We are pleased to bring you another thought-provoking and intuitive interaction from The Readers Hub on our SOCIAL MEDIA MONK session.
On 29th June 2020, Mr. Abdul-Mumin A. Bapube, was hosted by one of our ardent moderators, Dr Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia). They discussed extensively on the theme: State of Ghana’s Business Environment with a Focus on Small Scale Business.
Dr Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia) opened the discussion with an awe-inspiring and appropriate introduction which sought to tune in the minds of our Readers around the thematic concerns of the discourse.
The business environment or the business climate or business ambience is often used to denote the fitness, robustness, and receptiveness of an economy, which is determined by indexing different econometric, regulatory and social indices. Just as meteorologist study the weather to determine the hot, cold, as well as foggy, windy and rainy spots of the physical environment, economists, and business experts and institutions have developed different metrics for measuring how well an economy is doing, with respect to the extent to which local and foreigner direct investors find it incentivizing, and rewarding, and the extent to which existing and emerging/start-up micro and small scale businesses find it welcoming and instrumental to the realization of their corporate goals, missions, visions, and targets.
There was a point in Ghana’s history when university graduates were offered three sets of keys: office keys, bungalow keys and car keys. However, over time, graduates lost all the three keys and what we now have is an exponential rise in the rate of graduate unemployment. Creation and growth of SMEs in the formal and informal sectors of our economy remain the obvious and viable panacea to the unemployment conundrum. However, it is tenable to surmise that our government, both past and present, have often concentrated more on inducing foreign direct investors with very stupendous regulatory and fiscal incentives to the detriment of local businesses.
Our experience with foreigner direct investors has been counterproductive since they come into our economy with expatriate labour, exploit us and repatriate their profits whilst our economic and social lives continue to deteriorate. The NBSSI was established in 1985 and subsequent governments have pursued different programs to engender the creation, growth and sustainability of SMEs to resolve the graduate unemployment crisis. Unfortunately, however, many, if not all, of these programs, have proven to be knee-jack/quick fixes.
It is our hope that this intellectual engagement, on this essential subject matter, would help us understand why micro-businesses are always mushrooming in Ghana but a considerable number of them often die before they even reach their gestation periods and so many remain intergenerational micro-enterprises.
To this extend, therefore, one wonders whether the short lifespan of SMEs in Ghana is attributable to the nature of our culture of making business/investment or it is our business environment or better still a combination of both factors?
Tonight, The Readers Hub is honoured to host one of its devoted Readers on the Social Media Monk handle, who has gladly volunteered to share his expert knowledge on the state of Ghana’s business environment, with focus on Small Scale Businesses (SMEs) to help us unravel this conundrum.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia):our guest for tonight, Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube, is currently a Doctor of Business Administration candidate at the University of West Scotland, London Campus, UK and has vast knowledge in business related fields such as Business Administration, Corporate Finance, Financial Markets & Institutions, Strategic Planning, Management Consulting, Market Research, Business Development, Business Planning, Business Analysis and Leadership & Professional Development. Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome Mr. Abdul-Mumin A. Bapube.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): Sir, you are most welcome!
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Thank you for the opportunity.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): Before we move to the main discussion tonight, could you please walk us through some brief background about yourself?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Like many of us here, my parents migrated from the North to the south, especially Peninbisa on the Kintampo Techiman Road. My late father was into charcoal burning and mostly settled in rural areas because of its nature. I was born there, and before I could walk, they moved to another village, Zabrama on the Kintampo Attebubu road. I started schooling there until class 5 when my dad took me to Kumasi to study in an English and Arabic School, Sakafia. I proceeded to Tamale Secondary School and read Applied Science or Technical and then to UDS Navrongo campus where I studied Financial Mathematics. I had the opportunity to pursue my masters at the University of Westminster, London. I am currently a DBA candidate with the University of West Scotland, London Campus.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr Tilapia): Congratulations on the impressive progress despite the challenges. Indeed, that is a great deal of fortitude and progress in both social and academic life.
