A breakfast meeting that hosted numerous top chief executive officers (CEOs) and business leaders has successfully ended with participants advocating support for small and medium-sized enterprises, in a bid to fully unlock the sector’s untapped potential and spur the ongoing economic recovery process.
More importantly, they called for intentional investments into productive sectors of the economy amid the persisting economic challenges in addition to policies that prioritise domestic production.
Currently, SMEs occupy a critical role in the economy – accounting for over 90 percent of business enterprises as well as 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and 80 percent of all employment. Despite their importance to the economy, the SME financing gap is estimated at some US$4.8billion – one of the largest in Africa.
It is against this background that Chief Financial Officer-FBN Bank Ghana Limited, Semiu Lamidi, urged fellow financial sector players to support the ecosystem so as to drive growth and harness its potential
He said his outfit has put measures and initiatives in place that increase support in the form of grants for SMEs to better position the ecosystem.
Participants in the SMEs ecosystem at the event, organised by B&FT, pointed out that one way to help them generate jobs and increase their contributions to the economy is by making long-term credit accessible to them – along with business support programmes to accelerate their expansion.
Other participants raised concerns about how unconducive the operating environment is, and how there are not enough frameworks to support value added companies in spearheading the import substitution agenda so much desired by the country.
They therefore stressed that it is about time investment for key productive and industrial sectors are prioritised – adding that a national development plan remains a sine qua non, as it will serve as guideline to any government that wants to lead the country.
The breakfast meeting, dubbed ‘Respected CEOs and Business Leaders Breakfast Series’, is a flagship programme of the B&FT offering actors in the development model a platform to periodically recommend strategy, and equally to project outlooks for the fiscal year.
The programme’s 2024 edition was held under the theme ‘Economic and Business Outlook, 2024: Perspectives from Business Leaders’.
Turning her attention to the agriculture sector, Head-Training, General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), Emelia Ghansah, reiterated the lesser attention given to agricultural finance and capacity building of farmers – supporting her assertion with the farmer to agricultural extension agent ratio.
“I think the policies for agriculture in the country are about the best – but it is the implementation. I don’t think we are doing anything when it comes to agriculture finance. We do not give our farmers the needed finance and technical support. Therefore, as we sit here, we have one agriculture extension agent to 300-plus farmers. So, how will the agriculture extension agent give technical support to farmers?” she queried.
Additionally, she drew the attention of participants to how foreign countries who come into the country use agriculture as a cover – only to venture into other sectors of the economy, especially in minerals exploration by using the land they purchase from chiefs.
In addressing issues highlighted in the agriculture sector, she suggested that individuals within the businesses and academia ecosystem must link up and collectively push their agenda to government, as well as connect more with people at the grassroots.
The founder and chief executive officer (CEO)-MinoHealth AI Labs, Darlington Akogo, on his part emphasised that considering the absence of technological innovations required to solve the cocktail of challenges facing the African continent, its citizens need Artificial Intelligence (AI) more than developed countries.
He urged business leaders to inculcate technology in their operations and embrace new trends for efficiency.
“With the magnitude of challenges we have, we do not have the infrastructure or what it takes to solve them; and this implies that we actually need AI more than the developed countries,” he said.