Report: ‘No shortage of opportunities’ for SE in Ghana

What do these businesses have in common?

  • Soronko Solutions runs Tech Needs Girls, a series of workshops designed to teach underprivileged girls how to code software
  • Trashy Bags recycles plastic waste into fashionable bags
  • Golden Baobab produces afro-centric stories for children
  • Farmerline allows farmers to access market information and extension service advice through their mobile phones

They are all Ghanaian social enterprises.

Social Enterprise Landscape in Ghana report

A report commissioned by the British Council and conducted by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Social Enterprises Landscape in Ghana, finds that, “in terms of a need to address social challenges, there is no shortage of opportunities for social enterprises.” These opportunities are expanding rapidly due to the increasing recognition of the private sector’s role as an engine of growth as well as gaps in the government’s provision of social services.

“Social enterprise” is a fairly recent concept in Ghana, referring to businesses that pursue – to varying degrees – social impact and profit. The terminology is scarcely used by government, donors or businesses themselves, yet the industry does exist. The research report identifies and interviews 24 social enterprises, 29 support organisations and 3 UK-based stakeholders. Their areas of operation were mainly in agriculture, ICT, health, education and skills training.

Published in 2015, the report provides an “aerial” view of the financial, perceptual and social climate that has so far contributed to the evolution of social entrepreneurs and their organisations.

Opportunities for British Council in Ghana to develop strategic relationships are explored, given the organisation’s experience in Europe and Asia where the British Council already supports social enterprise through training, business consulting, mentoring, access to funding and investment opportunities, and networking.

It is interesting to note half of all the social enterprises assessed were founded, co-founded or managed by a woman.

Another interesting discovery the report makes is that social enterprise in Ghana is largely driven by Ghanaians in the diaspora who have returned home with fresh perspectives and innovative solutions.

Across the world, social enterprises thrive in an environment that can provide venture capital, donors or equity funding. The financial services industry in Ghana is quite developed – with over 26 commercial banks, 136 rural banks and 390 microfinance institutions – and short and medium-term loans are increasingly becoming available to SMEs, which include social enterprises. Yet according to the social entrepreneurs interviewed, only 2 per cent of their funding comes from these financial agencies. By contrast, 48 per cent comes from donors, governments and foundations, 16 per cent from their families and friends, and the remaining 34% from personal income.

In addition to funding social enterprises, support organisations such as Acumen Fund, Slice Biz, World Bank and Hub Accra provide mentoring, formal education, networking opportunities, co-working spaces and incubators, skills support, awards, competitions and fellowships. Collectively, these services help address the major challenges Ghanaian social enterprises face: low competence in writing proposals and business plans; little understanding of investment processes and legal requirements; and problems with marketing and supply chains.

The report identifies four main areas of focus to develop the social enterprise landscape in Ghana. These include:

  • A thriving policy environment
  • Capacity building for social enterprises
  • Integrating social enterprise into higher education
  • Technical and financial support for social enterprises

The report cites the “political stability in Ghana makes the country an attractive destination for investors, start-ups, ‘returnees’ and support organisations.”

There is no shortage of problems to solve, no limit to the solutions available, and with the right mix of skills social enterprise could support a rise in youth employment and in sustainable livelihoods.

The British Council launched the report in partnership with the National Development Planning Commission at a high level policy dialogue on 23 March 2015 in Accra.