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Thank you my brother (smiles)
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): Now let’s get to the thematic concern for tonight. How does Ghana’s business environment look like? Robust, gloomy or hopeful?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: A lot of things make up a good business environment. From infrastructure to regulatory requirements and easy accessibility to credit. Infrastructure per say is very eminent. Be it physical like roads etc. or otherwise, like technology, especially Internet. E-Commerce or business, has proven to be a better alternative especially in this era of Covid-19. Just looking at the aforementioned, we still have some progress to make as a country. Nonetheless, we have some potential like a relatively stable democracy and enjoying some peace at the moment. If a nation can boast of the above, one can hope for the best. So, I will say our business environment is hopeful.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): Ok, that is inspiring to hear. The main focus is on SMEs. What does that mean to a man on the street?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Small and Medium Enterprises. However, there is no universally accepted definition for SMEs. Mostly; SMEs are defined by country, industry, production methods, capital assets, turnover, number of employees etc. But the most common is by the number of employees. Example, the Ghana Statistical Service during the IBES survey defined MSMEs; thus, Micro as an entity that employs between 1 and 5, Small 6-30, Medium 31-100 and those above 100, are considered as large enterprise. But even in Ghana, it will interest you to know that NBSSI, VCTF all have different definitions for SMEs
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): This implies that the differences between micro enterprises, SMEs, medium enterprises and large scale are determined, mainly by their variances on number of employees?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Yes, according to the Ghana Statistical Service
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): So, if I have a business organization comprising myself, five (5) family members and three (3) good friends, can I claim I have an SME?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Yes, you have an SME. Small SME to be specific. Because the number of employees is 9
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): Assuming Mr. ‘A’ wishes to start up an SME and needed some advice on how to pursue a very strategic employee recruitment plan that will propel the growth, security and sustainability of the business idea, what will be your advice? Is it ok to start with only family members and friends I can trust or base my recruitment preference on meritocracy and academic qualifications?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: The primary goal of every entrepreneur is to maximize profit and minimize cost. With that in mind, and the fact that business ideas need to be protected, it calls for a proper autopsy of the situation. Especially in our type of economy where ideas are not protected by law or where they are, enforcement isn’t that effective.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): My concern here is about trust, cost, protection of my business ideas and growing my business.
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Yes, so if your family member s are either capable or can be trained to do the job, it will be the best option. But let me add that if they are good family members (smiles). Otherwise, part of recruitment is to ensure the trustworthiness of the person being hired. In some cases, I believe it’s possible to work with an outsider and still succeed if the need be. But I can understand where you are coming from. It’s worrying how people easily lose ideas to others
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): I guess many SMEs owners are scared of smart people because they may grasp the business idea and fly away with it
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Basically, that is true, but such situations do not e courage innovations because one is not the originator of the idea. That’s why, as a country, we need to start implementing measures to safeguard people who have business ideas. Elsewhere, that alone is big business. For instance, the USA has a law mainly for protecting trade secrets
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): You mean to say one creates an idea to sell?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Exactly! It is very important in encouraging people to innovate.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): Now how do you react to this common scenario? There are instances where people take loans and hire an office space for their businesses. When the businesses are flourishing, the landlords refuse them a renewal of the rent and by that action, turn to start the same businesses in the same office places.
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: That is disturbing, and the poor tenant may have to start all over again. In many cases, they end up ending their dreams.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): So, what happens to their loans then?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Defaults in payments and when care is not taken, they pay dearly for it. Once you have an agreement with the financial institution, you have to honour it by all means. Some may even contemplate suicide unless you have a special insurance cover, which is very unlikely with our SMEs. Theft of business secrets is regarded as an act of espionage in Ghana’s Unfair Competition Act, but it is not enforced. Theft of business secrets is an intellectual property law issue, but in Ghana, we treat it entirely as a Competition Law issue. Apart from the enforcement, most businesses are not also aware that they have these rights.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): Readers may now send your questions to me privately, and I will relay them here for our Guest to respond to them.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): I have a scenario-based question for you, my brother.
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: That’s ok
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): Assuming the following four unemployed graduates’ approach you to solicit for your technical/expert advice on how to start an SME, what will be your advice?
Unemployed graduate 1 has capital but has no business idea
Unemployed graduate 2 has a business idea but has no start-up capital
Unemployed graduate 3 has no business idea and has no start-up capital
Unemployed graduate 4 has a business idea and has start-up capital
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Unemployed graduate 1 may partner with unemployed graduate 2 because the two of them will complement each other. Besides, they will have the opportunity to realize their dreams in the shortest possible time than they would have waited individually to develop viable business ideas and raise capital, respectively. For unemployed graduate 3, we say two troubles, one God (smiles). It’s also important to know that it’s not always about ready cash, if graduate 3 can prove his honesty and readiness to learn, he should volunteer more to learn and create networks that will help him realize his dreams. Unemployed graduate 4 will only have to make sure that his ideas are well tested, and the environment is conducive enough to start that business.
