He said even though it was impossible for the state to return to the days when it set up factories that manufactured a range of things, including shoes, beer, tobacco, canned food, building materials, cement, bricks, tiles and nails, there was a way out through collaboration with the private sector.
That was why, he said, a major collaboration was underway to return Ghana to the good old days when virtually everything consumed locally was produced locally.
The President stated this in a lecture on African Entrepreneurship delivered at the London School of Economics last Saturday.
It was on the theme, “Entrepreneurship as a Means of Development and Self-sufficiency”.
Mr Mahama stated that for African countries to experience real growth, they must play a leading role in their own development.
He explained that it was for that reason that the Ghana government was implementing a number of programmes and projects to promote entrepreneurship, especially among the youth, in order to tap into their enthusiasm and creativity.
“Among the facilities we have created are the Skills Development Fund, the Microfinance and Small-scale Loans Centre (MASLOC), the Local Enterprises and Skills Development Programme (LESDEP), the Integrated Community Centres for Employable Skills (ICCES), the National Board for Small-Scale Industries (NBSSI), the Rural Enterprises Programme (REP) and the Export Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund,” he said.
“As a social democratic government, my administration is also mindful that as critical as entrepreneurship is to economic growth, it must serve a higher and greater social purpose; which is to ultimately contribute to the well-being of our people through employment, decent work and other social services,” the President added.
He said he had personally held group fora and discussions with numerous members of the private sector, noting that the goal of those meetings was to share thoughts and ideas that would eventually become the seeds of change that would grow private enterprises.
But attaining growth, he noted, would not come at a go.
“Growth may not happen overnight. But with time and the right set of circumstances, growth will happen,” he said.
President Mahama also touched on the Local Content Bill, which the country was implementing for the oil and gas sector in order to create a protected market for Ghanaians in that sector.
Under it, he said, a newly opened Enterprise Development Centre in Takoradi had already trained 25 small and medium enterprises to provide services in the oil and gas sector.
“These graduated businesses have been inputted into a database that is made available to the oil operating companies and response to the programme has been overwhelming.
“ It has become so popular that the number of small and medium enterprises that has enrolled for the next class is 45, nearly double that of the first,” he added.
President Mahama said it was incumbent on African governments to support their private sectors to grow in order to give meaning to the accolade given the continent as the “Rising Star”.
“Most governments in Africa now know that if they want to keep the spark, to keep the promise that we have been experiencing as of late, it is up to them to shoulder the heavy task of creating an enabling environment in which African private enterprises cannot only grow, but thrive.
“Last year, as several African countries topped the list of the world’s fastest growing economies, and as newspaper headlines and conference themes boasted ‘Africa rising’, I couldn’t help but suspect that there was more to it than met the eye; that if we were to stay on top, there were certain fundamental questions that needed to be answered,” Mr Mahama observed.
He was encouraged by the fact that the new rising African entrepreneurial class was taking full advantage of modern technology, including Information Technology.
“This class is building new types of businesses for themselves and redefining sectors,” he said.
President Mahama said new entrepreneurs were creating new paradigms, ”ones that are forcing the entire world to stand up and take notice”.
“Even so, African private entrepreneurs are still treated with suspicion. They’ve not completely escaped having to contend with state domination. They must still cope with heavy bureaucracy and corruption,” he said.