The Importance of Social Entrepreneurs
by Stanley Courage Dugah
The incident happened a few years ago. I was in Accra for an interview and could not get a car back to my hometown, Anloga, until midnight. I eventually got a car to take me home. We travelled 2 hours on the Accra to Aflao road without mishap.
Then we reached Akatsi.
We were on a long stretch of road in a place which looked deserted. There were long, impenetrable bushes on both sides of the road. I felt the car pull to one side and stop. One of our tires was punctured and it turned out the driver did not have a spare. All along the roadside the passengers and I noticed that somebody had placed onions, pierced through with nails pointed upward. Some of the passengers became unnerved and began talking about the onions as a sign of armed robbers in the area. The other passengers advised that we should find a place to hide.
It wasn’t long before we heard movement from the bushes.
We were soon surrounded by four very young-looking men brandishing shotguns. They took our wallets, laptops, as well as other possessions, and made off into the night. Later that evening, a car came along and picked us up from the side of the road, transporting us safely into town. We immediately went to lodge a complaint at the Police Station in the nearest town where we stayed overnight. I took the opportunity to talk to a couple of the Policemen and learned that such robberies and burglaries were common in Akatsi and its surrounding area.
The entire experience got me thinking: Why were robberies and burglaries common in those areas? Could it be because of the lack of employment opportunities in the town? If so, then what could I do about it? I told myself that if I had a million dollars, I would put it towards establishing businesses where the youth could be employed and potentially kept from a life of crime. Unfortunately, like most people, I do not have that kind of money, so I did the next best thing—I began working together with other individuals to bring awareness of such issues to prominent and wealthy citizens hailing from the areas with higher crime rates.
First, I formed an advocacy research group. We researched and highlighted the business opportunities available to prospective investors. We showcased areas they could invest in to potentially alter the livelihoods of the youth, most of whom are unemployed and not interested in the income avenues of small holder farming or petty trading.
We also got in touch with political leaders from the area and asked them to commit to supporting social intervention programs that would get children and the youth off the street, into schools and properly equipped for employment.
Through all our efforts, I came to realize one thing— in this part of the world political leaders show little commitment to the socio-economic development of their communities. Thus, the development of local communities often becomes the responsibility of a few citizens and business owners, highlighting the importance of social entrepreneurs.
What is Social Entrepreneurship?
Social entrepreneurship, which involves the use of entrepreneurship techniques to identify and solve social, cultural, and environmental problems, is a key part to the socio-economic development of Africa. In countries where political and opinion leaders often do the bare minimum in addressing socio-economic and environmental issues in their communities, the work of individuals and social enterprises is much needed.
Take the story of Francis A. Obirikorang for instance. Francis heard about a farmer who had acres of land in a poor area of Northern Ghana. This farmer was always living from meal-to-meal because of the high incidence of wasted harvests every year. Francis, together with a former Esoko colleague, came up with an idea to get farmers to pool their resources together and take advantage of information technology (IT) and a trucking service made available to them.
Today, Francis Obirikorang’s AgroCenta, through innovative and disruptive technologies, is helping close to 10,000 smallholder farmers get their products to the marketplace. Middlemen who often cheated these farmers out of their hard-earned profits are no longer necessary. The farmers now have direct and instant access to the marketplace and can verify the right prices for their harvests.
Beyond IT for farmers, which enables them to set the correct prices and find available purchasers, AgroCenta also operates a sort of uber-for-trucks. Any farmer based in a rural area, no matter how far from the cities and the big markets, can now at the push of a button call to summon a truck to help deliver their products to a purchaser or the marketplace at minimal cost.
ReadGhana.org is another social enterprise equally committed to solving a societal problem. This social enterprise believes that every child, no matter where they are and regardless of their economic background, should have access to reading materials, have the opportunity to read regularly, and reap all the benefits that come with it. In a country where more than 70% of students regularly fail their Basic School and Secondary School Exams, supporting reading is a worthy cause. Thanks to ReadGhana.org children in various under-serviced communities in Ghana now have libraries and access to reading materials.
So, here’s my drift—I believe that robbers are made, not born. I believe that if I could inspire somebody to set up a business or a social enterprise in some remote village, I could be protecting myself from becoming a victim of robbery in the future. I also believe that in the absence of a larger commitment on the part of political leaders, the best answer to socio-economic problems in this part of the world lies in social entrepreneurship. When enough people invest in ideas, businesses and projects that seek to inform, educate, and empower, our communities will develop and the standard of living will improve. Social entrepreneurs, by investing in communities, give something to everyone. When social entrepreneurs succeed, it means less robbers and more students, and a better community for everyone to enjoy.
Stanley Courage Dugah is Ye! Contributor, active writer, and active member of his local community. Stanley shares his stories on wordpress and he has also been featured on News Ghana.
Header Image Courtesy of: WikiCommons