As part of our placement with Challenges Worldwide, each volunteer is a member of a committee, with a choice between communications, team building and impact. Our day-to-day purpose during the placement is supporting the growth and development of local businesses. Challenges recognises an opportunity to provide time to give back to other areas within the community, which is where our impact committees come into play. Split into two; Health and Education. As a member of the comms committee, I was given the privilege to attend the Health Impact Day, which was an insightful and accomplished event. I hope to share that experience with you as best I can.
After weeks of planning and preparation, the time had finally arrived for the Health Impact Day. There was a buzz of anticipation amongst the group as we gathered in the early hours in Ntinda. We picked up two representatives from Days for Girls, the charity we are supporting, to help us run the health sessions.
Days for Girls are dedicated to creating a more free, dignified and educated world, through providing lasting access to feminine hygiene solutions and health education. Being a taboo subject within Uganda, this charity wants to educate girls and boys alike about hygiene and menstrual health.
A short while later we had arrived at Central View school and set up a room to prepare for the sessions. The day was split into two parts. The first part was with both boys and girls with ages ranging from 13 to 16 and the second half with just the girls.
After an introduction about Challenges from Keebs and Annabell, session number one was on the importance of hygiene and staying healthy. Araphat and Alex led the demonstrations on hand washing followed by discussions on when to wash and why! We spoke about how to avoid illnesses such as malaria, by sleeping under a net and keeping the grass cut short, as this is where they breed.
The next session was looking at male and female reproductive systems. Led by volunteer Rita, we explained the different areas and looked at the changes the body will go through during puberty.
The third session for the morning was on menstrual health. It was important that the boys learn about the process girls go through in order to minimise the stigma surrounding the topic. It’s essential for them to be taught that it’s a normal process the body goes through and nothing to be ashamed of, especially not something to miss school for.
We had a break at this point, which is when the boys were free to go. The afternoon was all for the girls.
Kate started the session by demonstrating how the reusable sanitary pad worked, how and when to change it. Explaining the process of when to wash them and how to look after them. The pads are set to last for three years, but by teaching the girls to make them, they will be able to create more in the future.
Days for Girls started by showing the girls how to make the bags that they can keep the pads in. This helps to develop their sewing skills as well! They made drawstring bags of fantastic kitenge print. They explained that if the girls had these with them everyday, they would always be prepared and no one would think it had anything to do with their period. Once the girls had made the bags, with some assistance from the volunteers, we stopped for lunch.
At school, children are taught to eat with their hands. So, after teaching the importance of hand washing at the begining of the Health Impact Day, we ensured we had a make shift sink where the children could properly wash their hands before lunch, with assistance from Kate and Tanya. Us volunteers also ate with our hands, which is much harder than it looks!
We continued the afternoon with sewing the sanitary pads. The concentration from every girl in the room was amazing! The aim is to get the girls to replicate what they have learnt. Not everyone has the chance to take part in a day like this, so it’s important that the message is passed across.
Challenges Worldwide is an advocate for working towards the SDGs. In the last session, volunteer Peace explained what these were and which ones we had covered during the Health Impact Day, included clean water and sanitation, and health and well-being.
Days for Girls provide packs for the girls, which include a pair of pink pants and 7 more reusable pads. The volunteers gave these out to each girl, to put into their new bags! We asked a volunteer from the girls to explain and show everyone how they work and key things to remember. There was a very positive atmosphere throughout the day and the girls were very pleased with their new bags.
As the day drew to an end, we had some photo opportunities with the girls, before they left. It was a very successful day and everyone left with knowledge and a smile.
Amazing work from the impact team!
Written by Evie Robinson,
Business Support Associate, Uganda – 2017
[themify_box color=”purple”]If you would also like to travel where the challenges are, as Evie did, click here for more information and apply to our programme by the 7th of January.[/themify_box]
On Saturday 25th November the environmental committee kick-started cycle 12’s series of impact events. Titled Protect Our Planet, the event focused on illuminating a variety of environmental concerns here in Ghana, a topic that has long needed addressing. When turning to the statistics one is amazed at the dire environmental condition Ghana has found itself in. For example, of the 36,000 metric tons of plastic imported and manufactured in Ghana per year a measly 2% of it is recycled (in comparison to 63% and 62% in Austria and Germany respectively). A quick look at the streets of Accra will testify to these figures. This all came to a head in 2015 when a tragic flash flood triggered by a rubbish-filled drainage system resulted in the loss of 159 lives. Confronted with bleak figures such as this one cannot help but ask themselves “how do we even begin to tackle such an endemic issue?” During the event, a host of Ghana’s bright minds gathered to present their solutions to this pressing matter.
Whilst we have started on a rather morbid note it must be stressed the event was a positive success, emphasizing a message of hope rather than despair as is often the case when discussing the environment. One of the many shining stars at this event was Chineyenwa, an aspiring environmentalist who tackles the growing rubbish problem through the production of artistic works. Made of recycled waste these works illustrate a combination of her two passions: environmentalism and art. Yet, her efforts do not stop there. Taking the fight to environmental threats further she has been instrumental in establishing a Pan African waste management symposium and works with children aged 8-18 to educate them further on the problems facing the environment. From Chineyenwa we can learn that in order to impact environmental change we must act both at the higher and lower levels of society. After all, this is our planet to protect so why shouldn’t every individual be involved?
