Country Guide

Ghana

Ghana
Ashwin Ravichandran

Guest Editor

Ashwin Ravichandran

Managing Director at MEST Africa

Ashwin Ravichandran is the Managing Director at MEST Africa. With a background in Computer Science and Engineering and his experience working in the innovation team at Honeywell and  building startups in India, Ashwin brings extensive technical knowledge to his executive management experience at MEST and supports the African entrepreneurship ecosystem by training, mentoring, and funding the next generation of world-class software entrepreneurs from Africa.


Guest editors are local ecosystem leaders: successful founders, investors, or thought leaders. Have someone in mind? Nominate a country guest editor.

Disclaimer: all content within the Startup Ecosystem Summary and Editor’s Guide sections is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the guest editor. The guest editor is not responsible for content within the Country Snapshot and Community sections, as much of this content is compiled from external sources and does not necessarily reflect the guest editor’s view.

Startup ecosystem summary

Key Startup Cities

Accra, Kumasi, Tamale, Takoradi, HoHoe

Connected Country Ecosystems

Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Kenya, South Africa

Differentiators

  • There has been Mobile Money (MOMO) penetration through the initiatives of telecommunication companies like MTN, Vodafone and Tigo which has given users a fast, simple, convenient, secure and affordable way of doing financial transactions with mobile phones
  • Synergy through networks such as the Ghana Hubs Network gives the ecosystem a collective voice to push for policies that serve the interest of Entrepreneurship in Ghana
  • The rise of female entrepreneurship in the tech space
  • Legacy market filled with FDI such as Gold, Oil, Bauxite, Cocoa
  • The use of cultural vehicles like susu (an informal loan club)

Challenges

  • Not enough coordination and collaboration between ecosystem builders and the government
  • Not enough collaboration between startups
  • Limited resources and infrastructure: lack of data, lack of regulatory bodies
  • Bad incorporation clauses and the investment space is not entrepreneur-friendly

Editor's Guide

Introduction

In the list of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world provided by the World Bank, it is worthy to note that 60% of these countries are on the African continent. In 2019, Ghana was projected to have the most rapidly expanding economy globally. Since 2013, the country has created and developed one of the strongest startup ecosystems in Africa with the help of foreign direct investments and the formulation and implementation of policies like the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP). These actionable steps have undoubtedly pushed the growth of the ecosystem in Ghana to a more strategic level.

Tech businesses in Ghana such as Leti Arts, Meqasa, Asoriba, SnooCode, Complete Farmer and Trotrotractor have greatly benefited from direct foreign investments. Whether the business model is business-to-business, farmer-to-business, farmer-to-consumer, business-to-enterprise or business-to-consumer, there is undoubtedly more value being added in creating new market niches and in making already-existing markets and processes more effective.

Despite the significant growth potential in the startup environment, challenges such as inadequate laws and regulations regarding entrepreneurship, developing but limited infrastructure and inadequate access to capital and market research still impede the development of the ecosystem.

Notwithstanding, Ghana’s relative stability has encouraged a viable entrepreneurship environment.

Outlook

The startup ecosystem environment in Ghana has increased efforts to create tech unicorns in the Agtech, Fintech, Insurtech, Healthtech and Real Estate Development Tech industries that are consistently identifying problems and providing solutions.

The three main stakeholders that influence the startup ecosystem include the government, the startups and the ecosystem builders. One such ecosystem builders is MEST Africa, headquartered in Accra, Ghana. At MEST Africa, entrepreneurs are equipped with the necessary skills to start their own software companies and compete in the Global Market.

Additionally, the Ghana Tech and Business Hubs (GTBH) Network, which consists of hubs across Ghana, have come together to use shared ideas and resources to develop human resources and equip innovative individuals with the requisite skills, build capacity to grow local innovations & businesses and generate income. This has given hubs a collective voice to advocate for the right policies for an enabling environment and help grow traction for their sustainable operations.

With challenges identified, such as not enough coordination amongst ecosystem builders and the lack of regulations and policy frameworks, there is the need for stakeholders to collaborate and work together more effectively and strategically to improve the startup ecosystem in Ghana. There is also the need to build linkages and collaboration between universities and the network of hubs and incubators.

