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How Diasporan’s can bridge the gap and build 'Made in Ghana'

Tue, 1 Dec 2020 Source: Nadia Takyiwaa-Mensah

One of the most pertinent questions often asked by Ghanaian (and sometimes our Nigerian counterparts) is why we do not see Ghanaian brands beyond the borders. With so many creative, beautiful, and innovative products housed within Ghana - the rest of the world rarely gets the opportunity to experience what the nation has to offer.

There are many hindrances which Ghanaian businesses encounter, which inevitably does not allow them to expand, five of which are commonly identified:

1. Lack of funds to be able to scale up, market and export

2. Lack of business acumen - not knowing how to operate beyond basic trade

3. Not knowing/ realizing the potential of their product beyond the local market

4. Not having adequate human resource

5. Relational issues which do not allow people to trust doing business with people and wanting to keep things small

As real as the hindrances are, it results in no vertical growth for businesses, which in turn often dies when the founder gets ill or passes away.

Where there is a problem, there is always an opportunity for a solution and in this case, Diaspo-ran’s maybe the answer to this longstanding challenge.

There are two types of Diasporan’s, those who are abroad and like to come to Ghana occasion-ally and possibly have a foot in Ghana without actually being here. Then those who have relocated and although they have their own industry focus, they still would like to contribute to Ghana one way or the other.

People often look to family and friends to give them ideas of what to do and where to place their money and are fatigued with start-up ideas.

Access to capital and/or disposable income, is rarely sufficient for Government projects/tenders, for the average Diasporan.

All is not lost, as diasporans can take advantage of embarking on strategic partnerships with micro and small businesses in Ghana. Where most artisans and farmers are great at the technical and production elements of their business, they are not too strong on packaging, branding, marketing, and distribution. They have rarely been exposed to how supply chains and distribution works and do not realize the full potential of how far their product can go.

Diasporans can enter into a JV with a micro-small business and work on building a business structure and progressively developing the service/product, through to implementation.

A diasporan partner can help local businesses develop their product or service and challenge the entrepreneur to be more innovative and responsive to consumer needs.

Key areas Diasporan’s may want to consider include Agriculture (main and bi-product), Clothing and Accessories, Body-care incl. body cream, shampoo, and conditioner).

In 2018, the Ghana Coffee Federation hosted an event that explored the opportunities which are available within the coffee industry in Ghana.

Although there were many small-scale coffee producers, none had reached the shelves of our local supermarkets or coffee shops and the packaging/branding was not much to be desired - opportunity!

In 2017, Topshop owned by Arcadia Group in the UK was selling waist beads at £36 (GHC276), whereas the product is locally sold at GHC15 (£1.95) - opportunity!

Blue Skies is a company founded on partnering with local farmers in West African countries including Ghana to export fruit to the UK which in turn gets distributed to Tesco and other main-stream retailers.

There are many opportunities which can be explored, and whilst finding a business partner and/or embarking on a joint venture is not easy, it can surely be worth ones while and profitable. Furthermore, building and partnering with Ghanaian entrepreneurs will grow accessibility to more Ghanaian products/services on regional and international markets.

8 steps on how to get started

1. Assess your strengths and the value you have to offer - do not oversell yourself to your-self. Know what your core competencies are - stick to it!

2. Decide what industry you are interested in - it is best to focus on one area and make the most of it

3. Research on small brands which have potential and also follow other brands which are doing well

4. Develop a strategy and action plan on what you can do for the business including key measurable milestones

5. Be clear about what you want from the entrepreneur you are approaching - People can be fragile and do not like the idea of losing control of something and/or not being recognized for their work. As a result, some may end up not wanting your help and believe in themselves to make things happen

6. Write up a contract and ensure that it is legalized by both sides - Never ever take it for granted that you do not need a written agreement that gets legally ratified, anything can happen very quickly and you need to ensure you are protected.

7. Do as you say don’t take anybody for granted and/or think you are better than them. Work on leverage from each others strengths

8. Brace yourself it is going to be a bumpy, potentially long journey. With moments of silence from your new partner, to misunderstandings, things not moving as quickly as you think I, poor communication, inconsistency, money being wasted, and much more - Always focus on the bigger picture!

Once you are able to identify and buckle down, you could be on to a real winner and be a con-tributor to Made in Ghana beyond borders.

Columnist: Nadia Takyiwaa-Mensah