Government has opened the portal for the YouStart Ghana Jobs and Skills programme as part of its agenda to build an entrepreneurial nation.
The ambitious GH¢10 billion programme seeks to support young entrepreneurs to gain access to capital, training and technical skills that will enable them to start, build and grow their own businesses. This programme is in partnership with the World Bank in a bid to reduce unemployment by some one million jobs.
At the launch and opening of the portal, Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta said the use of an open and transparent application portal will ensure that the benefits of the YouStart will be available to all young people.
This initiative targets young people and students between the ages of 18-40 years who have brilliant business ideas and viable businesses, and supports these individuals to nurture, grow and expand their businesses and create jobs in the economy.
In the 2017 budget statement, government indicated that it will collaborate with private sector organisations and development partners to “implement decent employment creation programmes, particularly, for unemployed young graduates”.
Citing the government’s pledge to deal with youth unemployment, Mr. Ofori-Atta said: “Crucially, our progress is culminated in the launch of the YouStart District Entrepreneurship Programme, a dedicated service offering aimed at easing constraints for existing and aspiring young entrepreneurs across the 216 districts of our country, to create one million jobs for the youth in three years”.
The finance minister revealed that mid-2022, the government implemented the pilot phases of the programme, which was successful in supporting 46 individual beneficiaries and 8 groups/associations with membership between 6 and 45 persons across the country.
Given the high rate of youth unemployment in the country, government intends to use the YouStart programme to create more jobs for the economy, and to support the expansion and growth of Ghanaian businesses within the next 3 years.
The finance minister noted that there will be many phases with the YouStart intervention.
In this first real phase of the intervention under the Ghana Jobs and Skills Project funded by the World Bank, over 50,000 beneficiaries will benefit from entrepreneurship training, and those who are committed and intentional will have the opportunity to apply for grant funding to support their business.
Under the District Entrepreneurship module of YouStart, the minister stated that government intends to offer comprehensive technical support through training on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and business management to support the creation of sustainable businesses across communities.
Mr. Ofori-Atta, however, mentioned that some beneficiaries who are committed to the programme will be provided with financial support to cover working capital requirements, business expansion and the acquisition of equipment or machinery of some selected programme beneficiaries who go through the programme successfully.
“I’m counting on the Ghana Enterprises Agency, the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) and all other implementing agencies to ensure that all applicants have an equal chance of success under the YouStart,” Mr. Ofori-Atta stated.
Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr. John Ampontuah Kumah, also said: “Unemployment among Ghanaian Youth has increased significantly post COVID-19 pandemic, thus, posing a threat to national security and economic stability”.
“In such times, we know that government cannot recruit into the public sector; therefore, we must support the private sector to create the needed jobs for our Ghanaian youth. Through the YouStart programme, we can achieve this objective,” he said.
He noted that micro small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the economy of the country, and the YouStart programme will contribute to governments import substitution agenda by prioritising support for businesses that focuses on products imported into the country.
YouStart is grouped into three (3) sub-programmes namely: District Entrepreneurship Programme, Commercial Programme, and YouStart Grace
YouStart District Entrepreneurship Programme is targetted at group businesses, start-ups with founders under the age of 40, university graduates, high school leavers, TVET – Vocational/Diploma certificate holders. Under this component, beneficiaries are entitled to loans at reduced interest rate and grants. The grant component will be called the YouStart Ghana Jobs and Skills Project. This will be implemented by the Ghana Enterprise Agency and the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme, with support from the National Youth Authority, Ghana TVET Service, and NABCO.
Under the YouStart Commercial Programme, financial institutions will give out loans at reduced interest rates without collateral. Targets include medium and small-scale enterprises with founders under the age of 40, or founders above the age of 40 but with, at least, 50 percent of their staff aged between 18 – 40 years.
YouStart Grace will be targetted at faith-based organisations across the country.