Bassing A. M. A. Kamal: How does an employer establish the trustworthiness of a person being hired for the job?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: The first interaction between a job seeker and a recruiter on their CV is partly to assess the honesty of the applicant. Are all that is stated on the CV really true? The employer would definitely like to know. Secondly and obviously is to seek a reference from your referees. Mostly one should be a character reference that must state whether you are honest or not, and the other is about your professional capabilities. In most cases these days, recruiters secretly browse social media handles of job seekers. E.g. Facebook and Instagram, and what one post there mostly reflects their true identity. A little caution here for what we post on our walls (smiles). Mostly too, even if one skips all these, he has still kept on probation for a period just to make sure he is really the right candidate.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): Ok Mr Bapube, reverting to the challenges to establishing, growing and sustaining SMEs in Ghana, what are the key bottlenecks that confront SMEs in Ghana?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: I would like to classify them under Financial and Managerial challenges. Managerial in the sense that most SMEs are faced with the problems of underemployment. In most cases, it’s either a man’s show or a woman’s show. Where one person acts as the accountant, secretary and manager, but they are not to be blamed because of the lack of finance to hire and maintain the required staff. And so, they either engage family members or do the work all by them themselves. Indeed, family members become the easiest to hire provided they are available. On the finances, most SME owners do not separate their personal money from what has accrued them from the business. They do all their daily family expenses from the business revenue and so are not able to account properly for any lost. These, among many others, may possibly collapse the businesses; because there is no proper documentation for accounts.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): Ghana has a plethora of public institutions which are by law mandated to support SMEs technically and financially to facilitate their growth and sustainability. We have the NBSSI, NYA, YEA, GIPC and COTVET, among others. These institutions indeed, actually exist, but SMEs still suffer short lifespan. Do you think the institutions are doing well enough to stimulate the establishment, growth and sustainability of SMEs?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Are the institutions doing something? Yes! But is it enough? No! It is a fact that so many SMEs do not know NBSSI which is mandated to provide technical support to businesses in the country.in a related development, MASLOC credit is not easily accessible as well, which further compounds our problems. Sadly, we don’t have a reliable business database for the country. How does the agency which is mandated by law to work, do their work effectively? It must, however, be noted that most of these agencies mushroom and disappear with governments over time.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): So, without a credible database, how do they execute their mandates?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: We need to thing out mitigation measures as soon as possible that is different from the existing ones. Else we will keep getting the same results all the time. Why can’t we ensure that every business or potential entrepreneur undergoes a compulsory basic business management training before they are qualified to go for credit? Till we get concrete structures starting with a credible database, governments will come and share money in the name of supporting businesses, but nothing can be measured. ADB and NIB have been turned into commercial banks. No bank is willing to give credit to farmers and SMEs. They see SMEs as risky ventures to invest. And this clearly gives convincing reasons for the urgent need of a national policy for SMEs.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): please can you give us a brief insight into the potential impact of COVID-19 on SMEs? How will the principle of social distancing and the closer of the local market, international borders and airports affect SMEs in Ghana in the face of the collapsed banks?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: It’s no doubt that Covid-19 is affecting and will continue for some time. But the level of effect on SMEs varies from sector to sector. For instance, SMEs in the hospitality sector, tourism and aviation will likely feel the effects more, especially when international travel is curtailed. It also means that it will be more difficult now for lenders to borrow money out because of the unforeseen future. In brief, I think SMEs will be highly impacted with the exception of those in the health sector. Most import-related businesses are expected to slow down, especially if their destination of import is heavily affected, leading to low production. However, it’s good the government has announced a stimulus package for the SMEs. Let’s hope that those who really deserve it are considered.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): In your view, what are the ways forward for Ghanaian business, especially SMEs?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: For a business to thrive easily, they need an enabling environment. At the level of the businesses, the ways forward include best practices which will mean broadening technical skills to ensure efficiency. They should also embrace change and go digital to enable them to enjoy easy marketing through social media handles. If they are well-positioned, they can attract credit from the financial institutions and expand possibly
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): Would you mind to discuss with us the report published by the World Bank on “The Ease of Doing Business”. Can you please highlight few salient points about it and refer Readers, appropriately, to access and read it later?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: We talked about the business environment. The World Bank, in its quest to create an enabling environment for businesses, came out with the ease of doing business. It says when rules are clearly spelt in an economy, every economic activity most likely will benefit. It’s mainly on 12 indicators or reforms. The ability of an economy to improve on these indicators positions it well for business. They are: Starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, employing workers and contracting with governments. (https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings). Basically, it’s about improving the time, cost and procedures in getting any of these indicators that fetch an economy some points.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): Ok great! How is Ghana doing, per the ranking?
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: Over the years, the average cost of registering a business has reduced by 110% according to the World Bank. None the less, there is still a difference of 45.8% between the cost of registering a business in a developing country and a developed country according to the 2020 report. The most environmentally friendly country to do business in New Zealand. It’s followed by Singapore, China, Denmark, Korea Republic and the USA in that order. However, only two African countries made it to the top 50. Mauritius place 13th and Rwanda place 38. Ghana slipped from 114th last year to 118th this year.
Dr. Hakeem A. Tahiru (Dr. Tilapia): It is becoming more interesting, but time will not permit us. Thanks for the intuitive discourse. I am well enlightened by your great insights. Thanks to all Readers for your active participating. We wish you the best in your research.
Mr. Abdul Mumin Bapube: I am highly honoured for the opportunity given and thank you all for your time and attention.
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Hub Editor: Bassing A. M. A. Kamal.
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