After speakers such as Chineyenwa, Richard Frimpong and Lovan Owusu-Takyi paved the way with a series of fascinating speeches. Speeches that not only highlighted the growing environmental concerns but went a step further to illustrate a number of solutions. It was time for a quick recess. Here a few businesses working on the Challenges’ programme put on an excellent spread of food. Special mention must go to Caris Gold who quenched everyone’s thirst with a delicious array of fruit juices. However, I digress.
With bellies filled and minds reinvigorated the event entered its final stage. The climax of this was a truly thought-provoking speech from keynote speaker Gideon Commey, founder of the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement. Focusing on environmental consciousness, Commey conveyed the perfect level of concern and hope, concluding that the current environmental situation could be utilised to stimulate growth in employment and technology. The applause he received after his speech was not only indicative of his own personal success but the success of the event the environmental impact committee strove so hard to bring together.
Overall the event was a major triumph which truly reflected the hard work of the individuals involved. Richard Frimpong, CEO of the waste management enterprise 21st Century initiatives, described the event as:
“A great and innovative way to address the environmental concerns we are facing, not just in Ghana, but across the globe.”
Not only was the event praised by external parties but internally as well. One of the invaluable coordinators of this event Ciara Farren described the day as an “overwhelming success”. Expressing particular thanks to the panel of speakers for their “inspiring and insightful talks” and to her team of fellow volunteers without whom the event would never have come together. On a personal note, I would like to thank the environmental committee for what can only be described as the perfect Saturday, which left environmental concerns in the forefront of my memory.
Mary Nayiga, 26, from Mukono Nabuti did her Bachelor in Development Studies. Before her Challenges Worldwide ICS placement, supporting Ugandan businesses, she was unemployed. “I had worked on some contracts but I had no previous experience of volunteering. I wanted to discover what it’s like to volunteer and to work alongside volunteers from the UK,” she shared.
During her placement, she worked with Mashambani Dairy Goats Farm, an enterprise that has been producing milk and yoghurt with locally sourced goats since 2016. Mary, together with her counterpart, did an evaluation of the organisation and made, as well as implemented, recommendations.
“The business needed support with organisational structure. The CEO does everything so she needed support to look at operations management. As a new business, marketing was a big focus of our consultation intervention,” Mary said.
She said that many people have never heard about goat milk or they do not know about their benefits. That is why part of her job was to talk with an identified targeted market and raise awareness about the product.
Mary shared with us that she “created awareness by visiting children’s homes which is one of the identified target markets. I personally visited 6 homes. I developed sales skills and followed-up with potential customers. Part of my work was to provide educational interventions to help them understand the benefits. The work I did around marketing, helped to raise awareness of the product.”
“My proudest moment during my placement was my first presentation. At first, I was very scared and I was feeling nervous as I have watched the previous volunteers deliver their presentations with confidence. However, I delivered my presentation to the business development team and I received positive feedback and comments. This was really encouraging and has helped improve my confidence in future public speaking opportunities,” Mary said.
Finally, Mary commented that the Challenges Worldwide ICS placement was a “great opportunity to discover individual strengths and weaknesses.” She also said that “the placement has changed me so much. It has widened my knowledge of the business world. I now know how to start up a business and how they are managed. As a result of my Challenges Worldwide ICS placement, I’m thinking of starting my own business with packed fruits. I feel more employable and feel I could develop my own business.”
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Planning a successful and impactful trip for your summer/gap year is not always easy given the number of voluntourism opportunities out there. You may have seen the stories that more and more young people are travelling abroad to volunteer so that they can fill up their Instagram account with selfies, or the report from Save the Children that states that “an overwhelming majority of children living in orphanages in developing countries actually have a living parent”. Even J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, is campaigning against irresponsible volunteering placements, tweeting “I will never retweet appeals that treat poor children as opportunities to enhance Westerners’ CVs”.
“I will never retweet appeals that treat poor children as opportunities to enhance Westerners’ CVs” JK Rowling
So, how can you steer clear of the minefield of irresponsible and purely commercial options out there?
Follow our tips below to ensure you don’t fall into the voluntourist trap:
Research the company and placement you are about to embark on
Be sure to look at “development impact”. Does the charity appear to monitor and report on the impact that their volunteers are having in the community? This could form the basis of an impact page on their website or an annual report. If they don’t seem to have a monitoring and evaluation function in their organisation then chances are they care little about the impact they are having and simply want money from their volunteers.
Find out how the programme is funded?
If the programme is purely volunteer funded then it is likely that once again there is little focus on community impact and creating positive change for the so-called beneficiaries of the volunteer placement. When looking at a placement advert ask yourself, “Is all the language geared at convincing me to part with my money, in order to benefit myself?”
The existence of a recognised funder, such as a development body like UKaid (UK Department for International Development) or SDI (Scottish Development International) shows that a larger body has a vested interest in the programme and the social impact it has pledged to create. Being expected to pay something towards the cost of the programme via fundraising is usually okay as long as the main purpose of the fundraising effort is to raise awareness of the programme and its aims.
What is in it for you?
Is there a tangible benefit to taking part in the programme? Will you be supported to overcome new challenges? Is there room for personal and professional growth alongside delivering genuine social, economic or environmental impact? Organisations that run a programme that encourages personal growth will tell you about what previous volunteers have accomplished and what skills they have developed, they may even offer a recognised qualification.
