Comprehensive Mapping and Assessment of the Entrepreneurial and Higher Education Ecosystem in Sub-Saharan Africa

Report of findings from Ghana

The findings of the Comprehensive Mapping and Assessment of the Entrepreneurial and Higher Education Ecosystem in Ghana are summarized in this report. The research is a comprehensive mapping of the tertiary education sector and the entrepreneurial/innovation ecosystems of Ghana, with outcomes including the nature and extent of existing initiatives, entities, policies, and structures that facilitate and support entrepreneurship development in various forms, university entrepreneurship engagements, stakeholders in both university and entrepreneurial ecosystems, current trends in innovation and their connections to curricula, among other significant points. The research ended with viable recommendations based on the research’s outcomes. 

The Higher Education Ecosystems were mapped using a sectoral analysis methodology with emphasis on the three sector ligaments ( Knowledge and Technology, Actors and Networks, and Institutions). Through a literature review, focus group discussions, and in-depth interviews, Qualitative Data was collected, whereas Quantitative Data was collected via a survey. Using tools for analyzing ecosystems such as SWOT, Problem Tree analysis, and Conflict Sensitivity analysis, the assessment of current trends in the innovation and youth entrepreneurship ecosystem with a focus on the capability, suitability, influencing factors, governing rules/regulations, and catalysts capable of supporting the sustainable growth of sectors yielded the final results. 

Examining the perception of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Ghana, the research established that the Ghanaian entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem is new and overflowing with talents at different levels and consists of a large population of energetic and educated youth. Despite the ecosystem being vibrant and growing with a positive local home-grown drive for entrepreneurship, players & stakeholders face a number of challenges as they lack experience and soft skills development and training to specialize within the different economic sectors.

Exploring the SWOT analysis model for further scrutiny of the internal and external factors influencing the growth of the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Ghana revealed that the political stability & flexibility among public institutions within the ecosystem coupled with a vibrant economy that presents a lot of opportunities for the young people who are enthusiastic to be part of programs and innovation in the ecosystem are among the ecosystem’s most significant strengths. The ecosystem however has some weaknesses such as the lack of practical knowledge by academia to impart on entrepreneurs and innovators, inadequate structures that support young entrepreneurs to be able to scale up innovations, and policy regulations that are designed for matured businesses and inflexible enough to accommodate start-ups and young businesses to grow. Despite the identified weaknesses, the Ghanain Entrepreneurship and Innovation Ecosystem have opportunities to scale and grow from the presence of social enterprises, hubs, and networks that support the growth of young entrepreneurs with technical and financial resources from donors and other key ecosystem players such as GIZ, MEST, Stanford SEED, Ghana Tech Lab, Stanbic Incubator, Kosmos Innovation Centre, etc. Threats to the ecosystem include limited and irregular government funding as well as an economy centered around imports and thereby giving little room for innovations.

Key among the top favorable policies on entrepreneurship and innovation in Ghana is the digital finance policy that seeks to build on the gains made to create a resilient, inclusive, and innovative digital financial services ecosystem that contributes to the social and economic development of Ghana. On the other hand, some of the unfavorable regulations in the ecosystem are the lack of a  clear direction from government statutory agencies leading to inefficient business registration and taxation procedures as well as lengthy processes to get new ventures registered by entrepreneurs and innovators in the ecosystem. 

In terms of University-Industry linkages and collaboration, there is a lack of a structured policy guiding internships and work-based learning (WBL) that would result in a systematic approach to implementing pre-employment support services between universities in Ghana and various industries. However, the government of Ghana in collaboration with selected academic institutions has tried to structure programs for entrepreneurs and students with external partners, for example, Ashesi University has a partnership with Goldman Sachs where students get selected to have an opportunity to work at different offices to get industry experience. Further examination of the curriculum revealed there is a lack of a solid educational curriculum that is infused to reflect current trends in the industries, especially for some technical subjects. University curricula are more focused on getting the students to learn in terms of book knowledge. Schools and institutions are not including design thinking in their learning and teaching processes and therefore producing graduates who lack industry practical knowledge and experiences. It was also discovered that universities conduct research that is used within their departments and organizations but many programs within the Universities across Ghana are replicated and organizations do not disseminate research or lessons learned.

Gender inequality has been a major and active topic of research and discussion in the tertiary education and entrepreneurship ecosystem over the past decade, and this study found that gender inclusiveness is growing in Ghana with notable milestones such as Ghana being upward ranked (36.5%) among world leading economies for having the most women-owned businesses in the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs. Additionally, the ratio of female to male students in tertiary level education is relatively high at 0.9 (2020) indicating a significant gain in closing educational attainment disparities between males and females.

In light of the aforementioned findings, the Ghana tertiary education and entrepreneurship ecosystems have the potential and need to strengthen academia-industry collaboration. An academia-industry collaboration would be a win-win situation for both academia and the industry whereby the former have the opportunity to test the practical application of their research, gain insights on research, access funds for academic research, and further their outreach mission whereas the latter have the opportunity to solve specific technical or design problems, develop new products and processes, conduct research leading to new patents as well as  improve product quality, 

There is also an opportunity to review school curricula to suit industry needs and current trends by equipping public education institutions with requisite tools to enhance the teaching and learning of science and technology from a practical perspective through collaboration with government, private sector, and innovators and thus strengthen several components of the ecosystem.

In light of the foregoing, the study suggests the following; 

University and Industry Linkages  

  1. Compulsory internship for all students and thus providing students with opportunities to learn how to work in various industries and operate a business and supplements the curriculum by providing insights into current trends and practices within industries.
  2. Academic institutions to form internship partnerships with local and international organizations including startups
  3. Have student exchange programs

Equipping Students to be Entrepreneurs and Innovators

  1. Entrepreneurship education should be mandated as a credit-bearing course for all new entrants; 
  2. Inclusion of design thinking in the curriculum
  3. Industry experts should be involved in curriculum reviews
  4. Practical based learning 
  5. Include entrepreneurship and innovation in the school curriculum