My name is Erasmus Mensah-Ackon. The name of my organisation is Duapa Werkspace. It is a skills development and entrepreneurship hub located in the western region of Ghana. Our sole aim is to help in reducing youth unemployment through various capacity-building programs that empower the youth to gain employable and entrepreneurial skills.
At Duapa Werkspace, we create an enabling environment for both potential and young entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate and transform their ideas into viable businesses. As a means of supporting startups, we provide affordable and creative co-working and event space, training, and business development support services.
2. What motivated you to start your social enterprise?
Well, personally, I don’t see business as opportunity to make money but as an opportunity to solve societal problems. I worked as banker for six years and developed my interest in software development during this time. However, prior to joining the bank, I was unemployed for some time as I was unable to secure a job due to my lack of computer literacy skills.
A bank offered me a job and a chance to train on how to use the computer to enable me work as an account officer. That is how I got the opportunity to use the computer for the first time!
I was keen on developing my skills in operating it because of how important it is to employers. This was where my interest in computing first developed and I started learning coding and ended up becoming a software developer specialised in developing financial management systems for microfinance, micro credit, and credit union. I started offering my services beyond Ghana, reaching countries such as Guinea Bissau.
Looking back, I realised that I was given a chance to develop computer literacy skills for FREE and I decided to also give back. So, in 2009, I left the banking job and started working on my software development project full time. I decided to also incorporate the training of children to acquire computing skills for free, which led to a project called “IT4Teens” in 2013.
The children’s project was later scaled up into a Hub, which now became Duapa Werkspace, an organization dedicated to training children and adults on computer literacy skills development and entrepreneurship.
3. So far what has been the impact of your social enterprise?
In addition to providing skills development and entrepreneurship support, we do skills training in the areas of mobile app development, web design, dressmaking and leather works, business incubation and acceleration.
Through a partnership with SNV Ghana, we have been able to incubate 20 SMEs under the “GrEEn Incubation project” out of which four of the SMEs were assisted to apply and successfully win the GrEEn Innovation fund amounting to GHS620,000.00. These SMEs have been able to improve their business and created jobs for young people within their communities.
We also collaborated with an organization known as “GIZ can” to organize a Business Idea competition in the Western region, which led to 40 young entrepreneurs being awarded various equipments for free.
Our collaboration with Ghana TechLab has also seen over 80 young people trained in both Mobile App and Web design. 60% of these beneficiaries were female.
The dressmaking and leather training has equipped 32 young people between the ages of 18-35 with such creative skills and the majority of the trainees are currently self-employed, while the rest have been able to gain employment through our internship and job placement programs. Additionally, through our flagship program “Startup Takoradi” (Entrepreneurship Forum) we have been able to instil an entrepreneurial mindset in over 200 young people. In other to promote student entrepreneurship, we have collaborated with Takoradi Technical University to establish an Incubation hub on campus and the hub is currently working with about 40 students on various projects.
4. What are the major challenges you’re currently facing in your social enterprise?
My major challenge has been building more partnerships with other ecosystem players.
We have been able to secure a few partners, but we need more. One major reason is Duapa Werkspace is still young, and most organizations want partnerships with organizations that have been in existence for some time.
Duapa Werkspace needs more partnerships with organizations that seek to address our target audience. I believe that by partnering with us, we can jointly expand the scale of our impact.
5. Mention one big change you would like to see in your line of work e.g. policy change, behaviour change, institutional support, more collaborations etc
Collaboration is key. We are very open to collaborate with other social entrepreneurs. Our main goal at Duapa Werkspace is to be and remain sustainable and collaboration is crucial in realising this goal at the economic, social and environmental level.
6. Do you have a final message for a budding social entrepreneur who is interested in your field of work?
We cannot rely on the government alone to reduce the high rate of youth unemployment. Only by working together can we truly build a strong ecosystem that supports social entrepreneurs addressing social issues in any part of Africa. Let us connect, collaborate and Scale together!
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