I had an interesting conversation in the morning today with my friend, about life after national service. Some opt to proceed with their Masters degree immediately, others seek and find employment, while others also seek but fail to find employment. We talked about university graduates in Ghana, and our less than stellar attitude towards entrepreneurship.
And then, much to my delight, I went on Twitter a few hours later to find this tweet from Kafui Dey (of Who Wants To Be Rich fame):
The responses that followed were truly fascinating and made for both and educative and entertaining read.
They provided a look into the chiaroscuro of differing opinions among Ghanaians concerning what is acceptable for university graduates. Most people who replied thought that it was okay for a graduate to open a provision store. I personally agree, and I was glad the majority did too. There were a few divergent opinions, however. One person thought that opening a provision store would be a waste of the knowledge acquired in school. Ironically, I agree with this assessment also. My classmate in Civil Engineering once told me (hopefully jokingly) that she wouldn’t mind owning a store and sitting there all day. I wouldn’t have any of that. To me, she was way too talented for that (hi Afua!). This might seem like a double standard on my part, but it’s not really like that. This is what I believe. Every graduate who finds a job in their field of study, or is especially talented in said field, should work in that industry, grow in it and eventually do something major that contributes greatly to that field. Everyone can relate and agree to that.
Then There’s The Flip Side
What about the rest of the class, who do not proceed to earn their Masters soon after, or get employed by a reputable firm? Should they settle for a job they are overqualified for because ‘Ketewa biara nsua’? Or worse, should they stay at home while they apply for jobs? Both options are common, but I strongly believe there is a better way. A less glamorous way. The graduates have to get into the areas of work that are not considered suitable for graduates. We have to get into traditionally non-formal industries and revolutionize them. That is the only way we can grow as a nation.
Graduates, get a load of this: The Government Does Not Owe You A Job.
I tell my friends this, and it is not a very popular opinion of mine. Mind you, this statement is not meant to let the government off the hook for allowing unemployment to rise. However it is a positive mentality for graduates to adopt in these times, because once you feel the responsibility lies with you to provide jobs for other Ghanaian citizens, your sense of entitlement reduces and your sense of responsibility rises.
I read a story in the book Chicken Soup For The Entrepreneur’s Soul. In that story, the writers recounted how their company was started by the two – recent graduates – selling vegetables from a roadside table. Fast forward today, and Earthbound Farms is America’s largest grower of organic produce. This story blew my mind, and forever changed the way I thought about business.
Of course, entrepreneurship doesn’t mean doing something not glamorous. If you don’t like farming, there’s probably not much reason for you to farm. There are so many opportunities in entrepreneurship that one is bound to find something they’re interested in. Today, Ghanaians are founding technology startups, fashion brands, and so many other kinds of businesses. It’s comes down to passion, and what you’re good at.
So yeah, I think it’s perfectly all right for a university graduate to start a provision store. I probably wouldn’t, mostly because I have other stuff I’m interested in. But if someone wanted to, it’s about time society stopped giving them the side-eye. That’s my take on it. What do you think?