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Regional News Wed, 13 Oct 2004

Fund to assist innovative entrepreneurs launched

Accra, Oct 13, GNA - A million-dollar fund - Innovative and Development in Enterprise Assistance Schemes (IDEAS) - was launched in Accra on Wednesday under the Support Programme for Enterprise Empowerment and Development, Ghana (SPEED).

It is a joint programme of the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and targets entrepreneurs in difficult or emerging markets, especially those engaged in non-traditional exports, food processing and ICT.

It would provide start-up capital of about 50,000 dollars for entrepreneurs in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Eastern and Western Regions.

The average project size to be supported would be up to 200 million cedis and the implementing projects partners would be required to put in 10 per cent to 20 per cent as their share of the overall project through their own generated resources.

It is an open financing facility, earmarked to support the piloting and development of new innovative instruments for enterprise growth and aims at assisting with the development of sustainable business support instruments for the micro, small and medium enterprise sector.

The Project, currently being piloted in Accra is in phases - with first phase ending in December 2005. Deadline for the first round of applicants is October 30 2004 with a fee of 50,000 cedis. The second round would be in 2005.

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Mr Tue David Bak, Programme Co-ordinator, who launched the Fund, said the programme had focussed at strengthening the business environment for growth in the Private Sector and this could be achieved by looking at the legal and institutional framework in which businesses operated and ensuring that laws were good and were enforced in a fair, effective and timely manner.

He said one way to reform the environment was to increase the availability and access to growth oriented micro, small and medium enterprises to business support services in order to strengthen the providers of vital business services so that they could help manufacturers to access new markets, strengthen the knowledge of change in consumer preferences and advise on new ways of running companies in the 21st century.

He noted that the money from IDEAS alone could not improve the business environment in Ghana, it would not guarantee development of good products neither will it spur innovation or growth.

"However if the companies, who apply have their house in order, have a clear picture of how the funding could help them, then I am convinced that they can play an important role in spurring development."

Mr Bak said the Government of Ghana and DANIDA had embarked on this programme because of the firm belief that it would contribute to economic growth and reduce poverty.

He said there was the need to diversify the economy and to have a broader base of goods and services being produced and sold, adding that the market in its current state in Ghana could not itself drive all these processes forward so something had to be done to hasten the pace of diversification to speed up reform in the environment for business.

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Mr Dunwell Ekow Eku, a Business Development Sector Advisor, said eligible business organisations must be legally registered Ghanaian business or service providers engaged in business activity in the formal or informal sector; post a positive annual turnover in two years of the last three years and be directly responsible for implementing the project.

He said all proposals would be evaluated based on a set of criteria including, quality of innovation, operational capacity, contribution to social objectives, economic development and technical quality and methodology, adding that a total minimum score of 62 points must be obtained before an application would be selected for final consideration by SPEED Management Committee. He said the project had targeted the Southern Sector because it would be easier to monitor the companies involved and expressed the hope that in the future it could be extended to the other regions.

Mr Volker Visarius, Principal Advisor, said, "we want to go where we believe markets can work after having received an initial injection of support. We are aware that this can take some years; we are offering high quality concepts which have proven to work and we develop local solutions which serve best in the situation in Ghana".

Mr Andrew Lawson, Executive Director of Association of Ghana Industries, who chaired the function, said SMEs offered more than 70 per cent of employment in the country, however support for the Sector was inadequate thereby making most of them inefficient and remaining the same as when they began operations.

He said "we at AGI know that Ghanaian companies have a lot of potentials on the export market through the made in Ghana Solo Exhibition, adding that the companies only needed a push in areas of support to participate in fairs and challenged the SMEs to come up with innovative support scheme that had positive impact on the economy and were eligible for funding.

Source: GNA