Social enterprise has become a growing concept in the global world. Institutions have championed the importance of social enterprise/social entrepreneurship within a public policy context globally, nationally, regionally and locally.
The aim of this brief article is to discuss the importance of social enterprise as a key problem solver in dealing with the key economic and social economic problems in society within the context of Ghana.
The authors of this article are currently undertaking a funded Innovation for African Universities Programme project with the British Council; the key focus of the research is to see how social enterprise can be better integrated into economic development in Ghana from a higher education policy perspective.
Social enterprise is a term that sparks great debate when an all-embracing definition is attempted. This is, in part, due to its multifaceted nature, cultural and social variances, and the complexities of the numerous social, economic and psychological influences upon the notion of social enterprise.
The authors of this article view social enterprise as an altruistic, social and economic movement that drives an innovative response to a pressing societal challenge that may be local, regional, national or global, and there is a clear impetus to develop social enterprise globally, generated by COVID-19.
This has been fuelled by the view of the World Health Organisation (WHO) (2020), which emphasises the crucial role that social enterprise and social entrepreneurs will play in the current global health crisis, asserting that in order for society to build a new normal, social enterprise and social entrepreneurs must step up to the challenge presented.
Social enterprise cannot be separated from the political, social and economic systems of sovereign states. Social enterprise within Ghana is no exception to this.
Socio-economic inequalities disproportionately impact the life chances of Ghanaian young people.
With an average national unemployment rate of five percent, unemployment among the youth (aged 15-35) is much higher at 12 per cent, with an additional 28 per cent categorised as discouraged workers.
Unemployment is simply not an option for most people, particularly the youth who turn to the informal sector to earn an income. One in three young people in Ghana are self-employed in vulnerable jobs.
It is estimated that 230,000 Ghanaians seek to enter the labour market annually; the formal economy is able to offer jobs to about two per cent, and, consequently, 225,000 are left without employment (Dadzie, Fumey and Namara, 2020).
Of those employed, about 50 per cent are underemployed or underutilised as they lack entrepreneurial skills.
Furthermore, the current infrastructure is prohibitive to start-up and small- to medium-scale enterprises. This has an adverse effect upon socio-economic development, exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19.
With the consequent/related global economic recession, an innovative approach is needed to equip the labour force with appropriate employability skills.
The COVID-19 pandemic requires communities to be responsive and strive towards developing sustainable solutions.
Universities have a role to play in this process: firstly, by embedding enterprise initiatives within curricula and developing social entrepreneurial skills, and secondly, to support social enterprises by providing a pool of expertise for social entrepreneurs to draw upon.
The World Bank (Dadzie, Fumey and Namara, 2020) identifies agribusiness, entrepreneurship, apprenticeships, construction, tourism and sports as key sectors that can offer increased employment opportunities for the Ghanaian youth.
Ghanaian universities have failed to establish societal skill development in these areas, specifically failing to provide career guidance and counseling, work-based learning, entrepreneurship, coaching, and mentoring to equip young people with the skills needed for work and the skills associated with the global skill framework.
Rising to the challenge
Ghana’s population is 30.8 million according to the 2021 Population and Housing Census (PHC). Since the first post-independence census in 1960, the population has increased nearly fivefold.
From 24.7 million in 2010, the population has grown by 6.1 million, representing an annual intercensal growth rate of 2.1 per cent. 73.5 per cent of Ghana’s population are below 35, with 38.2 per cent between 15–35 years old (Ghana Statistical Service, 2021).
This figure further emphasises the country’s unemployment rate and the growing need to equip the youth with employability skills. Social enterprise will provide economic, political, social and environmental solutions for the country.
Social enterprise solutions
Seeking work remains a core criterion for defining unemployment. The effect of unemployment transcends individual-level effects and yields adverse consequences for both a society with a high unemployment rate and the country’s economic trajectory.
Again, youth unemployment is becoming an apparent feature of the economies of many developing countries. The youth unemployment situation in Ghana is said to be growing at an alarming rate.
In Ghana, the unemployment rate is about 4.6 per cent and is primarily dominated by females compared to their male counterparts (GSS, 2021).
Employment growth in Ghana appears to lag behind its economic growth over the years, and social entrepreneurship is one of the surest ways to solve the unemployment bane of the youth while at the same time championing the government’s post-pandemic recovery.
Social enterprise leads to job creation, improves government revenue through taxes, improves the capacity of local industries, and stimulates the economy’s growth.
It can have a positive impact on the economy, primarily as the government seeks to increase investment for entrepreneurship in the 2022 budget statement.
Social entrepreneurship will be at the forefront of the country’s quest to promote the building blocks for an inclusive and sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery.
The article was written by Josiah Nii Adu Quaye, Michael Snowden, Ernest Christian Winful, Jamie Halsall, Denis Hyams-Ssekasi & Frank Frimpong Opuni