Did Ken Ofori-Atta start Databank right after graduating from university?

Ken Ofori-Atta, Minister of Finance

“…………. government payroll is full, so start your own business when you graduate from University.”

The above statement, as purported to have been voiced by the finance minister of Ghana – Mr. Ken Ofori Atta, has generated extensive public discourse. The statement compares the ruling government’s hiring responsibility and duties towards Ghanaian youth with the role the private sector assumes in creating employment opportunities for the many able young adults graduating from our universities and other tertiary institutions year in and out.

Before we dig deeper, every Ghanaian should ask the fundamental question: Did Agyapa Ken Ofori-Atta start his first business (i.e., Databank) immediately after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Columbia University in 1984? The answer is no; he did not. He worked with Morgan Stanley for two years, went back to school to obtain a master’s degree in Public and Private Management (MPPM) from Yale’s School of Organization and Management in 1988.

Thereafter, he worked with Salmon Brothers for two years. For the records, Agyapa Ken does not have an MBA. Yale started its MBA program in 1999, which is 11 years after he graduated from Yale. Agyapa Ken co-founded Databank (his first business venture) with Keli Gadzekpo and Togbe Afede XIV in 1990. This was after Ken had acquired 4-years of work experience, made some savings, established relevant professional networks, and obtained additional skill sets via graduate education.

Furthermore, he and his Databank co-founders found the economic and security conditions prevailing in the country under Jerry Rawlings’ regime conducive to implementing their business idea, so they comfortably relocated from New York to Ghana to start Databank. Agyapa Ken, who comes from a family of wealth and riches, did not start his business right after graduating from university.

He understood the relevance of preparation and chose wisely to go through that channel. Unfortunately, today Ken and his NPP-led government do not want our university graduates to have similar preparation and grooming before starting a business venture. His highly insensitive statement about starting one’s business venture right after graduating from the university clearly shows that the NPP government is completely out of touch with reality. They simply do not appreciate the struggles Ghanaians go through daily to survive.

The acceptance of the government payroll being full is an admission of the failure of the Akufo Addo-led government. The NPP Government has failed to understand and appreciate the power vested in them by the people of Ghana to deliver the promise of productive and gainful employment for the citizens of Ghana.

To help bring more clarity to the position the finance minister purposely composed and delivered to the graduating class – which essence was a blow that shattered the hopes and expectations of the graduates of ever landing any level of employment from/by the Government of Ghana – we need to take a broader look at the picture Agyapa Ken painted for all unemployed citizens of Ghana. In plain language, the utterances and ill-measured message by the Ghanaian minister for finance were only the starter building blocks being laid for a restricted and tightened economy.

To a permissible extent, he was signaling to Ghanaians to be ready with a tightened belt since the government is considering an IMF path to fix the mess the ruling government has plunged Ghanaians into, per myjoyonline.com publication authored by Joy Business on 10/20/2021. What has “we have the men” achieved for Ghanaians? What is the state of our economy today? We are in a complete economic disaster caused by Agyapa Ken’s NPP-led government, whose economic management team is chaired by Bawumia, the overhyped NABCO economist.

It has been well-documented that the levels of wealth and poverty in a nation are associated with the entrepreneurial nature of their economies. Entrepreneurship has played a crucial role in most developed countries’ innovation and economic growth, leading to a significant reduction in poverty levels. The NDC-USA Chapter believes and supports the entrepreneurship agenda.

What is not valid, and we, NDC-USA, do not subscribe to, is the notion that it takes only a creative idea to become a successful entrepreneur. It is also not valid that every university graduate has the passion and motivation to become an entrepreneur. In other words, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It is equally not true that every graduate has the financial capacity to fund a start-up.

For the sake of clarity, we want to submit an elaborate exposition on the latter for Ghanaians to recognize how myopic and insensitive this NPP government is. Most of our university students do not come from Agyapa Ken’s type of family where “money no be problem” – courtesy to Sarkodie. Some of these students hardly eat three square meals a day. They face accommodation problems every semester due to lack of funds.

They stretch their limited funds to purchase course-related material each semester. These are some of the struggles our hardworking students go through daily on campus. Despite these struggles, they keep pushing themselves each day, studying hard to obtain a degree, hoping to find a job that pays a livable wage after graduation and completing their national service. Unfortunately, the NPP government offers them NABCO that pays virtually nothing. And later, the government tells them to start their own business because the government cannot provide them with public employment.

Granted, most unemployed graduates have a unique business idea; the question is, how are they going to fund their business? The banks are not the solution because these graduates do not have the necessary collateral to access bank loans. Most of them do not have wealthy extended family members to provide the needed capital. It is difficult for us to imagine what Agyapa Ken had in mind when he told our hardworking “mobrowa” students to go out there to start their businesses. Clearly, we don’t see any adequate rationale for his insensitive and insulting statement.

Agyapa Ken and his Bawumia led economic management team just don’t get it. Even in the U.S., where the resources (i.e., information, infrastructure, funds, human capital, security, and strong institutions) needed to support entrepreneurial activities are available, approximately 75% of all start-ups fail within three years. Can the NPP government provide Ghanaians the statistics on businesses in Ghana that failed within three years? Can they tell us what our university graduates would do to live a decent life if their business venture fails?

The leadership of the NDC-USA, by this release, wants to state that no country develops by employing all its graduates in the public sector. It is not done anywhere. For the past five years, the Bawumia led economic management team has failed the youth of our beloved Ghana. If you have “the men,” use them to fix the youth’s problems and challenges, which unemployment is the central running theme. The NPP government should design and invest in policies and programs that incentivize the private sector to play a leading role in job creation. They should invest in infrastructure developments that enhance private-sector job creation. This is what Agyapa Ken’s government should be doing.



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