Sunday, 15 February 2015


Over the weekend of February 6th to 8th 2015, Ghana hosted hundred of the sub region’s brain boxes of entrepreneurs at GIMPA. What were they here for, TechCamp West Africa.

A maiden event and arguably one of an experience, the conference had as its theme; ENTREPRENEURSHIP: ADAPT, EMPOWER, MEASURE. It was intended to bring one hundred young social entrepreneurs from Ghana, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Togo, Benin and Cote d’ Ivoire to gather and engage in hands-on capacity building, and networking with the region’s leading government, academic, civil society and business experts.

The public-private initiative spearheaded by the US Embassy Ghana and the GhanaThink Foundation was to encourage cross border collaboration, inspire entrepreneurship, and promote increased trade across borders.

Session began with attendees (participants) briefly introducing themselves, what they do and the various countries they represented.

Lead panel Seyi Taylor and Cyriac Gbogou opened the discussions by asking participants which countries were having elections in the sub-region and participants’ stated a few. Participants from Liberia pointed out they had their elections the previous year and it was well noted.

Moving forward in the discussion, participants expressed how the period of an election affected their businesses. One of the participants from Liberia stated that, his NGOs main sponsor left the country and haltered all funds that had been agreed to sponsor its programs for the year. This he expressed really affected his organization as one of the programs of the organization was targeted at poverty alleviation and scholarship grants to needy children towards their education.

Another participant from Ghana stated that “My opportunity to gain that funding for my organization was declined later after it had been agreed in principle that my application had been approved. The reason, because a prominent politician who was contesting a Member of Parliament seat had come in for a colossal amount to fund his campaign and was considered a priority client”. This participant expressed disappointment because it affected his schedule of operations for the next period.

It seemed unanimous that, in the sub-region, one thing was evident; organizations are tagged to either the ruling government or the opposition party mostly based on perception or at some point your affiliation in society.

In as much as electioneering period affected some entrepreneurship ventures, there were some good news in some aspects as, the period helped some of the participants to explore their entrepreneurship self. 
One of the participants stated that, the elections helped his organization to enforce the reason why one should vote and not accept bribes to induce their decision. They in turn set up a working post where information dissemination made them gain funding from some organizations to support their project. This participant was from Liberia.

Another positive note that was shared in this Jam session was from a member of lead panel who hails from Ivory Coast, stated the election period encouraged him to set up an sms application solely to debunk rumours pertaining to the general elections. This application was designed to create the awareness what that was true and not true running around in the country. During the election day, the app extended its services to providing information on where election materials were available, were not available and to announce violence in an election locality. This he said attracted some funding from corporate bodies.

Revealing during the Jam session was a term in the mobile telephony circles which had similar references in the sub-region. In Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria, it is referred to as FLASH whiles in Togo and Ivory Coast it’s known as BEEP. This is where a main call is stooped after a connection is established and the recipient gets notified and shows as missed call. Interestingly, in Liberia, it depends on the intellectual affiliation level where the somehow educated folks call it flash and the rural folks used beep. This actually drew loud laughs in the room ending in applause. It was news to me and for once I learnt another thing that was general in the sub-region.

It was therefore agreed by both participants and lead panel that, as an entrepreneur in West Africa, you must have a working plan specifically spelling out your strengths especially during an election year so your business isn't affected.