Apply for a volunteering placement with International Citizen Service (ICS)
International Citizen Service (ICS) is an overseas volunteering programme for 18-25 year olds, it is funded by the UK Government and aims to bring about three things: project impact, volunteer personal development and the creation of active citizens. There are eight different development organisations delivering ICS projects in over 20 countries.
Challenges Worldwide, an Edinburgh based International Development charity, runs an ICS programme to support businesses in Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda. The programme includes 10 weeks of training in Professional Consulting paired with a business placement in one of 4 African cities. The programme is split into three stages: Analysis, Recommendations and Implementation.
After your placement, Challenges Worldwide will continue to support the growth of the business and you will return home with a chance to complete a level 5 qualification in Professional Consulting with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).
Last June, I departed the UK on what was sure to be an adventure. I was heading to Kumasi, Ghana as a team leader with Challenges Worldwide for 3 months. Although I had no idea what lay ahead of me as I began that 24 hour journey to Accra with the other team leaders, I could never have envisioned that, fast forward 7 months, I would be stood speaking about my experiences at the Houses of Parliament in front of the head of DFID, Lords, Ladies and a group of MPs.
When I applied for an ICS placement, I had just secured a job in London and was looking for something to fill my final extended summer. I wanted to travel, but having already taken a few too many ‘gap years’, this time I wanted to give something back. I’d heard horror stories about the voluntourism industry: “They’ll knock down anything you build for the next group”, “You’re money’s going to a selfish and greed-driven organisation”, “Why are you paying to volunteer your own personal time?” These are all valid points that highlight real issues around this industry, and they resonated in my mind as I searched the internet for opportunities to combine my wish to travel with my want to do some good.
“Why are you paying to volunteer your own personal time?”
ICS was something I learned about from Facebook. The DFID funding gave it credibility, the opportunity to work in partnership with other young people was unique, and the breadth of projects and countries was exciting. I had no real idea as to where in the world I’d like to end up or with which organisation, I just knew that I wanted to be involved in an entrepreneurial-focused initiative. Everything I’d read and believed pointed towards the sustainability of development when the power of business was harnessed in the solution. No more questions about what happens when the funding stops and the volunteers leave; upskilling business owners and making a positive impact to an economy as a whole should have a far reaching and long lasting positive impact. Two weeks after my initial application, I heard I would be interviewing for Challenges Worldwide. Another quick trip to my go-to google and I realised this project aligned perfectly with my aspirations.
No more questions about what happens when the funding stops and the volunteers leave; upskilling business owners and making a positive impact to an economy as a whole should have a far reaching and long lasting positive impact.
The work the volunteers did whilst on placement was fantastic. Over the space of the 3 months, they made a real impact on 9 businesses within Kumasi. However, what led me to the Houses of Parliament, and what I’ll focus on in this blog post, is the social impact that bringing a diverse range of people and a community together can have.
For those who have not been on a Challenges placement, I’ll give a quick explanation. Alongside their day-to-day work, whilst in country volunteers are split into four groups:
MPR (Mid Programme Review) – tasked with organising a fun-filled weekend of reflection halfway through the 3 months
Team Building Committee – responsible for activities and events that bring the volunteers closer as a team
Communications Committee – with the joint aim of marketing the volunteers’ achievements and work
Impact Day Committee – required to identify a need within the community in which the team are living, and organise a day of action to tackle this.
As a team leader, I headed up the Communications and Impact Day teams, and my counterpart Lukman took charge of the MPR and Social committees.
It’s at this point that I’d like to challenge you to take a look at the below picture and ask yourself: what you believe you see?
We’ll revisit the answer to that shortly – but first, I’m going to explain how this picture, and the Impact day it was taken at, came about.
Planning Impact Day – take one
As previously mentioned, part of every ICS project is a team “Impact Day”. Although the eventual outcome of this event is tackling a social problem, it was clear that due to the nature of the Challenges programme it would be best to take an entrepreneurial approach.
The easiest way for a group of newcomers to a city to do this would be to join forces with an already established network. In our case, however, Challenges was as new to Kumasi as we volunteers were, meaning we had no existing connections. We, therefore, set about searching for charities and volunteer groups, talking to host homes and businesses, looking online, and reaching out to friends.
An orphanage affiliated with one of our businesses approached us for help. However, in order to mitigate the ‘voluntourism’ risk that I spoke about before, there has been a shift away from working with children on any Challenges Worldwide ICS placement. Challenges’ 20 years of expertise centres around sustainable business development in emerging economies and their work delivering ICS seeks to disrupt the status quo of unskilled young westerners undertaking short-term projects that can cause more harm than good. Therefore we were encouraged to approach our impact day activities with sustainability and long-term outcomes in mind.
Planning impact day – take two
Weeks passed, and ideas came and went. We all wanted to make a real lasting impact in the community that had welcomed us so nicely, but – like anything in a developing country – overcoming obstacles was a daily challenge. Thankfully, using prior university contacts from home, I managed to contact a social enterprise, SanEco, who wanted to help. Saneco is the brainchild of The University of Southampton’s Enactus Society. In short: SanEco have identified a way to create reusable sanitary towels from readily available and affordable materials. They train unemployed members of communities to make and market these products with a focus on also educating women on their bodies and menstrual cycles. Through this initiative, social entrepreneurs are created. By increasing these people’s income, they directly tackle poverty levels. These entrepreneurs also increase the standard of living of the females in their communities, who would now have access to affordable sanitary products, allowing them to continue with their normal lives whilst menstruating.
