A 26-year-old entrepreneur from Bongo in the Upper East Region yesterday won the overall prize in the third Presidential Pitch held in Accra, taking home a grant of GH¢100,000.
Mr Douglas Akolgo, whose Zoyana Enterprise converts remnants of processed shea butter into coal (sheacoal), tar, shampoo and anti-dandruff products, beat nine other contestants to clinch the coveted GH¢70,000 prize money to expand his business.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who conceived the initiative to enable young entrepreneurs to improve their businesses, with the view to employing more people, added GH¢30,000 from his personal resources to the prize money, bringing the total grant for the overall winner to GH¢100,000.
The winner will also go for a fully funded study programme outside the country.
Mr Theophilus Domenyo, whose enterprise is into the production of an eco-friendly mosquito repellent, and Mr Cornelius Nyobator, who produces organic herbicides, came second and third, respectively.
For their efforts, they received GH¢60,000 and GH¢50,000, respectively. The pitch was on the theme: “Creating an entrepreneurial climate to support young businesses”.
The Presidential Pitch, being managed at the Ministry of Business Development, was introduced to open doors, such as funding, for young Ghanaians between 18 and 35 years to translate their business ideas into viable businesses and for those already in business to scale up.
This year’s edition began with receiving applications from June 16, with the list being pruned until yesterday’s climax with 10 finalists. In all, 100 applicants from across the country were shortlisted, after which 20 were selected. The 10 finalists were later picked from the 20.
At the final pitch yesterday, all the 10 finalists pitched (presented and defended) their business ideas before an expert panel of judges, which was the main assessor.
During the first two seasons, 20 young entrepreneurs were awarded cash prizes of GH¢1 million. In season one, the winner, an agro-processing entrepreneur at the time, won a cash prize of GH¢50,000 and a personal donation of GH¢25,000 from President Akufo-Addo.
The joint winners of season two were into the manufacture of sanitary pads using banana and plantain fibre. They received a cash award of GH¢60,000 and an additional GH¢40,000 from the President.
In an address after the pitch, President Akufo-Addo expressed confidence in the Ghanaian and said given “the sheer energy and can-do spirit of the Ghanaian” and the calibre of the new contestants, he believed the future of the Ghanaian private sector was extremely promising.
He applauded the 10 finalists for their efforts and said “the forward-looking programme was made possible by the resourcefulness and dynamism of the Minister of Business Development, Dr Ibrahim Mohammed Awal”.
He announced that the winner of this year’s pitch would be attached to a reputable company in Europe to experience, first-hand, good work practices, build the needed capacity and access funding sources and markets.
The other nine winners, he said, would also receive between GH¢30,000 and GH¢45,000 each and be attached to reputable Ghanaian businesses for coaching.
President Akufo-Addo stressed the commitment of the government to help fashion a supportive environment to enhance entrepreneurship.
“The government is doing this because it believes entrepreneurship is a vital component of economic growth and development and it has been globally embraced as an important driver of economic transformation.
“There is a recognition among governments and development proponents that youth entrepreneurship is the appropriate tool to address the economic challenges of our times,” he said.
The President was happy that under seasons one and two of the Presidential Pitch, 460 direct and many more indirect jobs had been created, with majority of the jobs being in rural communities.
In particular, he pointed out that the two previous winners had together created 232 jobs by finding creative ways of investing their cash prizes to scale-up their businesses.
Clearly, he said, “our young men and women can be a positive force for development when provided with the knowledge, skills and opportunities they need to contribute to the growth of a productive economy”.
Business support programme
Under the Presidential Business Support Programme, another flagship initiative of the Ministry of Business Development, President Akufo-Addo said 360,000 young entrepreneurs were currently under training across the country to build their capacities and enhance their competitiveness.
He said the number of people with start-ups and small businesses who had been trained since 2018 under the programme was 45,000, while 5,000 of those trained this year would be funded to scale-up their businesses to bring the total number of trained start-ups and small business owners provided with funding since 2018 to 9,350.
On the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP), the President said it would continue to serve as the primary vehicle for providing integrated national support for start-ups and small businesses, focusing on the provision of business development services, business incubators and funding for youth-owned businesses.
President Akufo-Addo made it clear that the cash prizes were grants, not loans, and a demonstration of the government’s commitment to build an ecosystem of fastest opportunity and innovation for youth entrepreneurs.
“The Presidential Pitch winners will continue to receive mentorship, coaching and business advisory services over the next few years for free. Knowing the tenacity of Ghanaians, I would like to challenge the winners to employ best business practices, so that they become competitive to create jobs for Ghanaians,” he advised.
Dr Awal was full of praise for President Akufo-Addo for showing personal and a special interest in the grooming of young entrepreneurs for the country.
He told the President that business confidence in the country continued to sour higher because of the manner in which he had been able to manage the pandemic.