Featured Tech Startups

Editor’s choice of the country’s top 10 emerging tech startups.

Startup Showcase

Editor’s pick of which ‘Featured Startup’ is especially worth following and why.

Complete Farmer is a crowd farming platform where everyday people from all around the world can invest in building sustainable farms, and earn farm profits at the end of each cycle. The company’s objectives are to ensure food security, train farmers in the use of modern technology and promote youth participation in agriculture.

Focus Industries

Editor’s choice of the industries with the most potential for technology disruption and growth.

AgritechAccording to the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO, agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy. The sector contributes about 35% to GDP, employs 55% of the population on a formal and informal basis and contributes about 45% of all export earnings. Thus, there is no surprise in the rise of startups in the agritech sector in the country. These startups create devices, develop technology- driven solutions and connect smallholder farmers. This boosts the agriculture value chain right from the planting stage, to the access to veterinarians and farm equipment and to the marketing of farm produce.
FintechThe fintech space is the most vibrant in Ghana. According to the KPMG Payments Development in Africa report, tech companies like Express Pay and SlydePay are rapidly changing the way money and financial services are handled by both individuals and corporates.
LogisticsWhether it is access to market, access to services, access to equipment or access to farm animals, the logistics tech industry has made the delivery of these faster, safer and cost-effective.

Talent

Editor’s perspective of the maturity level of talent in the ecosystem.

  • Technical TalentAdvanced
  • Marketing TalentModerate
  • Experienced TalentModerate
  • International TalentAdvanced

Culture and History

Editor’s commentary on how the country’s culture and history have impacted the ecosystem.

Ghana practices a politically stable democracy, with little to no electoral conflicts which result in smooth changes of government. This is the kind of environment where startups and investors can thrive.

At first, there was some level of skepticism and reluctance when it came to the integration of technology in industry activities. Now, there is a willingness to employ more digital tools to enhance product reach and processes. This has contributed to the significant demand for tech companies and services in Ghana as more and more businesses are beginning to see the essence of having an online and digital presence.

The startup space in Ghana has become vibrant too as there is more focus on the organization of events for entrepreneurs, greater networking among startups and an increase in the number of startups, hubs and incubators. Challenges such as finding an affordable workspace, bureaucracy and low levels of access to financing options continue to plague the development of Ghana’s ecosystem. Also, there is still a lack of cohesion amongst stakeholders because of individualistic gains. Therefore, there is the need for stakeholders to align expectations and objectives to address these challenges as a unified force and develop the startup ecosystem successfully.

Interested in becoming more involved in this ecosystem and connecting with local ecosystem leaders? Let us know.

Community

Active Investors

Alta Global Ventures (Accra): Alta Global Ventures is global venture capital fund supporting leading entrepreneurs from the top entrepreneur ecosystems around the world as they expand their business internationally. Alta Global invests directly into venture stage and growth stage technology companies targeting high-growth markets. Through our global partner network, Alta Global also supports seed stage companies in more than 20 countries and five continents around the world. (Source: Alta Global)

Apis Partners (UK-based): Apis Partners is a private equity asset manager focused on financial services in the growth markets of Africa and South Asia. (Source: Apis Partners)

CDC Group (UK-based): CDC Group plc is a development finance institution owned by the UK government. (Source: CDC Group)

Chanzo Capital Ghana (Accra): Chanzo Capital is a venture and growth capital firm, investing Capital, Capacity and Community in high-tech Startups and Scaleups in Kenya, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa (KINGS). It typically invests between $500K and $5M staggered over the exponential growth phase of the company from Series A to C. It also makes Seed investments. (Source: Chanzo Capital)

coLABS Grey Matters Capital (US-based): coLABS is a sector-agnostic, global investment portfolio launched by Gray Matters Capital in early 2017 to invest in innovative and scalable enterprises that are tackling critical issues facing women and girls around the world. coLABS will be looking to make 6 new investments across the world every six months. The fund provides revenue-share investment capital between USD $50,000 - $250,000. (Source: coLABS)

Fidelity Bank Ghana (Accra): Fidelity Bank is a commercial bank in Ghana which was issued with its Universal Banking License on June 28, 2006, making it the 22nd bank to be licensed by the Bank of Ghana. (Source: Fidelity Bank Ghana)

