A team of scholars from the MasterCard Foundation has paid a learning visit to the YALI Regional Leadership Center (RLC) West Africa – Accra. The team, made up of administrators and scholars from some universities across the world where the Foundation is funding initiatives and scholarship programs, is participating in the Foundation’s 2018 Learning Summit being hosted by Ghana. Other members of the team were staff of the MasterCard Foundation’s Scholars’ Program.

The visiting team, on arrival at the RLC, was received and welcomed, on behalf of the Project Director, by Jasper Ahafianyo, Curriculum and Content Manager at the Accra RLC. The team was then introduced to RLC staff before being taken on a tour of facilities at the Center.

Joshua Amponsah, Accra RLC Monitoring and Evaluation Manager (left), responding to a question during a tour of the RLC’s Presidential Hall  

An interactive panel discussion followed the tour of facilities at the RLC. Panel members for the discussion included Sarpei Kwade and Zakiya Suleman both YALI Alumni who have established businesses in the agribusiness and food processing sectors respectively. Other panel members were Franklin Owusu-Karikari, Director of Business Support at the National Entrepreneurship and Innovations Plan (NEIP) and Nana Osei Bonsu, Chief Executive Officer of the Private Enterprises Federation (PEF).

Discussions focused on challenges young people, especially YALI Alumni, encountered during their transitioning from post-YALI training to the world of entrepreneurship. Challenges identified included access to readily available financial support, poor coordination between inter government agencies responsible for registering new businesses, a factor which leads to the several potential start ups dying before their birth. Other challenges identified include the absence of data on available sources of funding and support systems or technical capacity for young entrepreneurs. Inadequate information on risks involved in setting up businesses, as well as the lack of a common platform for young and successful entrepreneurs to share their business successes made up the other challenges young entrepreneurs encountered in setting up enterprises.

Nana Osei Bonsu explains how YALI could leverage its experiences to advocate for better policies for young entrepreneurs  


Panelists, as the way forward, called for government incentivization of young entrepreneurs and existing businesses as a way of boosting the setting up of several startups to reduce the unemployment burden often attributed to government. Young entrepreneurs, on the other hand, were encouraged to take the risk to opt for venture capital, in establishing and running their businesses rather than focusing entirely on sole proprietorships. This will enable the needed capital to be injected into new businesses while ensuring accountability from all contributing partners and equitable sharing of profits made.

Nana Osei Bonsu, in his summary panel discussion remarks, added that the Accra RLC was strategically positioned to influence policy on youth employment and entrepreneurship. This, Nana Bonsu said, could be realized through the Center’s provision of advisory services to youth employment-related policy formulators to pass appropriate policies to provide the enabling environment for more young people to establish enterprises.

In her remarks, Shona Bezanson, Associate Director of the MasterCard Foundation Scholars’ Program, who led the delegation, expressed the scholars’ appreciation to the RLC for such “an interesting and important program” as this was at the “nexus of several themes” important to MasterCard Foundation and the Foundation’s new strategy, “Young Africa Works”.

Shona Bezanson presents a book to Jasper Ahafianyo, RLC Curriculum and Content Manager, as a token of the visiting team’s appreciation


The Associate Director described the YALI initiative as one which currently has the opportunity, based on its close to four-year implementation, to re-imagine itself through the identification of the “YALI niche” in terms of how the Center has had and continues to have the greatest impact on young Africans.

The team rounded its visit with a site tour of Tiwajo Industries Limited, producers of local cosmetic products such as body and hair products and different variants of soap. The enterprise was set up by Ivy Appiah, a YALI Alumni who though had established the business before her YALI training, “expanded the business tremendously” after applying the lessons learnt at YALI.

Some scholars sample the Paridox range of cosmetic products produced by YALI Alumni Ivy Appiah

The visiting team was taken through the processes involved in producing the different cosmetic products at the enterprise.

A staff of Tiwajo Enterprise (second right, in blue shirt) explains to the team how caked black soap is made at the factory