“There is a way to do business in every part of the world. Western way of business as an SME is more of working under comfortable conditions – air conditioned office, easy certification, etc. But in Ghana and Africa, the entire system is difficult to work in. It is not easy here, you have to make money the hard way. There are not many sources of funding in Africa and entrepreneurs here are always competing for a fair share of the resources available,” said Bob Turner during his visit to Challenges Worldwide in Ghana. Mr. Turner, believes that SMEs in Africa are the future of building Africa’s economy and as such, much attention must be given to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in respective countries in the continent.
Challenges Worldwide is part of, has been delivering the International Citizen Service (ICS) project in Ghana (for the past two years), Zambia, and Uganda and is being funded by the UK Department for International Development (UK DFID). In the delivery of the ICS program, the Challenges Worldwide focus on building small businesses and startups in Africa. Bob Turner, a senior mentor who has been on the program for 18 months and has directly mentored about twenty (20) SMEs through assistant business associates who are placed with these enterprises, shares his experience in working with businesses and startups in Africa.
Bob is a retired IT specialist who worked with BBC in his youthful stages and later on moved on to work with globally recognized IT firms like HP and IBM (where he worked as a consultant in Australia, and also China and India). Upon retiring from work, he decided to dedicate his days in retirement to share his accumulated knowledge and experience with young professionals by aiding them to provide essential consultancy to SMEs in Africa through the Challenges Worldwide project in Africa.
Following his earlier statement, he furthered to say that, SMEs in Ghana and across Africa are afraid to take risk unlike entrepreneurs in UK. He explained that, the risk profile level in UK for businesses is lower due to the available of funds on multiple channels which are easily accessible to entrepreneurs – these may include loans, grant, etc. However, situations are different here (Ghana). For instance, loans are accompanied with high interest and due to the unavailability of funds, most CEOs do not like to tolerate risk; they will always want guarantees before approaching every risk. Conversely, it is important for CEOs to note that risks are opportunities – the higher the risk, the better the opportunity.
To conclude, Bob Turner mentioned that the attitude of most entrepreneurs in Africa (specifically, Ghana) are good – they are very energetic, serious minded, and have a good attitude towards work. With that character, CEOs could achieve anything if they stay consistent and focused.