Ghana Angel Investor Network (GAIN) (Accra): A network of Angel investors with a passion for investing in early-stage businesses with significant growth prospects and the potential to generate superior returns. (Source: Venture Capital Trust Fund)

MEST Africa (Accra): MEST is an Africa-wide technology entrepreneur training program, internal seed fund, and network of hubs offering incubation for technology startups in Africa. Founded in Ghana in 2008, MEST provides critical skills training, funding, and support in software development, business, and communications to Africa’s tech entrepreneurs. Hubs are located in Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; Cape Town, South Africa; and Nairobi, Kenya. MEST is funded by the Meltwater Foundation, the non-profit arm of Meltwater, a global leader in media intelligence and Outside Insight. (Source: MEST)

Oasis Capital Ghana (Accra): Target clients typically have one or more of the following characteristics: require funding ranging from US$500,000 and US$5 million; SMEs with Sales less than USD10 million or net worth excluding land and building of less than USD1 million; employs not more than 100 people at the time of investment; small size, simple and informal structure with knowledgeable sponsors; organic growth opportunities; have market leadership potential or can become a first quartile player within the investment period. (Source: Oasis Capital)

Quick Angel Ghana (Accra): Provides seed capital for startups.

incubators

Ghana Tech Lab (Accra): An Open collaborative Space for competent Digital skills training, seeding Innovations and Growing Startups. Provides the platform for idea building through our Makerspace, CreativeSpace, AI Lab, Blockchain Lab, Robotics Lab, Cybersecurity Lab, IoT Lab and VR lab. (Source: Ghana Tech Lab)

iSpace (Accra): iSpace Foundation is an Innovation and Technology hub in Accra, Ghana founded in February 2013. iSpace is known to offer a conducive environment for growth in the Startup Ecosystem by providing a working space, Training and Mentoring, access to Funding and other facilities for Entrepreneurs and Start-ups to launch and manage their business ideas. (Source: iSpace)

Kosmos Innovation Center Ghana (Accra): The Kosmos Innovation Center (KIC) invests in young entrepreneurs and small businesses who have big ideas and want to see their country grow. The KIC was established in Ghana in 2016 with programs focused on inspiring and empowering young entrepreneurs to drive change in their own country. Since its inception, the KIC has focused on innovation in agriculture – the country’s most important sector and largest employer. More than 400 aspiring entrepreneurs have participated in KIC Ghana programs, resulting in the creation of 11 promising start-ups that have gone on to secure seed funding, additional business training, and capital investment. (Source: Kosmos Innovation Center)

MEST Africa (Accra): MEST is an Africa-wide technology entrepreneur training program, internal seed fund, and network of hubs offering incubation for technology startups in Africa. Founded in Ghana in 2008, MEST provides critical skills training, funding, and support in software development, business, and communications to Africa’s tech entrepreneurs. Hubs are located in Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; Cape Town, South Africa; and Nairobi, Kenya. MEST is funded by the Meltwater Foundation, the non-profit arm of Meltwater, a global leader in media intelligence and Outside Insight. (Source: MEST)

Stanbic Bank Incubator (Accra): The Stanbic Bank Incubator is 3rd generation Business Incubator, a corporate social initiative set up by Stanbic Bank Ghana, a member of the Standard Bank Group, to contribute towards the promotion and development of entrepreneurship among the youth and women in Africa. (Source: Stanbic Bank Incubator)

accelerators

Africa AI Accelerator (Accra): Ghana Tech Lab in partnership with GIZ’s AI and technology entrepreneurship initiatives of “FAIR Forward” and Make-IT in Africa and IBM launched the Africa AI Accelerator Program in 2020 to support the scaling of the next generation of Africa’s AI start-ups.