I pitched the idea to the Programme Manager and our Impact Day Committee and they all loved it – but they would, as a predominantly female team who understood these issues and were comfortable speaking on the topic. The real issue would be introducing the concept to the male members of the wider team and, as expected, there were mixed reactions. We, as Westerners, like to believe that we stand for equality and share the mutual respect to discuss health issues and topics such as the natural processes of the female body. It’s all too easy to think that the male/female divide is only now a problem in lesser developed areas; however, initial reactions to the Saneco topic highlighted that so-called ‘taboo subjects’ are also still prevalent in Western society.
It’s all too easy to think that the male/female divide is only now a problem in lesser developed areas; however, initial reactions to the SanEco topic highlighted that so-called ‘taboo subjects’ are also still prevalent in Western society.
After a few difficult conversations and a hard stance from the Impact Day team that this was how we would proceed, we got everyone on board. We would deliver workshops in the morning, transferring skills that are essential to any business: budgeting, marketing and bookkeeping, to name a few. We would then introduce the SanEco programme in the afternoon, and apply what we had taught in the morning to the product.
Preparing for Impact Day
The team were excited and the day began building momentum. We bought materials, secured a venue, did shout outs on the radio, printed and handed out flyers, reprinted and red-handed out flyers and attended church ceremonies to spread the word. Before we knew it, the day was upon us and all we could do was wait to see if anyone turned up.
Anyone who has been to Ghana will be well aware of GMT (Ghana man time). To those who haven’t, this is the name given to the fact that it is perfectly acceptable to show up to arrangements hours after the agreed time. A bizarre concept for people from the UK to wrap their heads around. Thankfully, it appeared that GMT was running particularly close to regular Ghana time this day, and at just 45 minutes after our planned start day, the room had over 20 people in (both male and female, from babies to grandmothers!)
The morning workshops went without a hitch. The participants were actively engaged, offering examples, asking questions and genuinely enjoying themselves. We broke for lunch and got ready to introduce SanEco.
There was a buzz in the air. We had decided to market the initiative only as a new ‘social enterprise idea,’ in order not to discourage anyone from attending before they understood the initiative. However, to our surprise, when we revealed what we would be showing them, the excitement remained in all participants! We began walking them through the process of creating a sanitary pad. Unfortunately, as accomplished as we all felt for pulling off this day, it turns out that we’d overlooked the slight issue that none of us could use a hand operated sewing machine, which was the main component of making these pads. Thankfully, and with some quick thinking, we threw it out to the audience and were extremely relieved when a lady in the front row was more than happy to help. She came up to the front, and in less than a minute, we had our first pad. I pulled out my iPhone and quickly snapped the above image.
When I earlier asked what you thought my picture showed, I’m sure you didn’t guess the answer. A woman empowered by a group of young people with the tools to start her own business tackling women’s needs.
Since returning to the UK, I’ve been overwhelmed by the interest in this image. It’s been in newspapers, been voted top 10 out of over 400 entries in the ICS photography competition and allowed me to attend a showcase at the Houses of Parliament, discussing my experiences with some of the most influential people in the country. The Houses of Parliament showcase was the first time since returning from my placement that I really had the time to sit back and reflect on the difference that we have made and can continue to make. Meeting volunteers from other ICS organisations has reiterated the positive impact that young people are making across the world. Challenges and ICS represent the opposite to most stigmas that are attached to young people nowadays. Lazy? No. Uncultured? No. Shying away from community spirit? Not that I’ve seen.
Challenges and ICS represent the opposite to most stigmas that are attached to young people nowadays. Lazy? No. Uncultured? No. Shying away from community spirit? Not that I’ve seen.
With the changing, and somewhat frightening, world that we live in today, it’s never been more important to spread the word on the positive impacts that collaboration across borders can make. I spent 3 months living in a country where I was a ‘foreigner’, and quite frankly the experience would have been impossible without the welcome, help and support I received from my Ghanaian colleagues. Pictures, to most, are a way of preserving memories. They have always been a very personal experience for me. However, what I’ve learned from this experience is that they also serve as a tool to spark curiosity, spread positivity, and tell a story. I’m not promising all pictures will end up with you in the Houses of Parliament, but I have seen first-hand that people want to know about your placement, they are interested in learning from your experiences and it’s actually pretty fun to relive them through sharing your story.
So: post your pictures, share your stories and remember that the Challenges Worldwide ICS experience is a truly unique one.
Micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) are cornerstones to the success of every economy, particularly an emerging one as Ghana’s. According to Storey (1994), SMEs have no universally accepted definition. Aryeetey et al (1994), defines MSMEs by categorising them into- Microenterprises (1–9 workers), small enterprises (10–29 workers) and medium enterprises (30–140 workers). In Ghana, most of the private sector businesses fall within the MSME bracket where they operate in markets with low barriers to entry, and with no real product differentiation. They do more than filling the black hole created by unemployment, driving macroeconomic growth, and also provide an avalanche of other opportunities. For these small businesses to thrive there needs to be the existence for an enabling ecosystem, because they are not just producers of goods and services, but they also serve as consumers. However, in Ghana it is a common practice to find central banks preferring to lend to governments, which offer less risks and higher returns, crowding out these same MSMEs (private consumers) from the financial systems. Having recently volunteered as a Business Support Associate with Challenges Worldwide (a UK Government Funded development charity that trains and manages expert volunteers to carry out short assignments for social enterprises, and prepare them towards investment readiness), I would propose certain ways in which this conducive ecosystem can be created;
1. Presence of enabling legal and regulatory environment
For these small businesses to thrive there needs to be an independent and efficient legal system to make sure contracts signed are not only enforced, but binding on all parties involved. Good policies provide a basis for an enabling environment. Some of the legal and regulatory bottlenecks that exists include;
· Inadequate regulations, insufficiency hinders the growth of these small businesses and makes it difficult for them to seek redress in the law courts, that is, the poor enforcement of contracts.
· Poor administration of regulations and lack of clarity, some of the existing regulations are complex and bureaucratic. They need to be clearly defined and certain processes (government agencies) taken out of the processes for effective delivery and to eliminate the duplication of processes among them.
· Lack of awareness, the laws and regulations need to be properly communicated and promoted to these small business owners, to give them a better understanding and appreciation of them.
2. Good microeconomic and macroeconomic policies
Sound economic policies go a long way in creating the needed desired ecosystem for MSMEs to excel on the backdrop of predictability. Economic policies need to give small businesses the room to be able to explore and exploit every economic opportunity by achieving; low budget deficits, low deficits, competitive exchange rates, etc. For instance, unlike larger enterprises who can hedge against high inflation and other unfavorable economic indicators by hedging to minimize their risk profile, small enterprises cannot afford that luxury and room to operate. It is important to say that, certain policies adopted will be political, but they should be implemented with sound analyses for the benefit of every economic agent.
Forming cooperatives and working to create community links can be beneficial both in terms of cost cutting and heightening morale for MSMEs. This is a very important way small businesses can overcome the major hurdles that confront them in areas such as; accessing affordable finance, and other economies of scale. Working collectively, and organizing workshops to learn from participants’ experience to help them gain insights into how to go about certain situation. Some of these clinics can help support members, with the support of technical assistance agencies, including voluntary non-governmental organizations such as what Challenges Worldwide does by recruiting qualified young people and training them to offer technical expertise as Business Support Associates of which I am a proud beneficiary. These partnerships through cooperatives can help them secure affordable credit at lower borrowing cost by lowering their individual risk profiles as a group due to certain formalization of their industry-related operations. It would afford them the opportunity to secure finance without having to struggle with certain stringent requirements such as collateral, enjoy economies of scale by buying at discounts, engaging in its own research and engage in sophisticated marketing.
4. Setting realistic and achievable targets
The alchemy of turning ideas into sellable, and appealing solutions to everyday problems is a mark of successful entrepreneurs. Setting realistic goals and timelines in achieving those set goals to create empires. MSMEs owners must also do well to have a succession plan to steer affairs even when they are no more. Their successors must be trained and equipped with the needed technical and entrepreneurial skills through mentorships, apprenticeships and other techniques. This preserves the original vision of the business without aberrations from their core business and internal wrangling of power. This is a major setback most small businesses in Ghana face and mostly fold-up when the brainchild is no more. This repels investors from putting their monies into such so-called “one man” business, and having a clear succession plan would appeal to investors.
5. Business Development Services (BDS)
These services includes; consultancy and advisory services, marketing assistance, technology assistance and other supporting services. MSMEs can outsource some of these technical and strategic services to experts for use on a fee-for-service basis. These would help to streamline operations leading to efficiency and increased profitability. Some of the reasons why these small enterprises are reluctant to use outside expertise are listed below;
· The use of experts/consultants may be viewed by the entrepreneur as admission of lack of competence
· The belief that only large enterprises can afford the consulting fees charged
· The fear of business interference, especially when requests are made to examine business documents such as accounts and taxes.
The use of BDS provides enormous benefits such as;
· An independent professional viewpoint and expert evaluation
· Training and development of strategic approaches
· Online marketing techniques- social media presence with targeted outcomes and may more…
6. Alternative sources of finance
Financial institutions are often reluctant to deal with MSMEs in Ghana due to high risk of default than the corporates. Also, bookkeeping skills is an issue because some do not keep any financial records (usually scant) and are mostly less transparent. There is the issue of not separating business account from personal accounts, and this indicates the poor quality of management. This hurdle can be overcome when business owners prioritize their needs and spend efficiently, and ploughing back profits into the business. Also, other alternative sources of financing that are longer-term in nature. For instance, small businesses with no product differentiation can come to a mutual understanding and merge to pool resources together. This could also afford them the opportunity to list on the Ghana Stock Exchange Alternative Market (GAX) which has more relaxed requirements as compared to the main stock exchange, to go public to secure longer term finance. However, this will still be on a high side for many MSMEs present but one thing is clear, the need for collaboration to pool resources in the form of long-term equity financing rather than short-term debt financing is the way forward.
