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Migration and Employment Programme in Accra, Kumasi, and Sunyani

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Irregular migration in Ghana

Virtually all the ethnic groups in present Ghana claim to have emigrated from somewhere other than their present location. The Akans for example migrated from the northern part of Ancient Ghana through Egypt and Nubia (Sudan) (https://goo.gl/q2djvk). From pre-colonial times up to the late 1960s, Ghana enjoyed relative economic prosperity and was the destination of many migrants from neighbouring West African countries. However, during the colonial era, some Ghanaians started in Europe for educational purposes.  

In the 1960s, Ghana started experiencing economic challenges, by 1965 growing unemployment and social malaise led to unprecedented economic decline. Many Ghanaians started leaving for Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria. The majority of these were professionals such as teachers, lawyers, and administrators in search of jobs.  Large-scale emigration began in the early 1980s when both skilled and unskilled Ghanaians emigrated out of the country in search of jobs during one of the biggest economic collapse and feminine. 

In the 1990s, large numbers of Ghanaians moved to major cities such as London, Amsterdam, Hamburg and New York. According to the UK Home Office, 21,485 Ghanaians entered the UK between 1990 and 2001. By 2001, 104,000 Ghanaians were living in the US, whilst 114,335 were registered in Canada. By 2017, there were over 300,000 Ghanaians in Europe with over 94,000 living in the UK (https://goo.gl/ouzcDL).  The daily Graphic in February 2018 revealed that they were over 53,000 Ghanaian illegally in Libya seeking to cross into Europe (https://goo.gl/uDeMcJ).

A number of reasons explain the causes of migration in Ghana over the decades.

  1. In the 1960s migrants were mainly professionals who left to seek employment during the economic depression of that decade.
  2. In the 1970s Ghana experienced a number of coup d’états. The subsequent political unrest, persecution and execution of political opponents accounted for a large number of migration.
  3. With respect to the 1980s, migration was due to the collapse of the economy and the severe 1983 famine. This time both skilled and unskilled Ghanaians began to leave the country.
  4. In the 1990s and the current millennium, the high cost of living, high unemployment among both skilled and unskilled labour and low wages have been the main cause of irregular migration from Ghana.

Skills and enterprise ecosystem in Ghana

Subsistence farming and fishing were the predominant occupation and main skills of the majority of Ghanaians both before and during the colonial era. Other skills such as arts, weaving, construction and woodwork made up a very small percentage of the skills force. Apprenticeship was the main mode of education to acquire a skill.

After Ghana’s Independence in 1957, Dr Kwame Nkrumah led Ghana into rapid industrialisation which led to a lesser emphasis on agriculture and other subsistence economic activities. Industrialisation saw a high wave of migrations of people from rural areas in search of service and manufacturing industrial employments. The country’s rapid shift from an informal economy to a formal economy made formal education an important political objective in Ghana driven by the need for formal skill.

Formal education in Ghana has been skewed toward employment with the majority of graduating students looking towards the “job market”. Technical and vocational skills development received less attention. Vocational and technical training had been seen as fitting solely for those who could not make it into the formal “white collar” education.  For years Technical Senior High Schools were for students who could not gain admission into the “traditional” science, art and business High Schools, Polytechnics were for those who could not gain admission into the Universities while apprenticeship in skills such as car repairs, carpentry, dressmaking, hairdressing and plumbing was fitting for those who could not progress academically. The result has been a huge shortage of highly skilled crafts, trades and constructions professionals in the country.

The collapse of industrialisation in the late 1980s and 1990 resulted in an ecosystem with a large supply of formal skilled individuals against a low demand for formal skills and subsequent high unemployment among graduates. In 2017, the Institute of Statistics, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana, revealed that only 10 per cent of graduates find jobs after their first year of completing school as the industrial sector accounted for just above 10 per cent of the economy. In the late 90s and 2000s, vocational, technical and entrepreneurship skills development gradually received greater attention from the government, NGOs and developmental partners as a panacea to the growing unemployment. 