Tech By Her Accelerator (Accra): The Tech By Her Accelerator will address the unique challenges of the female tech entrepreneur. It is a 3-month industry-agnostic program for ten (10) female founders of early-stage tech companies in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria. The program aims at fueling growth among female-led businesses by recognizing and maximizing the unique strengths of the female entrepreneur and equipping them with the needed knowledge, tools, and resources to scale and sustain their businesses in a competitive environment. (Source: VC4A)

Startups Raising Capital
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Coworking Spaces/Hubs

HapaSpace (Kumasi): An innovation hub (tech hub) and co-working space in the heart of Kumasi. (Source: HapaSpace)

Kumasi Hive (Kumasi): Kumasi Hive is a multi-space Innovation Hub which provides a platform for rapid Prototyping of ideas, supporting local Innovations & impact start-up and promoting entrepreneurship. (Source: Kumasi Hive)

UNICEF Startup Lab (Accra): The UNICEF Startup Lab is a co-creation space and incubator located at UNICEF’s offices in Accra-Ghana. It aims to actively engage young startups in the development of innovative, open-source, market-driven products and solutions that help address complex problems impacting the well-being of children and young people, especially the most vulnerable.

conferences

Barcamp Ghana (Country-wide): Barcamp Ghana is a program being run by the GhanaThink Foundation, an NGO based both in Ghana and the USA. A BarCamp is a user-generated conference (or unconference). It is an open, participatory workshop-event, whose content is provided by participants. The Barcamp Ghana events – free networking forums – are organized to forge networking, discussion, partnerships and change. The goal is to help Ghanaians learn about the issues that affect them, generate ideas for development, network and partner with others who have similar interests and improve or start businesses and projects.

Ghana Hubs Network (GHN) Annual Gathering (AG) (Accra): The Ghana Hubs Network (GHN) Annual Gathering (AG) is an opportunity for key stakeholders in Ghana’s entrepreneurship ecosystem to meet, network and build professional relationships that will enable the GHN to operate more effectively.

Ghana Tech Summit (Accra): Ghana Tech Summit brings together hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors, digital marketers and creatives under one roof together to address humanity’s grandest challenges via technology and entrepreneurship. Each year 100 global speakers will convene alongside 1000+ attendees to re-position Africa as the next and final frontier of innovation. It is a part of a 12-year initiative of the Global Startup Ecosystem-the first and largest digital accelerator that accelerates 1000 companies to market annually across 190+ countries entirely online.

Hacklab Foundation Annual Hackathon (Tema): The Annual hackathon brings together developers, engineers, designers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in Technology to meet and discuss issues arising, identify opportunities and the way forward in making Ghana a better place using technology.

meetups

Accra Startup Founder 101 (Accra): Startup Founder 101 brings together aspiring and experienced tech entrepreneurs to discuss, meet, and collaborate to build great new startups, and to push the local startup ecosystem forward.

Startup Grind Accra (Accra): Startup Grind is the largest independent startup community, actively educating, inspiring, and connecting entrepreneurs globally in partnership with Google for Startups.

Government Programs

National Entrepreneurship & Innovation Programme: The National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) is a flagship policy initiative of the government of Ghana with the primary objective of providing an integrated national support for start-ups and small businesses. NEIP primarily focuses on providing business development services; startup incubators and funding for young businesses to enable them grow and become successful.The National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) is therefore set within the context of Ghana’s long-term strategic vision of consolidating its middle-income status, building an industry-driven economy capable of providing decent jobs that are suitable and sustainable for development. (Source: NEIP)

NBSSI (National Board for Small Scale Industries): NBSSI was established by an Act of the Parliament of the Third Republic of Ghana (Act 434 of 1981) and operationalized in 1985 because Government views the sector as having the potential to contribute substantially to reducing the high unemployment rate as well as the growth of the economy of Ghana. MSEs account for a significant share of economic activity in Ghana and can play an important role in achieving the development goals for production. The long-term goal is for MSEs to maximise their contribution to the country’s economic and social development with respect to production, income distribution and employment and the closer integration of women and people in rural areas into the national economy.

Youth Entrepreneurship and Employment Programme (YEEP): The Government of Ghana through NBSSI with sponsorship from the GIZ-PSED Programme is providing 4,800 Ghanaian youth between the ages of 18-35 years with free Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy training in Greater Accra, Brong-Ahafo and Ashanti Regions to create employment for the youth.

Non-Government Organizations

Ashesi D:lab: The Ashesi Design Lab is an initiative which combines the concepts of design thinking and design making; design thinking or strategy design for problem-solving, and design making or fabrication for making things more tangible and building out the creative outcomes of the different processes involved in both concepts. The Ashesi D: Lab started work in September 2015.

