AAE

Early account of AAE, 2004-2009

Conception

The idea of an African Association of Entrepreneurs (AAE) was conceived in May 2003 when, the founder – Mr. Cornelius Nartey, an entrepreneur who contributed his spare weekly hours to community development projects of a local non-profit working with other volunteers in Ghana and across the globe, felt that there was the need to do more.

Africa is the home to many severely needy and marginal but enterprising persons, who work in low income communities, affected by the unfavourable economic policies, illiteracy and poor enterprise support infrastructures. There is need to encourage volunteerism and to coordinate the efforts of volunteers through institutional platforms, to bring about the maximum impact in the face of extreme poverty, injustice and untold human suffering. In May 2004, one significant community project, aimed to address the generally low entrepreneurial spirit of graduates as well as community members and facilitated by Tree of Life International gave birth to AAE.

Businesses in Ghana fell within the category of informal micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) and face an extremely unfavourable business environment. Over those decades, this has resulted in shifting the focus from entrepreneurship to a proliferation of petty trading. Small enterprises employ between one to five people, and cover close to 70 per cent of the Ghanaian labour force, ranging from farming, agri-businesses, light manufacturing, art and craft, textile and garments, tourism, financial services, construction and carpentry, among many other businesses. However, for the growth of these enterprises, there is need for appropriate interventions to improve their prospect and competitiveness. AAE began considering efforts at knowing continually about the needs of the entrepreneurial community and helping raise awareness on them.

The first projects

In May 2005, AAE implemented a project titled “Promoting the Use of ICTs in Pro-Private Sector Reform” through a grant of the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund. The aim of the project was to set up an Online Advocacy Toolkit and provide a means of advocacy for entrepreneurs. At a time, internet access was relatively low, however, we proceeded undeterred. This paid off in helping bring about the interest in online advocacy.

Access to suitable micro-finance services was also identified as one of the key measures to encourage entrepreneurial activities in poor rural communities. In line with this, AAE contributed to micro-finance startups in Ghana communities in November 2005.
1715 small-scale business operators comprising fishermen, fishmongers, petty traders, hawkers, mobile-phone retailers, farmers and food processors participated. AAE staff received training from Ghana’s Cooperative Credit Unions Association and The Ministry of Finance & Economic Planning. In 2011, AAE handed over the micro-finance operations to the communities involved. They now run as independent projects with the support of micro-finance specialists/consultants of their choice.

In November 2009, AAE began an outreach to other African countries and started its community website project, aaeafrica.org. The action plan was to  help build the human resource capacity of members, by boosting management and learning skills of micro, small and medium enterprises. Through a partnership with the United Nations Volunteers Online Volunteer Service, AAE mobilized online volunteers for diverse support service task assignments and this benefitted members of  various African countries.

A partnership with The Youth Employment Network (YEN) marked the start ofe-coaching services for AAE members  in November 2009. E-coaches provided business support and advice to young entrepreneurs and accompanied them through the process of setting up their business and finding solutions to specific business challenges. Participating entrepreneurs benefited from the mentor’s advice, knowledge and expertise in a specific industry. Mentors would receive training before they started and the Marketplace provided an online platform for communication and networking. YEN was then a partnership of the United Nations, International Labour Organization, and the World Bank set up after the Millennium Summit in 2001 to find new and durable solutions to the youth employment challenge. The program set out to match experienced mentors to young entrepreneurs.

Conclusion


AAE

AAE is a volunteer-run organisation coordinated by a network of national teams.

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