Ghana, a sub-Saharan country, has many budding young entrepreneurs. Some have even been recognised and awarded by international organisations, including Bright Simons, Regina Agyare and Elikem Kuenyehia.
But there are also many young Ghanians who are not getting things right in their field. Many of them have faced hurdles they could not cross and end up failing.
For them, Elikem Kuenyehia story might be useful. Kuenyehia is an entrepreneur, lawyer, author and an adjunct lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration.
In 2006, he founded Oxford & Beaumont, a leading corporate and commercial law firm in Ghana with offices in Accra and London, and has since advised clients Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Shell International, Vodafone and Citibank.
Kuenyehia is no stranger to awards, he won the 2012 title of Young Business Leader of the Year at the West African All Africa Business Leaders Awards.
He was interviewed by How We Made It in Africa where he shared some of the challenges he faced on his road to success:
For many high profile transactions, because of the sheer value of the transaction and the corresponding financial and other risks, clients tend to feel most comfortable with older law firms with a longer track record. Although I had over seven years post-qualification experience when I started Oxford & Beaumont, many potential clients focused on the fact that the law firm itself had no track record. This was particularly pronounced with potential local Ghanaian clients.
I therefore had to price myself very competitively to get work through the door and then to provide a service that I was confident they would not otherwise find in the Ghanaian market. That makes a difference. The initial clients who took a risk on me quickly become (and often still are) our biggest advocates.
Kuenyehia had this advise to give to aspiring, young entrepreneurs in Africa:
I’d encourage aspiring young entrepreneurs to invest in their own personal development. Africa is changing rapidly and will continue to do so. None of us can predict with real certainty what the various markets and opportunities will look in five, ten, fifteen, twenty (etc) years. But we can prepare for these opportunities if we invest in our own personal development.
Some Ghanaian entrepreneurs also shared their views on Twitter about elements they lack as African entrepreneurs, others blamed the government.
@freduagymenag: Innovation. Appropriate technology.
@ragyare: Ability to pitch and sell your idea, negotiation and networking.
@ragyare: Business acumen to keep the idea running effectively.
@sandistertei : One problem is getting over yourself to maintain high standard.
@novisid: African or European, entrepreneurship to me is a farce.
@ragyare: Simply put early stage funding to help get your idea off the ground
During the interview, Elikem Kuenyehia discussed formal entrepreneurship in Ghana:
My research tells me that there are two main challenges facing formal entrepreneurship in Ghana. The first is human resources – many of the entrepreneurs I spoke to complained bitterly that they could not find the right human resources for their business and when they did, they do not stay. The other is financial capital. Without a developed venture capital or private equity market in Ghana, it can be difficult to source capital for your enterprise, no matter how bright the idea. Banks are completely unhelpful when it comes to supporting growing businesses. The HR challenge could be overcome if business owners spend a bit more time identifying and recruiting the right calibre of staff for their enterprise and by focusing both on competency and values. I found out that too many enterprises do not pursue a rigorous recruitment process. Regarding finance, government and development partners can encourage banks to lend to entrepreneurs through match funding. Our government has set up a government funded and backed venture capital trust fund, akin to a kind of fund which invests debt and equity into venture capital companies. This is a good idea but seriously underfunded. So our government would do well to increase the funding of this vehicle.