Developers in Vogue: Developers in Vogue is a free, early-stage, intensive coding boot camp for women in Accra, Ghana. The three-month program provides participants with a blend of online and on-site learning. The company aims to help women in Ghana gain the necessary digital skills to secure jobs in the technology sector, while providing them with a community of support.

Enpact Ghana: The non-profit organization Enpact was founded in 2013 with the aim of empowering entrepreneurs, ecosystems and international cooperation. Enpact is one of the world leaders in the cultivation of startup ecosystems as a means to promote international cooperation and development. Through a variety of products and services, Enpact supports founders and startups in Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The goal is to create a global network of startup ecosystems that facilitates the exchange of ideas, solutions and support. At present, Enpact’s network consists of 1,000+ startups, 300+ mentors and 50+ support organisations in 20+countries. 5,000+ jobs have been created as a result of Enpact’s work with startups.

Ghana - India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence (AITI-KACE): The Ghana - India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT is Ghana’s first Advanced Information Technology Institute. Founded in 2003, AITI-KACE is a world-class research facility with the focus on innovating products and services for individual and institutional advancement.

GIZ Ghana: As part of the Ghanaian-German cooperation, GIZ has been involved in supporting Ghana in a wide range of sectors for over 30 years. After the intergovernmental negotiations in June 2015, GIZ Ghana is focusing its support on three areas: agriculture, governance, and sustainable economic development.

Hacklab Foundation: The Hacklab Foundation is a non-for-profit organization, established since September 2015 in Ghana, focused on preparing the youth for future jobs, by helping them develop their skills, connecting them to industry and breeding entrepreneurs who create jobs.

HOPin Academy: Hopin Academy is a non-profit educational organization located in Tamale, Northern Region, Ghana that is open to anyone 24 hours a day. Hopin Academy provides pragmatic and innovative approaches towards exploring the various fields of entrepreneurship with the aid of technology, thus beating the competition in labour market. (Source: HOPin Academy)

Make-IT in Africa: The Tech Entrepreneurship Initiative 'Make-IT in Africa' promotes digital innovation for sustainable and inclusive development.

Soronko Academy: For the past 3 years, we have run the Tech Needs Girls Project. Tech Needs Girls is a mentorship program where we teach girls from 6-18years to code and create technology. We have trained over 3500 girls in 8 regions in Ghana and expanded our impact to Burkina Faso in partnership with Tuares. (Source: Soronko Academy)

Country Snapshot

Economy

Startup funding
Startup funding
US$46 million (2019)
Standard of living
Standard of living
Global rank: 127
Innovation
Innovation
Global rank: 108 (2020)
Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship
Global rank: 93 (2018)
Annual GDP growth
Annual GDP growth
6.5% (2019)
(Global avg. 3.0%)
Ease of doing business
Ease of doing business
Global rank: 118 (2019)
Ease of starting a business
Ease of starting a business
Global rank: 116
Research and development
Research and development
0.4% of GDP
(Global avg. 2.3%)
Contract enforcement
Contract enforcement
Global rank: 117

Sources

Startup Funding: WeeTracker
STANDARD OF LIVING: International Monetary Fund - GDP per capita (PPP)
INNOVATION: Global Innovation Index
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Global Entrepreneurship Index
ANNUAL GDP GROWTH: World Bank
EASE OF DOING BUSINESS: World Bank
EASE OF STARTING A BUSINESS: World Bank
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: World Bank
CONTRACT ENFORCEMENT: World Bank

*Updated with latest available data based on listed source.

Society

Population
Population
31.1 million (2020)
Government
Government
Presidential Republic
Stability
Stability
Global rank: 83 (2020)
Internet usage
Internet usage
39.0% (2019)
Smartphone usage
Smartphone usage
24.0% (2018)
Literacy
Literacy
79% (2018)
Population under 15
Population under 15
37% (2019)
Median age
Median age
21.1 (2018)

Sources

POPULATION: Worldometer
GOVERNMENT: The World Factbook
STABILITY: Global Innovation Index
INTERNET USAGE: International Telecommunications Union
SMARTPHONE USAGE: Newzoo
LITERACY: World Bank
POPULATION UNDER 15: World Bank
MEDIAN AGE: The World Factbook

*Updated with latest available data based on listed source.

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