My name is Michael Lee, a third year student from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Diploma in International Business. I completed my first three months of internship in International Enterprise Singapore (IES) before securing an overseas attachment for the last two months. I decided to venture to the West African country of Ghana, where I was attached to the consultancy firm, Firmus Advisory Limited, in December 2015 and January 2016. Having been privileged to cross paths with GoBeyond.SG, I wish to take this opportunity to share with fellow Singaporeans about my experience and the opportunities in Ghana.
This was my second time to Ghana, after my family had brief vacation there two years back. Then, I had only appreciated the country the way a tourist would. My father, who is based in Accra, the capital, often likens present-day Ghana to Singapore in the 1960s, in the early days of development. Returning to Ghana with the knowledge from my business studies, I came to realise the truth of his comparison, witnessing for myself the abundance of business opportunities that were easily identified as we drove around the streets of Ghana. To be honest, business creativity is not required, since Singapore business models and concepts can be applied in Ghana.
An example would be the popular Singapore food court concept. In Ghana, only malls provide a variety of food options. Seeing that there are less than 10 malls to date, establishing food courts could prove popular among the locals.
Customer service, perhaps, is yet another area for improvement. General local establishments often have poor customer service. In Singapore, businesses are better able to cope with manpower crunches and tap on information technologies to enhance our services. This expertise could help improve the efficiency of service provided there.
Dumsor and other Drawbacks
There are also a fair share of risks and challenges to consider as you venture out. It is important to adapt your business to the local culture of your area. In Ghana, the erratic supply of electricity – commonly known as “dumsor” – occurs during certain periods of the year. I experienced it once at work. The lights, fans and internet modem went off for about half an hour, limiting office productivity. And although Ghana is an English-speaking country and a former British colony, the standard of English was questionable at times. I had observed this through conversations, written documents, and sometimes through online content.
National Service in Ghana
Another challenge is the lack of skills in the labour force to meet the needs of industries. To counter this, the government has implemented the National Service Scheme. Upon graduating from the University, undergraduates are required to enroll in the one-year long National Service Scheme (NSS). Under this scheme, tens of thousands of graduates are posted to the public and private sectors. For some companies, interns are interviewed first for the company’s selection. Others receive interns based on the scheme’s placement.
New Found Appreciation
On a personal note, the two months spent in Ghana helped me to appreciate the late founding father of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. As mentioned above, Ghana is a lot older than Singapore, yet severely underdeveloped in comparison. Having had several coup d’etats and instability for the first 30 years of independence, she never had a leader as great as the late Minister Mentor. Only the former President Jerry John Rawlings was the closet match. Therefore, as the generation who have benefitted from Singapore’s forward-looking governance, I feel that we should help lesser-developed countries in their road to development. This would be mutually beneficial to both sides.