Ruth Quaye - A young entrepreneur in Ghana

Story captured by Miriam Hird-Younger, as part of the series "Investing in Youth in Agriculture - Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB) in Ghana." This Wednesday, this AgEx Venture Leader brings to us the success story of Ruth Quaye, a Ghanaian youth champion who participated in the EWB support Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship Project, building her understanding of how to start and run a business.

An FAO and ILO study in 2009 indicates that 40% of all unemployed worldwide are between the ages of 15 and 24. At Ghana’s agricultural colleges, graduates used to be guaranteed jobs with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture as Extension Agents, supporting the country’s farmers. Now, only a small minority are able to access public sector jobs. The rest have to find other means, and it can be discouraging, frustrating and difficult.

The inputs to get started in the civil society or private sectors are not easily accessible. Credit to start a business is hard to get, and interest rates can be unbearable. Higher management jobs often require a degree. Agricultural college graduates are trained in the practical, technical and field level competencies for the agricultural sector. But it’s not obvious how to place yourself in the system to play that role.

Starting a business with 15USD

Ruth Quaye graduated from Ejura Agricultural College in 2012. She had hoped to work for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture when she graduated, but was faced with the situation of many of her fellow youth – employment options were limited and competition was fierce for the jobs that existed. She notes that employment for youth in agriculture is a big problem in Ghana.

During her time at the college, she participated in the EWB support Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship Project, building her understanding of how to start and run a business. The course-based project does not given any funding for students to start their businesses. Instead, students are encouraged to use their own resources to start small and grow their businesses with the profits from initial investments.

Some students start their businesses with as little as 50GHS (15USD).The project doesn’t provide funding for the students’ businesses in order to demonstrate that you don’t need to wait for a thousand dollar loan to start a business, but can use the resources already within their reach and build up from there.

A first attempt

Ruth’s student group developed a quality and hygienically packaged shito (a popular Ghanaian fish, cooked with pepper and tomato sauce). They sold the product at the popular weekly market in Ejura, where consumers and sellers from all nearby communities came to do business.

Ruth reflects on her first attempt at business: “Before the project I was not having knowledge on marketing and how to do something on our own. Through the project I learned that I can do something on my own without depending on others.” She noted that it was not an easy process. She had a lot to learn about how to get customers and had challenges growing the business.

Create your own opportunities

Ruth now works in a private agribusiness that distributes agricultural inputs and products, such as fertilizer and pesticides, acting as the company`s agronomist. This young Ghanaian is still interested in also having her own business, but finds it challenging to start. With capital scarce in the system, it is especially hard for youth to access start-up capital.

Although getting started in agriculture as a young person in Ghana can seem daunting and discouraging, with capital hard to access and a lot to learn about business marketing, the private sector in agriculture is constantly growing in Ghana and opportunities abound.

Youth can seek out employment in agribusinesses like Ruth has done, or start their own. If youth are able to start small, to look at what is already within their reach, they can begin to create their own opportunities rather than waiting for opportunities to come to them.

Click here to watch Ruth Quaye's feedback on her understanding of how to start and run a business.