Former UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, has paid an informal visit to the Rural Enterprises Programme (REP), co-funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and African Development Bank (AfDB) in Ghana. The purpose of the visit was to afford Mr. Kofi Annan and his wife, Nane Annan, the opportunity to learn from the experiences of an IFAD funded project, in Ghana, in the area of human capital development and employment creation especially for the youth and women. They visited the Mankessim Rural Technology Facility (RTF), a metal based workshop, constructed under REP to provide technical apprenticeship for the youth and to manufacture equipment to support agribusinesses. Mr. and Mrs. Annan were accompanied by the UN Resident Coordinator to Ghana, Ms. Christine Evans-Klock, EU Ambassador to Ghana, Mr. William Hanna, and IFAD Country Director in Ghana, Esther Kasalu-Coffin.
Mr. Annan and his delegation inspected operations of the Mankessim RTF in technology promotion for businesses, technical apprentice training and agro-processing equipment manufacturing. The delegation also interacted with some small-scale entrepreneurs, mostly youth, who mounted a mini exhibition of products from their businesses.
RTF trainees, graduates, trainers, local officials as well as beneficiaries explained how this training is transforming subsistence farming into productive agro-businesses – producing and marketing soaps, honey, leather goods, and food stuffs.
Speaking after the inspection of the RTF and interaction with the entrepreneurs, Mr. Annan said agriculture could be a powerful bait in the process of economic development and job creation in Africa. He mentioned that unfortunately, people tend to think of agriculture as only the farmer and his or her produce, and explained that there are numerous job opportunities along the agricultural value chains, between what takes place on the farms and getting farm produce to the supermarkets. He pointed to job opportunities in farm production, transportation, storage, processing and marketing that are available for especially the youth to tap into. He therefore urged that youth not to wait forever to be employed after graduating from school but venture into profitable agric-related businesses such as those which exhibited their products during his visit.
“We all don’t have to go universities and get certificates and when we come out there is no one to employ us. You can set up your own company. You can set up your own soap factory. You can set up your own gari factory and employ others. This is what vocational training is about and that’s why it’s so important and it is not just in Ghana…..”
Mr. Annan was excited about the many jobs that the businesses which took part in the exhibition were creating. He lauded them for making a positive contribution to the development of Ghana through job creation.
Mr. Annan also indicated that he was excited that the Government of Ghana has prioritized agricultural development as a basis for broadening the nation’s developmental efforts and encouraging the youth to create their own businesses.
The National Director of REP, Kwasi Attah-Antwi, said since 2012, it is estimated that REP has helped to generate financial benefits in excess of GH¢160 million and positively affected the lives of more than 140,000 people across the country. He explained that REP had created 34,402 new jobs, established 27,702 new businesses and had positively affected the lives of about 140,000 people since 2012. He also mentioned that REP is rolling out a special intervention, from this year, targeting tertiary unemployed graduates interested in agribusiness in selected agricultural value chains under an Empowering Novel Agribusiness-Led Employment for Youth (ENABLE YOUTH) Programme.
The EU Ambassador to Ghana, Mr. William Hanna, praised the quality of products exhibited by the beneficiaries of REP at the event. He mentioned that the European Union is committed to supporting vocational training for the youth of Ghana. He indicated that the EU was in discussion with the new Government for an increased support to small and medium scale enterprises in agribusiness.
The UN Resident Coordinator to Ghana, Ms. Evans-Klock, mentioned that the visit was also to show support for training for the youth as a critical part of developing agriculture.
Mrs Esther Kasalu-Coffin, IFAD country Director, said the success of the REP was a clear demonstration of transforming and improving the livelihoods of people in the rural communities. She admonished the management of REP to deepen its education on how the beneficiaries could access funds to expand their businesses to employ more people.