The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, has called on the youth to embrace the electronic levy (E-Levy), as it is linked to the YouStart initiative aimed at promoting youth entrepreneurship and job creation.
“The E-Levy is an essential tool that will ensure that we have the revenue to invest in entrepreneurship, youth empowerment and road infrastructure and pay our debts,” he said.
Mr Ofori-Atta further said the E-Levy would prevent the government from borrowing from the money market, which would make it compete with the private sector for funds, otherwise known as ‘crowding out the private sector’.
The minister was speaking at the Youth School, an addition to the 2022 annual New Year School and Conference at the University of Ghana yesterday.
It is being organised by the School of Continuing and Distance Education of the university on the theme: “COVID-19 and socioeconomic dynamics in Ghana”.
Youth School context
The Youth School also featured a Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr John Kumah; the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Enterprises Agency (GEA), Mrs Kosi Yankey-Ayeh, who addressed business opportunities for youth enterprises, and the Chairman of the New Year School and Conference Technical Committee, Mr Andrews Jack Dotsey, who addressed voluntary service as a way of developing personal leadership and a number of mentorship presentations to get the youth reoriented towards entrepreneurship and self-employment.
The Youth School has become important as a result of Ghana’s demographic dividend, which is a population dynamic that has more youth or people in the worker bracket than there are in the dependent (minors and retirees) bracket.
Mr Ofori-Atta spoke to the youth on the topic: “Building a sustainable entrepreneurial state: Government’s policy for harnessing our population dividend”.
To solve the issue of the high youth unemployment rate, he said, the government would have to create about nine million jobs by 2030, yet structural and fiscal constraints were currently undermining the ability of the public sector to employ more.
As a result, he said, only 10 per cent of the nearly 100,000 tertiary graduates succeeded in securing formal jobs annually.
“If our nation is to achieve genuine equitable and sustainable economic transformation, then it cannot be ‘business as usual’,” the Finance Minister said.
That was why the government was focused on creating the needed business opportunities for the youth, where they could utilise their skills, with financial support from the government, he explained.
“The government is focusing on the private sector, particularly entrepreneurship development, seeking to build entrepreneurs through implementing programmes that empower majority of young people to explore their God-given talents, take risks and become job creators, instead of job seekers,” he said.
The solution to youth unemployment, he added, was to build a sustainable entrepreneurial nation by strengthening the links between education and the job market, providing access to finance, resourcing state institutions to support the ambitions of young entrepreneurs and growing the capacity of the private sector to create more jobs.
He said the YouStart initiative, which is under the Ghana COVID-19 Alleviation and Restructuring Enterprises Support (CARES) ‘Obaatan pa’ programme, would invest GH¢100 billion in three years and create one million jobs.
The initiative would provide youth-led enterprises with soft loans of up to GH¢50,000 to help their start-up businesses and also for small businesses to expand their operations, Mr Ofori-Atta said.
He added that the initiative would also provide soft loans tied to equipment acquisition of up to GH¢50,000 for individuals and up to GH¢100,000 for groups and associations.
“The goal of the government is to make the youth agents of economic transformation. We want to end the paradigm where government creates employment,” he said.
Students and YouStart
Dr Kumah explained that the YouStart initiative would cover students on the campuses too.
He said the universities would receive funds which they would be required to match and grow through businesses and investments.
Aside from that, he said, the initiative would be implemented through the GEA, the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP), selected non-governmental organisations (NGOs), faith-based organisations, banks and other financial institutions.
“I pray that the E-Levy is passed to create opportunities for jobs for the youth. There is no job sitting for you after you complete school. In times past, corporate organisations pitched jobs and enticed graduates with cars and residential accommodation, but that is past,” he said.
Mr Kumah said the youth had to build their own jobs and business opportunities to remain in employment.
The Provost of the College of Education of the University of Ghana, Professor Martin Obeng Ababio, in his opening remarks, said the COVID-19 pandemic had proved how important and innovative the youth were.
He said some students of the university had created their own sources of revenue by creating jobs for themselves during the pandemic and that had shown how much potential was embedded in the youth, which he said could be used to create wealth, especially in the post-COVID-19 era.
The Ghanaian dream
For her part, Mrs Yankey-Ayeh called on the youth to rely on their talents and initiatives to create the Ghanaian dream.
The Ghanaian dream, she said, was “a Ghana with sustainable jobs that the youth and the country as a whole can benefit from”.
She said the GEA had been mandated to create an enabling environment and support the youth to see to the realisation of that dream.
The agency, through its 200 offices around the country, provides, among others, business advisory services.