In a nutshell, with an enabling ecosystem from the various state supporting institutions, the right collaboration amongst major stakeholders, determination from the entrepreneurs, Ghanaian businesses are going to soar higher. We should take a cue from the Asian Tigers who have used technology and their creativity to infuse themselves into the global value chain to compete with their counterparts from the West.
 Aryeetey, E.A, Baah-Nuakoh, A., Duggleby, T., Hettige H., and Steel, W.F., (1994), Supply And Demand for Finance of Small Enterprises in Ghana, Discussion Paper № 251, Technical Department, Africa Region. Washington, D.C., World Bank.
 Kubr, M., (2002)…Management Consulting.4th.Geneva, Switzerland, International Labour Organisation.
 Storey, D., (1994), “Understanding the Small Business Sector”., Routledge, London. pg. 33–55.
On a mission to provide solar power to rural Zambians, I find myself sat on a 7 (yes 7) hour bus journey from the town of Chipata in Eastern Province back to the capital, and the scenery around me is just breathtaking. The landscape is lush and green, covered in trees with small mountains that rise and fall along the horizon. At odds of course with my original stereotypical imagery of deserts or savannah filled with Zebras. It is such a privilege to have had the opportunity to my work here with Sunnymoney through Challenges Worldwide, to take this trip out into the countryside and get to take a peek at what Zambia is really like for the majority of its residents. To see the people whose lives we are trying to change for the better.
SunnyMoney Schools Programme
We travelled out here to start our Schools Programme where we engage the headteachers of rural schools and ask them to share information about solar energy and encourage their students and community members to purchase our solar lights. We deliver this programme at great cost to the organisation, selling lights at prices that barely cover the cost of importing them, let alone the cost of the field teams trips. We are in part funded for this by DfID but ultimately Sunnymoney aims to cover the cost themselves.
It’s been a fantastic and enlightening experience to travel to some remote areas and witness my colleagues deliver the programme. They have, it seems to me, a hugely challenging task and I have the utmost respect for the work that they do. We drove for long hours each day, getting lost once or twice (I honestly have no idea how anyone ever navigates these areas) which was absolutely exhausting. We even sadly got stuck in the mud one day after it rained! Being rescued by cows was a brilliantly ironic juxtaposition of old transport methods being far more useful and successful than modern technology out in the rural areas.
Providing solar power systems provides a means for rural Zambians to access electricity
Sunnymoney field teams aim to conduct 2 or 3 Headteacher Meetings a day and they aim to deliver a huge amount of information in only about an hour or so. The even greater challenge is that they do not pay headteachers to help them in the programme, to educate and encourage their students and communities. They are only asking. Yes there are small incentives and the Headteachers are always thrilled with their free solar light at the end, but they are asking them to do a lot of work above and beyond their jobs. So within this hour, my colleagues have to figure out how to inspire them, to prove to them that Sunnymoney is here with a social cause that is worth their effort to support. To show that they are there with the intention to improve education by helping students study at night, improve their future prospects and even further, to provide sustainable, affordable lighting for a whole family. Truthfully the responses were mixed. Some were so grateful that we would travel so far to see them and to choose their schools to work with us. It’s so challenging and expensive to reach many of these places, that most firms wouldn’t be able to reach them at an affordable price which is one of the key reasons Sunnymoney conducts this programme and allows them to help communities that truly need it. Others, unfortunately, were suspicious and had little confidence or belief in us. Whilst it’s an innovative and often successful distribution model, it’s flawed in that it’s a challenge to rely so much on individuals to support you when they have no accountability to you.
A Challenges Worldwide Business Support Associate can make observations and offer recommendations
The ethos behind the programme is wonderfully positive with a fantastic social impact. On my part observing the meetings, though, I was saddened to see that Sunnymoney has slightly fallen into the classic old trap of focusing on sales and forgetting why we were there in the first place. The wonderful part of that observation though is because of my position with Challenges Worldwide: I am in a position to help remind them. To use my role as a Business Support Associate and an outside voice, to make these observations where small changes could mean huge improvements.
Fighting poverty through business
It was incredible for me to drive past the many many villages and to be able to visit these schools. It’s given me such a small but worthwhile peek into little parts of rural life. It’s allowed me to connect more and appreciate more the people Sunnymoney are here to help, the people I am indirectly here to help. I am convinced that by helping Sunnymoney to become a more successful and efficient business, I am raising their potential to change even more lives. The ICS programme run by Challenges Worldwide is an amazing opportunity to bring in people with a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds to join together in support of worthy cause with so much potential for long-lasting impact. Fighting poverty through business in big or small ways is so much more sustainable than relying purely on donations. Sunnymoney will continue it’s operations long after I’ve returned to the UK, but I know that they have the potential to grow and change so many more lives and I hope my recommendations will help them to do that.
I graduated from the University of Manchester in 2016. I had little idea of what to do in my life. It is a feeling shared by thousands of other graduates. Most of my friends were going to embark on their corporate journeys or study a master.
As for me, I was going to Zambia to tackle poverty through developing small and medium enterprises. It was only a 12 weeks programme, but this experience in Zambia changed my perspectives on many things in life.
Learn to be adaptable
Whether you are riding on a packed bus squeezed like sardines on your way to work or compromising a price with the taxi driver, you have to do it yourself. You will begin to build on your communication, negotiation, and flexibility skills. This set of skills is invaluable at any workplaces in an ever-changing business environment. Once you are self-reliant, you become more confident and a better version of yourself. You are immersed in a new country and a different lifestyle. The culture shock can be overwhelming, so learning to become adaptable is key to overcoming any challenge.
