Dutch-Ghanaian startups want ‘piece of the cake’ of Ghana’s booming economy

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Fourteen Dutch-Ghanaian entrepreneurs keen to start their businesses in Ghana competed last week in The Hague to win a 10-day validation trip to Africa’s fastest-growing economy.

 Ghana’s economy is booming and so is its middle class. As the country is projected to take the lead as Africa’s fastest-growing economy in 2018, it has become a highly attractive market for young Dutch-Ghanaian entrepreneurs who wish to invest in the country.

Fourteen entrepreneurs with Ghanaian roots pitched their business ideas on Friday 23 March 2018 at RVO, or the Netherlands Enterprise Agency in The Hague. The event marked the closing of the Growing Business Together (GBT), a five-week business booster program of Truvalu.Startups to foster young entrepreneurship in Ghana and The Netherlands.

The program was held for the second year with support from the Dutch Embassy in Accra, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and Ghana Netherlands Business and Culture Council (GNBCC). Competing to be named one of five best startup ideas, the fourteen entrepreneurs of the program hoped to win a 10-day trip to Ghana to validate their business plan and meet potential business partners.

25-year old Lenry Austin is one of them. Born in the Netherlands, she dreamt of going back to Ghana to start her own retail business selling Europeans-style fashion online. “Ghana is changing fast”, she says. Prosperity is growing, and the rising middle class now wants to ‘live the good life’. Austin believes there is a big emerging market for fashion companies. By outsourcing the fabrication of garments to Ghana, she hopes to not only grow her business but also stimulate the Ghanaian economy by creating jobs.

Piece of the cake
George Duncan, program manager of GBT, says it comes as no surprise that most Dutch-Ghanaian entrepreneurs who join the program target Ghana’s rising middle class. “They have money to spend, the growing economy largely depends on them.” As moderator of the pitch-event Augustina Austin puts it: “Ghana is on the rise, and we all want a piece of the cake.”

For the 23.000 Ghanaians living in the Netherlands, it is attractive to start a business in Ghana. Yet most entrepreneurs do not know how to set up a scalable business, says Duncan. “They lack the network and skills, and that is what the GBT-program teaches them in five weeks. We prepare them to build a solid business case.”

GBT Pitch event winners: Joshua Asambo, Lenry Austin, Esther Dankwah and Emanuel Ankrah (from left to right) ©Basabose Photography

The 5 winners are…

After a nerve-racking competition in which all participants had four minutes to present their ideas, the jury announced the winners. Olympic sprinter Esther Dankwah who wants to start training sport coaches, takes fifth place. She is followed by Joshua Asambo with a delivery service providing Ghanaian households with fresh vegetables produced on urban farms in Accra, the country’s capital.

Lenry Austin is among the winners. She comes third and can now go to Ghana to see if the country is indeed ready for a fashion company like hers. Runner up is Dennis Toppin, who is already an entrepreneur and who is keen to help Ghanaian citrus-farmers to meet international quality standards and find new buyers for their fruit. The winner is Emmanuel Ankrah, a young Dutch-Ghanaian raised in The Netherlands who came up with an online learning platform to help Ghanaians to become skillful entrepreneurs.

“I’m extremely excited with this chance”, Ankrah says after the announcement. With the other four winners he will go on a 10-day trip to Ghana to find coaches and partners for his online platform, and to see if the market is ready for his product.

“This price gives me a great opportunity to test the business case, and use the skills that I have picked up at the Growing Business Together program.” Ankrah’s main takeaway from the five-week business booster is to first start a lean business and scale it up eventually. In the coming years, this is exactly what he plans to do. With this chance Ankrah will join Ghana’s new entrepreneurs who are keen to live, work and invest in the country.

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