By Kase Knochenhauer
This study attempts to describe the strengths and weaknesses of attributes commonly exhibited by the young entrepreneurs in the central region of Ghana. Results are compared to previous studies from Poland, the United States, and Nicaragua. Eight groups of Ghanaian students self-evaluated the young people of Ghana across the attributes of creativity, energy, self-direction and risk taking. The results may indicate behaviors and thought patterns in Ghana that make successful entrepreneurship difficult. Results for the study were discovered through a class discussion at University of Cape Coast during a student discussion who evaluated their peers.
Ghana is a country that only recently received its independence from colonial rule, and although the British rule ended in 1957, many of its effects are still in play. The remnants of colonial rule may be responsible for the negative self-perceptions many Ghanaians exhibit towards their country’s goods and products. While they are proud of themselves and their country many have little confidence in what they produce. “It’s from England it must be better.” One seamstress sewed a “made in China” tag in the cloths she produced because they sold better. Remnants of colonial rule may be in part responsible, as socialism was Poland and Nicaragua, for their lack of confidence in Ghanaian goods the lower perception of self-direction. Before Ghana’s independence, the British acted as a governmental parent controlling the future steps of the nation. Now an independent nation, Ghana still seems trapped under the umbrella of others influence. Businesses mimic the parental influence of Britain and other European nations and sometimes even appear unwilling to move outside their realm of influence. Self-direction may be perceived as a weaker trait because in the past Britain made the calls, this leaves many Ghanaians uncomfortable to take the lead today.
It is interesting to see that the same problems surround creativity in both Poland and Ghana. For the most part, those interviewed say that their own country exhibits this trait but also add that it is not supported financial, with education or with proper facilities. In Poland it was found that under the socialistic education system students were encouraged to blend in and move together in a similar and parallel fashion. This does not encourage creativity or self-direction. The typical Ghanaian classroom lacks hands-on-experience that can encourage creativity; yet a typical business in Ghana requires these traditional hands on skills. The British-based education system, which much of Ghana exhibits, teaches students that traditional African craft are for the illiterate. When these skills are not taught in the classroom students assume these traditional African crafts and hard manual labor is something for the uneducated.
In Ghana, creativity was observed in the process of production rather than the product itself. It seemed creativity was a product of imitation. Seamstresses, carpenters, and craftsmen often imitated products directly out of a catalog exactly as they were produced elsewhere. These locally produced goods failed to improve products or ideas that could easily have been modified from their original state. They imitated but were not willing to emulate these designs into their own culture.
In Ghana and Poland, there is a common belief that risk taking is difficult because it is believed the payoff will not likely occur. In both countries there was read concern that they would lose everything. Ghanaians commonly described that taking a risk puts immense stress and even danger to entire families. Additionally, it was found that the perceived consequences of a risk often outweighed the benefits. Ghanaians also described severe social stress when taking a risk. Many Ghanaians were looking for work but would turn down every apprenticeship position open. These paid positions are often left unfilled because it is believed that they are meant for the illiterate and uneducated. They describe a country where status is more important than wealth; chance of financial gain is far outweighed by the social risk of “stepping down” to a position of hard labor.
The four traits energy, creativity, risk-taking, and self-direction could be seen as essential for successful entrepreneurship. Missing two of the attributes makes entrepreneurship and country wide development much more difficult. It is most interesting to see that in Ghana, Poland, and Nicaragua the same problems exist for varying reasons. In all three countries, development in entrepreneurship is slowed by their perceived lack of self-direction and admitted fear of taking risks.
To see more on entrepreneurship and innovation in Ghana visit Kase Knochenhauer’s blog at landofthegoats.blogspot.com