I worked for Fruit D’Or (FDO), a fruit curer and distributor of bananas, oranges, and apples in the Copperbelt province of Zambia
A typical day consisted of going to work at 8:00am and finishing at 4:00pm. During those 8 hours, my team and I would do different tasks such as rebuilding an accounting system using excel, designing t-shirts for marketing, interviewing the street vendors to gather qualitative data.
Be a global change maker
I remember walking down to work on a bright, sunny morning. The traffic was buzzing in the background, and then one Zambian guy approaches me with an affable smile asking if I could provide him with a job. I was not in the position to give an employment contract. Though, he walked with me to work, because I had a contact that could lead to a job. I introduced him to Tom. He works at the front desk sales and also in charge of the casual workers. Tom started off being a casual worker and worked his way up. They exchanged contacts and told him to come next week to start working. I realised that we are all alike. We all want to work and be productive members of society. However, some are not as fortunate as we are. In developed countries, we all receive a compulsory education and we apply for jobs via the Internet. Whereas in developing countries, education is a privilege and employment is a scarce commodity. After coming to Zambia with Challenges Worldwide (ICS), I understood that if I can’t provide jobs, I could connect people with opportunities. Every generation gets a chance to change the world, so take action and be the change you want to see.
Discover what it is truly important for you
Adding value is a basic human instinct. Through this experience, I found out that I want to be that positive difference in the work that I do and the people that surround me.
My reasons for coming to Zambia are to give my contribution to ending poverty and providing decent work and economic growth for all.
I think the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) are every citizen’s responsibilities. Imagine if every person in the world engages with these goals, visualise the positive impacts we could have. Poverty will belong to the past and everyone will have decent work. I see life as an opportunity to leave my mark in the world. Imagine you couldn’t fail. Where would you go? What would you do?
The New Year is always a time for reflection. Having now been back in the UK for just under three weeks, this particular New Year has inevitably provided the perfect headspace to reflect on my three months in Ghana and is a good time to think about what the UK can learn from new and rising economies around the world.
In Ghana, being entrepreneurial is a way of life and not just a fancy term for someone with a big enough bank balance to make her good idea a reality. Graduate schemes, of the type that millennials in the UK have become used to worrying about, don’t feature much in Ghana, where it’s much more commonplace for new graduates to be already working on their own small individual business projects. So many people are driven to make a difference to themselves and the economic growth of their country and, more often than not, help to solve one of the issues facing their community too. We in the UK could benefit from the sense of determination and drive that I experienced firsthand on countless occasions whilst in Ghana.
Working with limited resources is seen as a challenge, not an obstacle to success
Ghana is a middle-income country and has already succeeded in halving the number of Ghanaians living in poverty in recent years. However, it is undeniable that Ghana has fewer financial resources and less economic buoyancy to rely on than the UK. Not only did I never anyone use this as an excuse for not starting a project they believe in, more often than not it is the very reason they’ve started the project. There’s a real sense of collective drive and ambition to continue the amazing economic growth Ghana has experienced over the course of just two generations. “We’re all in this together” actually means something to the majority of Ghanaians.
Buying local is the norm
With a wealth of SMEs within their economy, Ghanaians are never short of local producers to utilise within their supply chains. Cheap international labour is not such a driving force for outsourcing, with most enterprises valuing the speed, efficiency and long-term national benefits of using a local supplier. This approach sure has helped the Ghanaian economy grow at a far faster rate than the British ‘race to the bottom’ approach.
Recommendations come from real people and communities
Not online reviews that have been written by strangers. People still talk to each other, trust the advice of neighbours, aunties, members of the congregation, and this translates to real sales for SMEs across a huge range of sectors. Whilst digitalisation is occurring at very fast rates across the country, this hasn’t come at the detriment of communities and genuine relationships.
Mobile technology really is king
Banking doesn’t rely on holes in the wall or PIN numbers to transfer money between contacts in West Africa. No, where more than 60% of the population don’t have a bank account, mobile money has given economic independence to millions of Ghanaians. Mobile money is used for pleasure and business; with a simple instant transaction at one of the thousands of corner shops or street-level enterprises, money can be transferred from mobile credit to cash in hand. It’s a masterclass in adapting technology to meet local demands and proves that context really is key to breaking into any new market.
Self-sustaining is not just a buzzword
It is commonplace for houses to have a smallholding of home-grown veg or kept animals, not just because it’s a handy extra revenue stream but also because sustainability is empowering! Even in the trickiest of outside spaces, a flexible approach is always found. Our wonderful family I lived with in Kumasi grows amazing mushrooms, keeps a small rabbit farm and has a really smart self-made backup power supply for when the power outages occur. If Britain is going to come anywhere close to meeting our climate change targets, adopting the self-sustaining mantra practised and preached by Ghana would be a good start.
The real value is placed on international networks and regional collaboration
Ghana has been at the forefront of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) since its creation in 1975 and increasing exports and imports from regional neighbours has been a large part of the government’s strategy over the last decade. Unlike the UK and the attitudes that led to Brexit, Ghana understands that supporting the economic growth and stability of the whole region will pay dividends in the future for Ghanaians as well as boosting the long-term prosperity of citizens of neighbouring states.