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the various government rolled out several skills development programmes such as the National Vocational and Technical Institute (NVTI), Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET), Youth Enterprises Support (Office of the President), the Youth Employment Authority and the Skills Development Fund (SDF).  Between 2012 and 2016, Phase I and II of the Ghana Skills Development Initiative modernized vocational training in the informal sector by upgrading traditional apprenticeship schemes.

In recent years, entrepreneurship has taken a front-row seat in many government policies. Successive governments within the decade have referred to the private sector and entrepreneurship as the engine for growth. In recent times, there have been several initiatives, programmes and activities aimed at promoting technical, vocational and entrepreneurship skills in Ghana. These include proposals contained in medium-term national development programmes, the National Youth Policy, National Employment Policy (NEP), Captains of Industry Programme and Students in Free Enterprise Programme (SIFE). The others are the Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme, the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA), the Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) and the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP)

In 2014, the government released the Ghana Shared Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy II plan. (https://goo.gl/wXxbv6). This document outlines the government’s plan for developing skills, boost entrepreneurship, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and control the growing brain drain and irregular migration that has grown in the last decade.

Irregular migration and entrepreneurship in the Ashanti region

The Ashanti region has a population of about 4.8 million people (https://goo.gl/TLDYch). It is considered the cultural capital of Ghana and home to entrepreneurial hotspots such as the Bonwire (kente weaving), Ahwiaa (wood carving), Ntonso (cloth designs), Kejetia (trading) and Suame (metal works).  Kumasi is the capital of the Ashanti region and hapaSpace is situated in Adum, the heart of the Kumasi. The Central Business District of Kumasi includes areas such as Adum, Bantama and Bompata (popularly called Roman Hill) is concentrated with lots of banks, department stalls, hotels like Golden Tulip Hotel, Golden Bean Hotel among other luxury hotels.  

During the economic challenges in the 1960s, 80s and 90s, the Ashanti region accounted for the largest number of migrants from Ghana. Evidence from a 1995 migration study revealed that nearly one-quarter of Ghanaian emigrants to the ECOWAS region were born in the Ashanti region. By the year 2000, residents of the Ashanti region accounted for 25% of all foreign remittances by Ghanaians in the diaspora giving an indication of the number of previous Ashanti region residents current out of the country. 

As youth employment grew in the 2000s, the region continues to be the largest source of irregular migrations from the country. Although the region’s residents have a long entrepreneurship and apprenticeship culture, starting a business has become increasingly difficult. In Kumasi, the norm is to pay between 3 to 5 years rent advance for office or shop spaces and 1 to 3 years at a go depending on the size of the space (https://goo.gl/vLoyws). Most youths and start-ups cannot afford the €2,700 to €6,500 rent payment demanded by landlords for a space for a 4-member team to cover 5 years rent. This situation is purely due to the supply of space not meeting demand, even though the most recent law (2016) states that rent advance should not be more than one month (https://goo.gl/YZkUHQ ). The rent situation, difficulties in start-up capital, skills development, low supply of formal jobs has led to a significant unemployment rate among the youth and a contributing factor to irregular migration.


hapaSpace –http://hapaspace.com/  was founded as part of the response to assist young adults in the city of Kumasi to build start-ups, develop skills in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and Maths) and offer a co-working space.  While the overall goal of hapaSpace is to support entrepreneurs in Kumasi, the greater focus is on start-ups that are largely enabled by technology. hapaSpace supports the entire journey from idea generation to pre-seed funding. The hub engages in three main activities to do this:

  1. Capacity and skills development through workshops, specialised training, meetups, mentorship incubation and acceleration programmes.  
  2. Non-Cash support such as office space, internet access, provision of volunteers, events and networking opportunities.
  3. Funding opportunities mainly through collaboration with Venture capitals, Angel investors and prizes from Competitions.

