The National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) has initiated efforts to support Hubs Acceleration Grant (HAG) programme with $7 million to improve on their performance to meet international standards.
It is under the Ghana Economic Transformation Project (GETP), which is aimed at promoting private investments and firm growth in non-resource-based sectors.
Speaking during the contract signing ceremony yesterday at the Labadi Beach Hotel in Accra, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NEIP, Kofi Ofosu Nkansah, explained that $4 million of the fund would be used to support existing hubs that had been in operation for three years, while the remaining $3 million would be channelled into hubs which had operated for two years and below.
He stated that the initiative, which is being funded by the World Bank, focuses on businesses operating in the agriculture, technology and innovation, light manufacturing and processing, waste and green businesses and technical and vocational sectors.
He said NEIP’s programmes are under Component Three of the Ghana Economic Transformation Project (GETP), which is aimed at supporting entrepreneurs, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Mr Ofosu NNkansah observed that the initiative is a testament of President Akufo-Addo’s determination, through the GETP, to enhance the capacity of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
According to him, the country’s start-up landscape has seen tremendous growth in the number of entrepreneurship and innovation hubs over the last decade.
He, however, said despite the positive growth, there were still some challenges, hence the need to support the growth of more businesses through the NEIP Hub Acceleration Grant Programme.
He said the grant programme was competitively designed to select a number of hubs which will be provided technical assistance and capacity building to address gaps identified during the benchmarking exercise.
Mr Ofosu Nkansah said NEIP received close to 100 applications when the portal was opened but upon evaluating, the applications were whittled down to the first 40 hubs.
On qualification criteria, he explained that grantees or beneficiary hubs were supposed to be legally registered in the country and owned by a citizen.
“It might have also operated as an enterprise support organisation in the country for at least three years, including having core expertise in entrepreneurship support and in business acceleration,” he highlighted.
Mr Nkansah added that the hubs must be able to, among others, present a qualified and competent team of business development experts and trainers, demonstrate good corporate governance, have adequate space to host the intended programmes for start-ups and also show traction of previous work experience with a detailed profile.
Applicants must also submit a business plan, a technical assistance support plan and a financial and procurement management plan.
The NEIP boss also disclosed that after the selection process, the applications were screened after undertaking due diligence visit to all the 40 shortlisted hubs.
“There, we took stock of their capacities, programmes offered and challenges faced. This was aside confirming information and picking up more data to aid in the due diligence effort. A mapping and classification exercise was conducted simultaneously during the due diligence stage. The purpose of this mapping and classification was to identify and classify entrepreneurship hubs in Ghana, the aim to enhancing quality and service offerings to international standards,” he stated.
The final reports, he said, provide overview of the hubs landscape, including locations and key characteristics, while assessing level of collaboration, sustainability of operations, service offering, impact and challenges.
He noted that it will serve as a foundation for developing capacity building plans, training programmes, and benchmarking initiatives.
“The objectives include identifying hubs, classifying them based on criteria, analysing their distribution, and offering recommendation for improvement. Disbursement and monitoring of the funds would begin after this contract signing. That will not be the end of the process; a period of monitoring and evaluation will commence,” he stated.
He said periodic monitoring and auditing would be undertaken to ensure compliance and the judicious use of funds. Mr Nkansah added that NEIP will request quarterly and annual reports in a bid to sustainably grow the country’s ecosystem to world standards.
Meanwhile, some hubs that were awarded with funds yesterday include Grassroots Hub – $180,000; Fabulous Hub- $100,000; DAYSYN ISO- $150,000; and Tech Farm Hub -$100,000.
The Director of Business Support and Policy at NEIP, Franklin Owusu-Karikari, an SME specialist of GETP, Mahmoud Tahir, and the Chairman of Ghana Hubs Network, Josiah Kwesi Eyison, expressed appreciation to the World Bank for the support. They said the grant was a timely support for entrepreneurship hubs in the country.
They said it was time for institutions and organisations that train and prepare start-ups to also build their capacities.