The CEO of Accents & Arts, Constance Swaniker says the Covid-19 pandemic presents opportunities for companies and entrepreneurs who are in the manufacturing sector to expand.
“I see opportunities and I see a new thinking and a new light. I remember the first week when the pandemic broke out in Ghana, I was looking for sanitiser and you could not find one.
“Immediately, our alcohol-producing companies started producing sanitisers and you were thinking before then sanitisers and everything was imported. So was it rocket science that COVID-19 exposed how everything is imported into the country?”
Ms Swaniker, who is also the Founder of the Design and Technology Institute (DTI), made these remarks when she was the guest on the Springboard, Your Virtual University, on Joy FM last Sunday, May 3, 2020, where she spoke about entrepreneurship, technology and innovation.
She told the host, Rev. Albert Ocran, that Ghanaians understood what innovation was but prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, nobody would have paid attention to that.
“A few weeks ago, Nigeria had the political will to ban the importation of rice and other things and that gave rise to a lot of industry locally. But now that the borders are shut, we do not have any choice, so this is an opportunity for entrepreneurs and companies that are into manufacturing to look at opportunities that COVID-19 presents and take up that challenge.
Retracing her steps to when she was in school, she said, “For me, growing up when you get to a certain age you start discovering yourself and that is when you begin your own path so my journey began when I was about 13 or 14 years and seeing myself struggling in school, especially with the science and math but I loved reading subjects.
“And I think my favorite subject was geography because we had to draw a lot so we were drawing all sorts of things which will give you marks and I liked biology too because I understood it in a visual manner. But I think the most important aspect of growing up was having a mother who was an educator so she used her own way which was very different from my three other siblings.”
“Education has always been a struggle for me because I found school very rigid and I think that is the problem with education because it does not have space for young people with talent, so you find that young people who are different struggle through the normal school system.
“Throughout my education, I realised very early that my destiny depended on how I chose to look at it so right after university that was when it dawned on me that it is after university life really begins.
“I graduated from the College of Arts of the Kwame University of Science and Technology and I started my business right after school but I was fortunate to have worked in a carpentry workshop while I was in school so I picked up a lot of skills working with artisans in the workshop.
First product area as an entrepreneur
“The journey really began 20 years ago by setting up a business with no work experience and no business acumen just jumping into the deep end. I think that is the thing about entrepreneurs, you know when you believe strongly about something you just do it, and that is exactly what happened and 20 years on, I do not have any regret.”
“I worked in a carpentry workshop and while there, I realised that in the beginning, it was difficult to find wood and it was getting scarier and scarier. And by chance, I started a metal fabrication company so we worked mostly with the construction industry and the creative industry as well.
“There were a lot of clients at our disposal. There were hotels and restaurants coming and everybody was looking for something nice and the only artisans were the roadside artisans.
“You are in a meeting with engineers and architects, they were looking for people who were articulate and also could understand and read, and these were areas that the roadside artisans were unable to do so it was very easy for me to break into a niche market and to do well.”
Ms Swaniker explained, “And so that is where education comes in aside skills. You are to work at standards that industry requires and I think that is what is what is missing link, and that is why a lot of artisans are unable to break into the industry because there is that missing link.”