The physical facilities offered by hapaSpace includes:

  • Co-working Space

The hub provides comfortable air-conditioned office space for different team sizes and individuals. The space includes furniture, high-speed Wi-Fi Internet, printing and scanning facilities. Membership falls into three main categories; team for 4, team of 2 and individual membership in the open office. 

  • Event and training spaces

The hub has a training room with a 24-seating capacity. This room is ideal for hands-on training, presentations, webinars and small events. It is also configurable as a meeting room when required. The room has an air-condition, internet connection, a projector, a whiteboard and an audio system.

An events space with a seating capacity of 60 participants is also available.  It is ideal for presentations, lectures, training, webinars, seminars, meetups and dialogues. It has two projectors for double presentations, air condition, an internet connection, a whiteboard and an audio system.

  • Digital Resources

The hub has printing and scanning equipment for business services support. Members of the co-working space can request one of the 10 co-working space laptops and 15 noise-cancelling headphones for use during the day. An additional 20 laptops are available for training participants without laptops. Four VR headsets, a drone, 3 digital cameras and a full set of videography equipment are used for various training. 

  • Restaurants

There are two restaurants located in the hapaSpace buildings. Large food orders can be placed for events of various all sizes. Individuals can also wakin for personal orders. 

hapaSpace track record in providing skills, incubation and acceleration trainings 

The hub provides incubation, acceleration and other programmes that are key to transforming ideas and prototypes into viable products and services. Since its inception the hub has implemented the following training and programmes:

  • “Hatched” Incubation programme

hapaSpace runs the “Hatched” incubation programme (http://hapaspace.com/hatched), a business incubation programme designed for start-ups that are at the idea stage or less than two-year-old. Each year, 10 start-ups are selected through an application process. The selected start-ups receive comprehensive business incubation support for 9 months. The first 3 months comprised intensive business and product development training followed by 6 months of mentoring and coaching.

  • “Thrive” Acceleration programme

The “Thrive” acceleration programme(http://hapaspace.com/thrive/) is for start-ups/businesses which are more than 2 years, have proven their business idea, have a customer base and are looking at scaling their operations. Each year 10 -12 start-ups are selected for the programme. 

Both Hatched and Thrive provides participating start-ups with office space, business training, programing/tech support, business development (including marketing), legal advice, mentors, accounting support and fundraising support.

  • National Entrepreneurship Innovation Plan (NEIP) business development programme

hapaSpace is also an implementing partner for the government’s National Entrepreneurship Innovation Plan (NEIP) business training programme. In 2018 hapaSpace trained 152 entrepreneurs within a month under the NEIP programme (http://hapaspace.com/neip-training/). 22 of these received seed funding of between GHS 10,000 and GHS 100,000. hapaSpace continues to provide business advisory and monitoring services for these businesses.

  • Active Citizens Social Enterprise program

The Active Citizens (http://hapaspace.com/active-citizen-training/) programme was implemented on behalf of the British Council and in partnership with SE Ghana. 12 NGOs and CSOs were selected to participate in the year-long programme to enable them to design, test and implement revenue streams to gradually wean them off total dependency on donations and to sustain their activates. 

  • Ready to Work Clinics

Ready to Work is an online training tool designed by Barclays Bank and implemented in partnership with the British Council. It equips participants with the needed skills to work in any organization and/or company and also to start on a path to entrepreneurship while helping them transition from the world of education into the world of work.

hapaSpace promoted, recruited and organised several physical clinics for Kumasi based participants who were interested in the Face-To-Face engagement component of Ready to Work. The participants were taken through modules such as Work Skills, People Skills, Money Skills and Entrepreneurial Skills.

  • Technical Skills trainings 

The hub has run several skills training to equip participants with either technical skills such as coding, website development, graphic design, IoT and data science or in the use of digital business tools such Google Docs, front accounting, CRMs and Microsoft Office to enhance business efficiency. Over 2500 participants have participated in these training over the last 24 months. 


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