In our interview with Julia Wendy Appiah, the Deputy Director and Program Manager of Orange Corners Ghana at MDF, we dive into a decade-long journey of promoting entrepreneurship and creating sustainable livelihoods.
Q: How is your work at MDF?
I've been part of MDF for nearly a decade now, and my experience here has been truly exciting. My primary responsibilities revolve around overseeing programs, projects, and addressing internal staff-related matters. Initially, MDF primarily focused on traditional and open-ended training, but our journey into entrepreneurship began in 2014. This shift was prompted by a deep concern for addressing unemployment issues in Ghana, a key area we aimed to support.
I vividly recall our inaugural entrepreneurship training session, where we reached out to individuals in the WASH sector with innovative ideas. We invited them to present their concepts and offered funding to develop comprehensive business plans. It was remarkable to witness the transformation, as some of these startups initially struggled with their ideas. However, over time, these ventures evolved into profitable businesses, creating both revenue and employment opportunities. Several of these businesses are still thriving today, which is particularly satisfying. It demonstrates the effectiveness of guiding entrepreneurs through the process, enabling them to take ownership of something they are passionate about and turn it into a sustainable livelihood.
Q: Could you guide us through the entrepreneurial journey, sharing the experiences and highlighting the successes along the way?
Over the past nine to ten years, MDF has provided entrepreneurship training to over 3,200 individuals. We have also extended support to approximately 1,500 youth-led businesses. Our assistance doesn't stop at the ideation stage; we engage with startups throughout their journey, encompassing incubation, acceleration, and even beyond, as businesses mature. In this regard, we have facilitated the participation of select businesses in the EU market through the Dutch Export Academy program.
Through our efforts, we have generated more than 4,000 jobs, with many of the businesses we support subsequently hiring additional personnel. Our reach extends not only across West Africa but also beyond its borders. Within West Africa, we operate in countries such as Ghana, Sierra Leone, Benin, Liberia, and others.
Furthermore, we manage the Ghana Innovation Hub, a project that has been ongoing since 2018. This hub serves as a dedicated space where we not only provide training to entrepreneurs but also offer various forms of support. The Ghana Innovation Hub fosters a collaborative workspace, allowing entrepreneurs to work without the burden of expensive yearly rents and logistical expenses. Entrepreneurs can easily access the hub for meetings and benefit from the supportive ecosystem it offers.
Q: Tell us about your experiences. What “outcomes” from your work feel most fulfilling to you?
Working at MDF is deeply fulfilling because it allows you to make a meaningful impact on entrepreneurs. Take, for instance, the Orange Corners Ghana Program, where we've successfully trained over 600 individuals since 2019. Witnessing the positive changes they're bringing about, from expanding their businesses to recruiting more talent, is immensely gratifying. Some of these businesses started with mere ideas, and now they're thriving in the acceleration stages. Knowing that you're contributing to the country's economic growth is of paramount importance to me and is a significant reason why I've remained dedicated to this organization for over nine years.
Moreover, MDF feels like a close-knit family that has grown over the years, creating a sense of belonging and comfort. At MDF, our world is about people!