Let us pause and consider this:
Positive Signs for the future
- Entrepreneurship Development
- Continuous ICT Growth
- Younger CEOs & Business Owners
- Demand for Quality Education
- Mobile Telephone Penetration
- Massive infrastructural development
That is how the future is envisioned by some budding young entrepreneurs here in Ghana. It is a truism that with focused vision and effective planning, the above will be realized.
One such young change makers is Solomon Elorm Allavi, an IT-savvy entrepreneur with passion for agribusiness and youth entrepreneurship. He established and manages a startup company under the trade name Syecomp Business Services in Accra, Ghana. The company which is almost two years in operation strives to implement market-driven information and communication technology (ICT) solutions to address the limited access to marketing outlets for smallholder farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural value chain from the farm-gate to the market.
With over 60% of the Ghanaian population making a living by means of agriculture, which account for an estimated 37% of the nations Gross Domestic product (GDP), Solomon has identified a niche and is leading his company to provide essential consultancy services to this effect.
Being an entrepreneur with proactive solutions bedeviling agricultural growth in Ghana, he utilises the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology with the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) tools-Garmin Etrex GPS and Trimble GPS and Digitized Base Map, to provide an array of farmland surveying and mapping services. His clients include smallholder rice farmers, horticultural farmers, food processing companies, individual farmers and corporate clients.
Solomon conceptualised that for increased competitiveness of the agricultural produce from Ghana’s farmlands, there have to be value additions and strengthening of market potentials of local crop yields to be attractive to foreign and larger markets. To this end, he provides professional farmland geospatial mapping services using the GIS technology to increase competitiveness and minimize poor production planning. The significance of the GIS surveying and mapping service is to help establish the spatial locations and concentration of fruits and vegetable farms; determine supply base of producing firms and establish a system for traceability and precision production for the farmers. It is his conviction that his professional consultancy services will go a long way to address the numerous constraints faced by farmers with regards to dispersion of farms and lack of clear data for production planning, monitoring and targeting which results in : inability to forecast yields on farm; inaccurate assessment of supply base; over-estimation of farm sizes, over-paying for labour and other services; and finally, difficulties in resource allocation and targeting of small-scale producers for assistance and support.
The Geographic Information System (GIS) platform used by Solomon for his agricultural services is the ESRI ArcGIS 9.3 software key with the use of GPS Utility& Trackmaker license for his farmland GPS waypoints. He has available a digitized base map of Ghana ( roads, topography, water bodies, etc), two (2) HP Laser-jet Printers, 1 GPS Receiver-Garmin etrex Vista and Trimble GPS, two (2) laptop computers and one (1) desktop computer to boost his operations. These equipment and softwares are quite costly, with the ArcGIS 9.3 software valued at $3,400; the GPS Receivers (Trimble and Garmin etrex) are valued at $1,400 and $200 respectively; the digitized base map of Ghana is valued at $8,000 and license for GPS Utility & Trackmaker valued at $1,500 for large datasets. These assets really propel the enterprise to meet the needs of their clients and provide excellent services.
Aside the farmland mapping services, the company periodically provides variety of contractual services data collection and geospatial analysis for research students, and private companies. In addition, his company sells various licensed software products and provides localized ICT training support for individuals and institutions in Ghana. It is a truism that Solomon, with his ingenuity is making a huge impact on the entrepreneurial scene in Ghana.
What is worthy of note with Solomon’s entrepreneurial venture is that, he has a viable business plan detailing feasibility, market analysis and projections as well as a pragmatic financial projection over a five (5) year period since the company’s inception enabling him to keep track of progress. His business model is quite unique enabling him to scale through difficult terrains and risks bedeviling young entrepreneurs in Ghana. He had had the opportunity to pitch for financial support from UT Bank Limited where he succeeded in raising some debt financial investment. Prior to that, he was able to raise startup capital for the business through Angel Investments from university school mates and friends.
It is not surprising that he is a recipient of numerous national and international awards for exhibiting a high of business acumen and serving as a role model for young entrepreneurs in Ghana.
Syecomp Business Services Ltd started operations in 2006 in Akuafo Hall at the University of Ghana as a student-operated small business to complement the monthly allowance Solomon receives from his parents. The focus then was to address the dire needs of students related to their project/research works and thesis. These include questionnaire administration, data entry and analysis. The business became much more streamlined in 2007 after being competitively selected as a finalist in MyVision Project, a Databank Ghana and British Council support initiative for youth. The business was however shelved from mid 2007 to 2010 to enable Solomon concentrate on completing the mandatory National Service and undertake a two-year contract on some agricultural development projects in Ghana.
The business thus became fully operational from the latter part of 2010 with full business documentation obtained, that is, Business Certificate, Value Added Tax (VAT) Certificate and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) certificate
It is an acknowledged fact that for any laudable initiative, there are bound to be drawbacks and issues that might affect the smooth implementation of the activities as envisaged. Difficulty in accessing appropriate financing to scale up the business venture is hindering Solomon’s venture implementation. Having been able to overcome the initial bottlenecks in starting a new venture in Ghana through using limited funds to procure equipment, licenses for software products, and payment of stipends to himself and his support personnel; growing the enterprise to its full potential is becoming an operational hurdle. Added to that, some of his clients especially smallholder farmers, are unable to pay fully for some of the services rendered to them as a result of their limited cash-flow. That notwithstanding, Solomon is of the strong conviction that being a visionary entrepreneur, focused and possessing a doable project as indicated in his business plan, he could scale up in the coming years. He is constantly exploring ways of raising the appropriate financing needed including equity investment from Venture Capitalists. To him, being an entrepreneur is an honoured engagement and he believes the market is vast and viable. The business climate in Ghana is quite attractive as well for private enterprises to thrive, he confidently asserts.