Enpact: Deepening our footprint in Sub-Saharan Africa [Article]
Enpact has been running its flagship international mentoring program in Ghana since 2017. Hundreds of entrepreneurs, ecosystem players and individuals who are interested in entrepreneurship have participated in our programs. But the 6th February 2020 was a special day for us. Three years into our Ghanaian journey, we opened a physical office space in Labone, Accra. This brings us closer to Ghanaian entrepreneurs and their ecosystem, providing us with the benefit of first-hand insights.
Currently, we offer an interesting cocktail of programs from our portfolio – mentoring, funding support, capacity building workshops, and hackathons – to support the local ecosystem. One of our preferred ways of interaction is the concept of “coffee dates” in the office; this is a concept where two individuals walk into the office either to learn more about what we do, or they are past fellows or participants who come to seek support on a business-related issue with an expert present.
We offer tea or coffee and let the conversation unfold. The informal setting allows a lot of learning to take place in a comfortable setting, making people feel at ease.
Ghana and the rest of West Africa are important ecosystems on enpact’s strategic agenda. In the upcoming years, we aim to offer more products which are globally relevant and locally responsive on the continent. We see our role in the broader Pan-Africanism narrative as complementary and catalytic. Empowering African founders to scale their businesses and unleash untapped potential will be a big win for everyone involved. The local economies need to be strengthened to offer the youth a promising perspective, otherwise a well-educated and talented generation will seek the realization of their dreams elsewhere.
What many young Ghanaians are turning away from and what they are turning towards are two sides of the same coin – lack of opportunities in one place and the abundance of the same elsewhere.
Webelieve we can make African dreamers realize their dreams in Africa.
To monitor how the Ghanaian ecosystem thrives, and to leverage its opportunities by tackling some of its challenges, we already assessed the start-up friendliness of Accra back in 2019. The findings are available in our report on our website.
The Ghanaian versionof our Program Designers’ Lab
In 2020, our focus was on the interaction with various ecosystem enablers. We implemented local editions of our Program Designers’ Lab in both the southern and northern parts of Ghana – directly after the opening of our office in Accra. Out of 54 enablers who applied for the program, 9 were selected.
The objective was to connect and empower them so that they develop and create programs to support entrepreneurship in Ghana. Prior to the program, most of the selected participants (>50%) indicated moderate competence in financial planning and reporting as well as organizational management and internal operations. The experience and expertise gained, allowed them to improve the effectiveness of their local programs. Also, it provided us at enpact with many learnings in terms of enablers’ impact on the ground and the challenges they face.
The lockdown and its economic impact
On March 13, the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Ghana. A partial lockdown was declared by the government thereafter. It meant that business as usual was put on hold – and actually much more than that. It disrupted the way we live, how we work and even how we close a business negotiation – as we were not even allowed to shake hands anymore in order to seal a business deal. Small- and medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), which account for about 80% of employment in Africa, were hit hardest by the pandemic. According to the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), 35.7% of the 4,311 businesses sampled this year had to close during the partial lockdown and, even after the lockdown was lifted, 16.1% remained closed. Only 3.5% of these affected businesses benefited from the government’s 600 million GHS (equivalent of circa 90 million euro) stimulus package support. These businesses reported “substantial uncertainty in future sales and employment.” The GSS further indicated that Ghanaian businesses will continue to be affected by the impact of COVID-19 in the future.
Relief and resilience programs
Our Founder Scholarship Program and the Empowering Entrepreneurship Initiative (EEI) which supported 54 businesses in Ghana with a financial support totaling 663,300 GHS is a highly responsive intervention in this regard. They contributed to the fact that our Ghana office became a center for conversations on the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses.
We reached out to our Ghanaian alumni network to get up close and personal with over 12 founders for our founder stories format on how COVID-19 has impacted their businesses. We published some of these stories on popular news sites including the national news platform Graphic.com. These conversations led us to approaching the pandemic conversation differently. We started to focus on opportunities that a post-COVID-19 era presents.
After all, entrepreneurship is about problem solving. If we were to look for a silver lining, we could see the situation as an opportunity to test the limits of our entrepreneurial mindset. Among other things, we hosted several roundtable events which explored business management and investment readiness; business model adaptation in the digital economy, resilience and market opportunities including the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement; taxation and tax reliefs; and digital marketing.
We wrapped up the year with a hackathon which offered a competitive opportunity to young Ghanaian entrepreneurs and returnees with founding ambitions. It provided a fertile ground and framework to innovate and collaborate on solutions targeted at pertinent local problems in the education, health, and agriculture sectors. The Beyond COVID-19 Hackathon was held over the course of three days with 54 participants attending in an analog setup at the Accra Digital Centre. Participants were taken through group mentoring sessions with expert workshops on Design Thinking, Brand Building using the 3Ps framework (Purpose, Product and Persistence) and Digital Marketing. Taking into consideration the volume of ideas received at the registration phase of the Hackathon, participants were broken into sectoral blocs – agriculture, health, and education. Over the course of the hackathon, participants worked intensely on different project ideas, both on the individual as well as the team level.
A total of six teams were shortlisted to fine-tune ideas for which they eventually settled. Each team was given an opportunity to pitch their idea in two separate pitches, 5 and 2 minutes respectively in front of a jury panel. The team ABO+ emerged as the overall winner. Organic Cosmetics and Kiddie Play took the second and third place respectively. ABO+ seeks to build a web platform to recruit voluntary donors through self-signups and affiliated health facilities to ensure easy and safe blood donations. Organic Cosmetics creates a line of 100% organic products for personal care. Kiddie Play seeks to develop interactive learning materials for children through exciting games.