There’s far more that unites us than divides us
Having spent the last 7 years in London, moving to a part of Ghana that doesn’t have a huge amount of racial diversity was unsurprisingly a big culture shock for me. It became clear to me quite quickly that racial identity is often a phenomenon cultivated in racially diverse communities and not those with greater homogeneity. I think it was an important experience for me as a white woman to spend a chunk of time being the racial minority, as my racial privilege is something I’ve mostly taken for granted living in the UK. But, with the increasingly divided communities we find ourselves in the UK experiencing, learning from communities where differences are seen as opportunities to learn from one another should certainly be a goal we all work towards for 2017; fascination rather than fear. I feel incredibly proud to have been part of a consultancy project that put cross-cultural exchanges at the heart of its work and many of the contacts I’ve made in Ghana will stay firm friends for a lifetime. There’s a lot we in the UK can learn from this fabulous country and a lot we should be proud to support.
An enjoyable yet tiresome seven weeks after arrival in Zambia. Six of which were spent in Kitwe analysing our respective businesses, producing deliverables based on our findings and using these to formulate recommendations, ultimately to present to our enterprises, we finally reached our ‘Mid Programme Review’. Commonly known as MPR amongst the volunteers, the Mid Programme Review is used to refocus the mind before implementing our recommendations, to share ideas, but most importantly to relax and unwind. This was much needed after living and working at such a fast pace for half of the programme.
The MPR committee, with no help at all from the Team Building Committee, organised a long weekend away at Nsobe Game Camp, home to a vast array of activities as well as a variety of animals, as the name would suggest.
Meeting Place: Mukuba Mall (where the no.1 Shoprite is located). Time of Departure: 9am. (10am Zambian time).
Surprisingly we didn’t leave particularly late despite the overall trend of doing so for other similar activities. Perhaps this showed the eagerness of the group who admittedly all seemed very excited in anticipation. All that was left was to pick up our food/supplies and most importantly speakers whilst driving through Ndola en route.
Arriving at the game camp, we were greeted by a small herd of what I would describe as large, fluffy, grey deer. However, I’m convinced that they must have a slightly more specific name. We travelled further through the bush where we were to find a thatched lodge overlooking a picturesque reed-banked lake.
Our new home
Relaxation was underway. Deck chairs, sun, chilled drinks and music resonating from our ever important speakers were all required and gratefully received. The girls joined us for dinner along with a game of “Mr & Mrs”. Instead of marriage, a common host home decided who would pair with who. Our champions with 5/5 points were our very own team leaders, Rachel and Ethel. Congratulations yet again.
The volunteers had no ties for the weekend, able to do whatever they pleased during the day apart from swimming in the lake. The reasons for this became apparent after a 4ft giant lizard looking monster creature thing, for lack of a better Zambian term, was sighted swimming close to our back door.
On Saturday, our programme coordinators Mikey and Mapenzi joined Frankie and I on a biking safari. A relaxing ride started off fantastically. Sightings of three giraffes and a herd of zebra accompanied by a rather disorientated looking donkey made the experience an unforgettable one. It became even more unforgettable after my bike managed to obtain a flat tyre with several hours of safari track still to cover. As you may have guessed it took us slightly longer than it should’ve done!
When we returned to the lodge, fatigued and dehydrated, we could think of nothing better than relaxing in the pool. Overlooking another lake, the pool was just as pleasant as the rest of the park. Monkeys swinging in the trees overhead took a particular dislike to a Jess which lead to a brutal display of fruit tossing in her general direction.
Challenges United FC were challenged to a football match for the second day running after our hasty exit of the swimming facility. A slick, skilful passage of play consisting of several nutmegs reached its conclusion at the opposition’s goalmouth to wrap up the game 4-2, maintaining our unbeaten streak.
The talent show was now the only thing standing between us and Sunday. A fabulous K-Pop dance routine performed expertly by Jack and Joel clinched victory after surpassing other talented acts. Mikey was on course for unrivalled glory until his juggling act ended sourly, leaving an eggy mess on the floor. A cracking performance nevertheless.
The following day, Jack, Joel, Franky and I decided to try our luck at fishing. Handcrafted bamboo rods coupled with a lack of fishing knowledge made our chances look fairly bleak. Optimistic, however, we cast our lines into the shallow water. Plenty of bites came and went and after half an hour of trying to come to terms with the fact that we were terrible fishermen, our first fish took the bait. The fish was clearly a trendsetter as another seventeen of its friends were soon to follow it onshore to meet their oily, frying pan themed demise. Tasted good, though.
A quick visit to the ‘Snake Pit’ after fishing resulted in some of the more fearless volunteers getting to grips with a huge python, only after being reminded it could dislocate its jaw to swallow us whole. A horrifying thought to have, especially when that said serpent is currently residing on the back of your neck.
Before our time at Nsobe Camp came to an end, and after a delicious BBQ, an award ceremony was to take place. The prizes, ranging from a stick to a pack of biscuits were honourably received with grace, modesty and dignity which capped off an unbelievable weekend.
The team returned refreshed and keen to implement their recommendations.
Thanks to the MPR committee for making it all possible, especially Mapenzi who I hope is not too offended by his award!