A former United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, says Africa must fully exploit the potential of the agricultural sector for accelerated economic development and job creation.
He observed that the agricultural value chain (from the farm to transport and processing) had immense potential for job creation to reduce, particularly, youth unemployment in Ghana and on the continent.
“We tend to think of agriculture as the farmer and his or the produce but between the farmer and the produce and getting the produce to the supermarket, we can create a lot of jobs.”
Mr Annan said this when he and his wife, Nane, paid a visit to the Rural Technology Facility (RTF) of the Rural Enterprise Project (REP) at Mankessim in the Central Region last Thursday.
They interacted with beneficiaries of the project and inspected an exhibition of their products.
The REP is a poverty alleviation scheme initiated in 1995 by the government with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
It aims at building the entrepreneurship skills and capacities of rural people to enable them to set up income-generating ventures.
SMEs and job creation
“I am excited about government commitment to focus on agriculture as a basis for broadening developmental effort,” Mr Annan said.
He commended the government for its commitment to encourage the setting up of small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), noting that in most developed countries, the real jobs were created by SMEs.
The National Director of the REP, Mr Kwasi Attah-Antwi, said the project had supported several groups to set up businesses through training and capacity building.
Over the years, he said, the REP had created 34,402 new jobs, established 27,702 and impacted about 140,000 others.
He said the REP would target and support unemployed graduates interested in agribusiness to make a meaningful living through the Empowering Novel Agribusiness Led Employment for Youth (ENABLE YOUTH) programme.
Development of SMEs
The European Union Ambassador to Ghana, Mr William Hanna, said Europe would go beyond aid and help the country to do more to enable its people to help themselves.
He said his outfit was in discussions with the Ministry of Trade and Industry to support the development of SMEs.
The Country Director of IFAD, Mrs Esther Kasalu-Coffin, said there was funding for REP and urged beneficiaries to access those funds to expand their businesses.