD 200,000 supplemental funding allocated to support the Foundation's Scholars and alumni as catalyzers of economic opportunities for others, thereby helping them to become transformative leaders. The SEF responds to a need expressed by Scholars themselves, many of whom have great ideas, but face challenges in accessing funding to implement their ideas. The Fund links directly to the Foundation's Young Africa Works strategy which aims at supporting young people to access capital so that they can grow their businesses within various sectors of the economy.
The SEF provides financial support for new ideas and scale-up existing projects, while facilitating opportunities for Scholars to give back, and expand transformative leadership competencies. A total of 324 applications were received at the end of the first call for applications in a competitive call in which all current Scholars at CAMFED and alumni were eligible to apply. The 22 winners will receive a maximum of $4,000 to be invested in the agri-business/agro-processing, arts and craft, hospitality, media and communications, as well as social enterprise sectors of the economy.
All winners have received training in product design and business management facilitated by Kumasi Hive. Winners will also be coached and mentored by partners including Kumasi Hive, NBSSI and successful entrepreneurs from CAMFED's Innovation Bursary Program. Scholars will in addition receive an initial fund to support with business registration and other statutory certifications. CAMFED and its partners will provide adequate support and guidance to successful candidates for the duration of their project, in order to optimize the success of their ventures. Olivia, final year student of the University for Development Studies and Founder of Kobaa Enterprise commented on being selected for support under the SEF, "this support will help to expand my business and position me to employ more hands - the way to go to promote female entrepreneurship and reduce youth unemployment in Ghana".
As we celebrate this year's International Day of the Girl Child, a day that highlights and addresses the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights under the theme 'Empowering Girls for a Brighter Tomorrow', CAMFED affirms its commitment to work with partners such as the Mastercard Foundation, and indeed all like-minded organizations to provide opportunities for girls and young women to overcome the barriers confronting them and achieve their fullest potential. We will work towards Goals 4 and 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are on the attainment of quality education and gender equality respectively by 2030. Attainment of the goals is important for empowering girls and ensuring that across the world, they are able to raise their voices to fight for their rights and protection in all contexts. We cannot and must not fail them.