To many fresh Ghanaian graduates, completion means hope. Hope for better opportunities ahead, a chance to work and earn the money they spend and the prospect of landing a good job that will be both fulfilling and rewarding.
Kofi a 26 year old Higher National Diploma holder is disappointed in the dry job market he finds in Ho. The Volta regional capital is one of the cities that do not attract investors hence government is the largest employer you can find. Most HND and degree holders answered with an emphatic no when faced with the question ‘will you consider staying and working anywhere in the Volta region?’ According to them, development is slow.
Kofi the HND holder has compared staying in the region to “sitting on tenterhooks.” He confirms that employment opportunities are minimal “there aren’t enough companies and industries here. Government is the largest employer so it is hard finding something to do”.
To young graduates like Kofi government being the largest and highest paid employer is of great concern. “When I was in primary school jobs at the ministries were the most prestigious jobs any parent could have. That was 20, 15 year back. Things must improve, because now, all I can see in this part of the country is an unacceptable stunted growth”.
Governments over the years have promised the people more infrastructural development, setting up industries and help boost investor confidence in the region but have failed. When he was installed, paramount chief of the Asogli state Torgbe Afede XIV made similar promises. Speaking to a hair stylist resident in Ho Dede, she says the chief’s efforts are slow.
“Ten years into his reign and not much has changed. He has sent everything to Accra, the bank, the Asogli power plant and all those big, big businesses we hear he has”. She adds “recently during the annual Yam festival celebration, he organized a sod-cutting for the construction of a new office complex for the Driver, Vehicle and Licencing Authority (DVLA), he also inaugurated the Asogli Palace Hall. Nice things but how do those get our children jobs?” She asks.
Dede is also concerned because she feels those businesses their chief has set up in Accra, the national capital could have been a great source of employment to the youth of Ho.
“I wonder how he expects the youth to cope in this town when he chose to give all that employment to the people in Accra.”
For her, it makes perfect sense why there youth of the region choose to migrate to Accra, Kumasi and the rest. “That is where they get the good jobs” says Dede.
Investigations reveal that, those who are not employed by the government are engaged in micro and small scale businesses with low absorption rates. The service sector is gradually picking up as the financial and telecommunication sectors also make inroads into the region. But to indigenes like Kofi and Dede, things are developing at a slow rate
In spite of the rather gloomy prospects that the region offers by way of employment opportunities, some young people who do not fall within the government employment brackets have decided to stay against all odds. “There is a secret here” Charles said to me with a smile as we stood in front of his small yet well equipped Loans and Savings Company.
“That is why we have decided to stay here” he continued. “You see most of the companies that you find in the region are from Accra but we want to build a company from the Volta region and take it to Accra,” he said as we moved gradually away from the shop to his vehicle.
Charles who seemed impatient with me as I interviewed him gave a fair idea of how well his business is doing?
“My company is doing well, I already have branches in other towns. For instance I will not be around for a good part of the next week because our people need me in Aflao”.
Charles is one of those who believe there is a gold mine in Ho and the Volta region at large if the youth will venture into there on businesses and enterprises
Komla Letsu, another young and enterprising individual agrees with him. “I don’t know why people go to Accra and suffer”, he said. “I did my arts course in Accra and I still do go to Accra for my arts materials, but when I consider the traffic hold ups, and the place where people spend their nights, I would rather stay here in Ho and make a comfortable life for myself” he thought moving to Accra was an ordeal he was not willing to go through.
As we sat in his modest arts shop, stringed appliquéd t-shirts swung proudly over our heads as the wind blew in. Komla pointed out how dramatically low the cost of business was in the region, especially when one considered the cost of renting office spaces.
His shop is replete with paintings and some fashion accessories including bangles, necklaces and wrist bands. He also works on advertising banners and sketches personal portraits, the two things he says is more patronized by people who commission art works.
When asked if he feels left out of the market opportunity that being in Accra affords, he replied “people come from Accra to see my art work, and I usually have lots of tourists coming from America and Cote D’Ivoire. I am not worried at all. I will stay and make it work”
For young entrepreneurs like Charles and Komla, the region offers great prospects but Kofi and Dede insist the government should help establish industries in the region to help complement the efforts of private businesses.
By: Samuel Alesu-Dordzi