The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which succeeded the erstwhile Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has broad global goals expected to be achieved by 2030.
Among other goals, goal 8 and 9 of the SDGs seeks to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; and build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation respectively.
Often when such global policy direction and agenda are set, it comes with it, the challenge of conceiving innovative projects at the grass-roots that will help translate such broad goals and objectives into reality. Policy implementation runs into challenges and sometimes failure because of inadequate innovative projects that correspond with the spirits and ideas behind such policy goals and frameworks.
Challenges Worldwide – ICS program in Ghana claims to be anchored on the 8th and 9th goals of the SDGs stated above. It is a commonplace to find organizations seeking to link their project goals and objectives with global agenda and goals. Yet most organizations’ projects design and implementation may be far different from global agendas such as the SDGs and MDGs.
It therefore becomes imperative to subject such organizations and their projects to scrutiny to ascertain if indeed the design and implementation of the supposed projects are in line with the global goals and agenda in vogue. This will help identify best practices and ideas to help promote efficiency and effectiveness in implementing policies and programs.
The Challenges Worldwide – ICS program in Ghana is in its 7th cycle. The programme seeks to provide consultancy in business analysis for SMEs operating in sectors identified to be critical to the national economy. The programme pairs local (Ghanaian) and foreign (UK) volunteers and place them in a small-medium size enterprises. The volunteers are tasked to carry out key business growth and expansion analytical tools such as SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, PESTLE Analysis (political, economic, social, and technological factors) , Cash Flow Analysis, and Supply Chain Analysis among others. Volunteers will afterwards make recommendations and help implement short term recommendations.
I am Dennis Owusu, a Ghanaian volunteer on the Challenges Worldwide – ICS, January, 2016, 7th Cycle programme. And I would like to highlight my personal and practical observations of the linkages between the Challenges Worldwide programme and building inclusive and sustainable economies which are expressed in goals 8 and 9 of the SDGS. What endears me to this programme is the promise it professes to build inclusive and sustainable economy in Ghana. Privileged to be part of rolling out of this program in its 7th cycle, I always reflect on the realities of the programme to find out if indeed there is connection between the programme and the promise to building inclusive and sustainable economies. In the following content, I would like to suggest in my opinion some ways the Challenges Worldwide programme is relevant to the SDGs goals 8 and 9.
First, Challenges Worldwide is primarily focusing on SMEs in the agriculture, transport and crafts sectors which are very critical to the Ghanaian economy. In Ghana, it is estimated that SMEs provide about 85% of manufacturing employment, accounts for 90% of existing businesses in the country, and contributed 49% to the country’s GDP in 2012 (1). SMEs contribute to employment creation, provision of basic goods and services and generation of export and tax revenue for national socioeconomic development (1). The Challenges Worldwide – ICS model selectively recruits SMEs whose production, suppliers, consumers are local as much as possible. Unfortunately, whiles SMEs in Ghana wields such a preponderant share in the economy and employment, the full benefit of SMEs have not been realized largely due to lack of entrepreneurial skills, lack of access to high quality and affordable business development services, lack of adequate technical and management support services and limited access to information on market opportunities. The lack of financial literacy, operational skills, including accounting and finance, business planning, are formidable challenges for SMEs in Ghana (1).
By strategically focusing on SMEs in Ghana, the Challenges Worldwide – ICS programme has the potential to build inclusive and sustainable local economies in Ghana vis-a-vis the key role and position SMEs holds in the Ghanaian economy as outlined supra. The deliverables expected of volunteers such as SWOT Analysis, business plans, marketing plans, and production and process improvement plans will go a long way to help SMEs expand their capacities and access financial assistance from financial institutions.
Perhaps the first inclusive characteristic of the Challenges Worldwide – ICS programme, is the recruitment of local youths from different fields of study and backgrounds (paired with UK volunteered) to provide consultancy to SMEs in their local economy. This provides a platform for local youth to be involved in their own development. There is high graduate unemployment in Ghana. Challenges Worldwide – ICS programme is an employment platform for as many unemployed graduate as long as the project continues to run. The experience gained by practically providing business consultancy for SMEs is likely to spark the sense of entrepreneurship in local volunteers to start their own businesses.
Unlike the traditional remote expert approach to providing business consultancy to small businesses, who are normally unable to afford such services, Challenges Worldwide model places young consultants in the midst of the business and the broader sociocultural environment by accomodating the volunteers in a host home in the community in which the business operates. This ensures that the young business consultants stay with the business, stays with the people in the wider community, learn their culture, where they draw huge knowledge, which can be usefully transferred into analyzing and making recommendations for the business client. This goes a long way to ensure that recommendations and findings can positively reflect the true needs and solutions of the business taking into cognizance the broader socio-economic context of the business. This also has the potential to foster participation and ownership by the business and any other relevant stakeholders in the consultancy and analysis process which eventually can build sustainability and continuity during implementation of long term recommendations proposed by consultants. This also builds capacity of businesses in retrospectively understanding their business.
One may not agree with me, but recruitment of host homes is another indicator of building inclusive economies. By renting host homes for 3 months, the Challenges Worldwide – ICS program is likely to increase income of host home families through rent and paying of other utilities bills that the host home might have incurred or unable to finance. Whilst one may argue that other volunteering programmes may also utilized the services of host homes, this has direct link to the local economy as it provide accommodation for the consultants who provide consultancy services to SMEs which are direct economic players in developing economies like that of Ghana. This is a way the wider community is involved in developing their own economies. The host homes provides opportunity for volunteers to expand their social network with the host family and the larger community where the host home is. This holds long term advantages for volunteers especially Ghanaian volunteers.
The Challenges Worldwide- ICS programme in Ghana is indeed a route to building inclusive economies for their strategic focus on SMEs which dominate the Ghanaian economy, the involvement of Ghanaian youth in their own development and the use of host homes which also promises increase in rent and sharing in the financing of utility bills. The Challenges Worldwide ICS programme deserves government support and continuous donor funding to help realize the Sustainable Development Goals as set by our global society.
1 Frimpong, Charles Yeboah Strengthening SMEs In Ghana GhanaWeb Feature Article of Friday, 27 September 2013 Article 286949 http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/Strengthening-SMEs-In-Ghana-286949