The Export and Import Bank, otherwise known as the EXIM Bank, has distributed GH¢2million to 20 graduate start-up entrepreneurs at its maiden Graduate Enterprise Development Initiative (GEDI) Awards held in Accra.
The initiative is designed to support graduate start-ups in agri-business as the country seeks to narrow the trade imbalance and to create employment for thousands of unemployed graduates by adding value to agro-products.
Over 71,000 graduates are churn out of school every year onto the job market from both private and public tertiary institutions. Conservative estimate shows that there are over 200,000 unemployed graduates in Ghana.
Given the inability of the public sector to absorb the large numbers, entrepreneurship is being now taught and encouraged in many tertiary institutions.
Many young graduate have now taken up the challenge of adding value to agro-products for exports with the aim of creating employment for themselves and others.
President John Dramani Mahama, therefore, established the EXIM Bank to move the country from import-dependent to a large-scale exporter and also bridge the trade imbalance.
Professor Rosemond Boohene, Director of Centre for International Education, University of Cape Coast (UCC) said: “The other 17 who could not make it to the final 20 will still be supported to refine their business plan and we will see if we can also get other sources of finances for their businesses.”
Acting Chief Executive Director EXIM Bank, Dr. Barfour Osei told the B&FT that: “This initiative is something President Mahama mandated. When he launched the YES program, he also mandated EDIF to do something specifically to support the graduates. This is directly for graduates unlike the YES project which is for everybody. The basic idea is to get the graduates from school to work because when they come out of the universities, their brains are the ‘hottest’. This initiative is to say that there is room for you to use your brains to develop those ideas which you have.”
A lot more graduates are expected to benefit from the about GH¢10million allocated by the Bank for this initiative.
Dr. Osei said: “One of the things that limited the numbers was because it was the first time [and] people hadn’t thought about the whole concept. For the next time, I am sure we are going to get more applications. And as far as there are bankable ideas, we will surely increase the numbers.”
The idea of the GEDI awards was birthed in 2015 where an advert was placed in the newspapers for interested applicants to apply for participation.
The GEDI project started with 75 applicants who went through a detailed transparent selection process which involved a three-day training program.
The training programme was designed to help participants develop and sharpen their entrepreneurial skills and develop their project concepts.
Participants then submitted their business plans which were screened by a team of consultants from Cape Coast out of which 37 were selected for stage two of the process.
They were then coached, mentored and were made to refine their business plans including pitching to a team of consultants and the Export Development and Investment Fund (EDIF). The initial applicants were then trimmed to 20.
Another significant aim of the GEDI project is for these businesses to produce products that will compete with the imported ones in the super markets.
During the exhibition time, the Made In Ghana products were displayed in attractive colours and quality packaging which could pass for an intentional standard.
Some Made-In-Ghana products exhibited at the event included: Perfumed Ghanaian made long grain rice by DUQ rice; mushroom; Dakua by Delchris Ventures; and tea with Moringa and Prekese by Premor.