Entrepreneurship for Opportunity Actualization (EOpAct), a USAID program funded through Africa Lead II internship-based Agribusiness Leadership Program (ALP) has been launched in Accra with the aim of providing distinctive services to graduates, youth and women to build their technical and managerial capacities to make them relevant in agriculture value chains.
The occasion was graced by dignitaries including Mr. Ebo Bechem-CEO Youth & Employment Agency, Juliana Asante-Dartey-Country Director ASNAPP, Toni Mpoy-Grants & Internship Manager (Africa Lead Program),Prof. Richard Akromah-Provost, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, KNUST, Kweku Akuffo-Head of WRP, Clifford Ber Nard-EoPact South Africa, among others.
Speaking on Agribusiness opportunities for youth employment and economic development, and the rationale for EOpACT, Mr. Dan Acquaye, Executive Director for ASNAPP said, “Unemployment is a major issue in many African countries over 40 per cent of the global unemployed are youth and Ghana is also grappling with its effects. In Ghana, over 70,000 graduates from various tertiary institutions join the labour force every year with only about 6,000 having the possibility of being employed (Ghana Graduate Business Support Scheme).”
To address the issue of unemployment, agriculture is an antidote as it provides jobs for more than 65% of the population.
“It must be stressed, however, that most of these jobs occur in the lower end of the value chain where the skills are low and remuneration is poor. As the sector advances and opportunity of value addition grows along with the demand for highly qualified personnel, there is a widening gap between the industry’s skills needs and the competence of recent graduates/youth entering the job market. Most of them are not exposed to business opportunities, lack hands-on vocational and technical skills, and further lack access to innovative technologies and business management services,” Mr. Acquaye stressed.
According to him, Most businesses are reducing their investments in training inexperienced graduates since they tend to loose such trained staff to competing companies without necessarily gaining value for their investment.
“It is against this backdrop that USAID through Africa Lead has initiated The Internship Partnership Network (IPN) project being implemented by Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP),” he explained.
The project is focused on building the entrepreneurial and vocational skills of young people to exploit industry opportunities.
EOpAct is intended to bridge skills-set gap between industry, academia and graduates and seeks to sharpen the skills of young people to fit into industry whiles at the same time shaping the skills of SMEs to become productive, profitable and competitive.
It is a purely hands-on industry related programme targeting the agricultural and agribusiness value chains specifically horticulture, livestock and grains sector. The project will support agribusinesses firms to develop in-house internship programmes that will unearth youth talents towards industry value chain productivity.
Ultimately, this program plans to adopt the BEEE principle (Becoming an Entrepreneur, Employer or Employable) meant to increase the number of skilled agribusiness professionals who are expected to play an important role in contributing to private sector development and increased food security across Africa.
Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP) seeks the collaboration and partnership of corporate institutions and firms interested in building capacities of youth and reducing unemployment as well as having the need to employ/engage young graduates.
EOpAct will work with three categories of beneficiaries (Interns) as indicated below and in three selected value chains (Horticulture, Livestock and Grains & Legumes).
i. Graduate Youth Interns, especially those who have completed their National Service and are job-seeking. This target group is more anxious to get onto the job market, willing to learn and also ready for “on-the-job training”. It also aims at linking graduates to job opportunities.
ii. Start-up Interns: The second category of interns will be start-ups and SMEs that have initiated their business but lack competence in certain managerial or technical skill. The project will arrange with firms/organizations with the requisite know-how to allow these SMEs enroll as interns so as to acquire the knowledge and upgrade their skills. Most of the interns here will include underserved entrepreneurs.
iii. Student Intern: Student interns will also be attached to firms for practical hands-on training during their long vacation to expose them to industry skills, establish linkages and offer opportunity for them to be engaged for full internship after their national services. Internship Package
Interns will be provided with stipend during their period on the internship program.