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2013 Press Releases

Remarks by Ambassador Gene A. Cretz - StartUp Cup Awards Dinner

November 26, 2013

Thank you so much for inviting me to join you this evening.  Tonight’s theme of celebrating entrepreneurship and recognizing those that embrace its spirit shows that the organizers understand the critical role that innovative private sector actors play in Ghana’s economy.  It is my pleasure to join in this important celebration. 

The United States government is delighted to be a global partner with StartUp Ghana.  As an integral element of the Global Entrepreneurship Program, the StartUp Cup embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship, teamwork, and leadership development.  We are so proud of all the participants here this evening, especially the winners of the competition, as you engage with each other, learn from each other, and encourage each other to aspire to new heights.

In 2009, President Obama elevated entrepreneurship as a critical pillar of U.S. global engagement and a means to deepen the partnership between the United States and the international community.  Since then, the United States government has committed to supporting entrepreneurship to help channel the creativity, innovation, and potential of millions of individuals around the world to create economic opportunity.

Last week, we hosted a workshop at my residence focused on identifying and overcoming the constraints that entrepreneurs in this country face.  We invited people engaged in sectors that are heavily involved in this entrepreneurial ecosystem: incubators, tech hubs, angel investors, venture capitalists, financial institutions, NGO’s, agricultural cooperatives, technical and vocational institutions, as well as some very successful businessmen/women to share their thoughts, expertise, and best practices. 

After a few hours of lively discussion and debate, the group identified three main constraints that are inhibiting entrepreneurial economic growth:

  1. Capacity – We heard that many entrepreneurs may not be investment ready and do not yet possess the basic skills needed to take an idea and turn it into a viable and bankable business.
  2. The Enabling Environment – We heard that support systems are not yet fully capable of nurturing entrepreneurs or able to help them develop the long-term strategies and connections needed to grow their businesses. 
  3. Promoting Entrepreneurship – We heard that we need to work with civil society, government, and media to better celebrate the virtues of entrepreneurship, such as ingenuity, talent and passion, which can generate economic vitality and empowerment for youth and women. 

We spent the rest of our afternoon focused on ways in which we can partner to overcome these constraints.  I would now like to share with you some of the ways, beyond our relationship with StartUp Cup, that my government is currently tackling the constraints identified at the workshop.

Through USAID, we have developed basic business skills courses that help build capacity and develop the required skills and professional competence among aspiring entrepreneurs – including small rural farmers and others in the agricultural sector.  Not only do these skills cultivate practical thinking and creative problem solving, but they have translated ideas into sustainable and functioning businesses that are spurring economic growth and ultimately helping to address food security.

We also created the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), an outreach and education initiative, as a way to create an enriching and enabling environment for African women entrepreneurs.  It builds networks, offers mentorships and training, and tries to remove unnecessary barriers that limit women from fully participating in the economy.

With respect to promoting the legitimacy and pursuit of entrepreneurship as a career choice, through competition models such as Apps4Africa  and GIST (the Global Innovation through Science and Technology), my government advances the innovative and competitive spirit of aspiring entrepreneurs and empowers them to create the companies of the future and become the business leaders of tomorrow.

Entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful ways for individuals to improve their own economic circumstances.  I firmly believe that the economic potential derived from entrepreneurship is crucial to catapult countries, such as Ghana, to become established middle income countries.  My government is committed to partnering with individuals like those of you here this evening to making this happen, so we are planning to create an Entrepreneurial Advisory Council comprised of dedicated Ghanaians who can advise and guide us as we explore new ways to bolster and support an entrepreneurial arena that will, in turn, accelerate the growth of local businesses, and ultimately the country as a whole.

Thank you again for inviting me to celebrate with you this evening and congratulations to the competition winners.  You possess the skills, talent, and tenacity needed to prosper and I have no doubt that you will play a big part in building Ghana’s future.