Meet Ashesi lecturer, Dr. Sena Agyepong, who is helping reform Ghana's cocoa sector
Central to Ashesi University’s mission is the goal to train students to become self-starters, which would be a key attribute for future leaders; since inception, students at Ashesi have received entrepreneurial training in varying degrees.
In an increased effort to strengthen entrepreneurial spirit among students, Ashesi introduced a new course under the liberal arts core, Foundations of Designs and Entrepreneurship (FDE). All freshmen at Ashesi are now required to take this course, which helps expose them to managing a new business and structuring a startup.
In 2016, one of the startups from the course, was nominated for a student startup award in the Ghana Startup Awards. Two Ashesi alumni businesses were nominated under different categories.
Working with the Next Generation Cocoa Youth Program (MASO), a MasterCard Foundation funded program led by Solidaridad, Dr. Sena Agyepong, who was instrumental in designing FDE, is pushing to bring Ashesi’s entrepreneurship training to underdeveloped communities across Ghana.
“MASO provides me the opportunity to reach people in deprived areas, and guide them in making a living for themselves and transforming their community,” she explains.
While Ghana has remained a world leader in cocoa production for several years, the sector has in recent times seen a decline. MASO hopes to engage the youth in cocoa-growing areas of Ghana, and make them active stakeholders in the transformation of the cocoa sector - a vital part of the Ghanaian economy.
“One key aspect of entrepreneurship is the ability to identify and gather resources, necessary for one’s business to succeed,” she explained. “Some of the areas don’t have phone connectivity, most of the youth are semi-literate, and don’t seem to understand the big picture or even the social structure they live in. We need to appreciate and understand this so that when we are taking people through a process, we take them through a process relevant for their context.”
The MASO programme, which currently works with over 100 participants in the business academy, is looking forward to an improved cocoa industry, which would make it a key addition to Ghana’s economic growth again.
“I believe entrepreneurial education will help move Ghana, and Africa, to developed status,” she says. “As an imperative, it should be something that everyone has access to.”