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Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) are usually the core drivers of economic growth, innovation and job creation in an economy. They are the backbone of developing countries and majorly contribute to their gross domestic product. Ghana’s Rural Enterprises Program (REP), sponsored by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Africa Development Bank (AfDB) and the Government of Ghana (GoG), is part of the government’s efforts to reduce poverty and improve living conditions in the rural areas. One of the major components of this programme is “Access to Business Development Services”(BDS).
This study focused on MSE beneficiaries of Business Development Services in the Atwima Mponua and Kwabre East districts of the Ashanti region of Ghana. The essence of the study is: to determine the effect that the BDS of the Rural Enterprises Program has had on the MSEs in terms of their livelihood as it pertains to income, asset acquisition and other aspects of their livelihood; to determine the level of empowerment of beneficiaries prior to and after the business development interventions; and to examine the challenges they face.
Primary data was gathered through the administration of 366 structured questionnaires, key informant interviews, in-depth interviews and a focus group discussion. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyse the data and the five Domains of Empowerment (5DE) sub-index of the Women in Agriculture Index (WEAI) were employed to determine the level of empowerment of beneficiaries of the BDS.
The results indicate that the BDS intervention improved the livelihoods of the MSE owners, led to job creation, improved the businesses of the MSEs, created a source of income for those who had none before the intervention, increased the income of those who had businesses prior to the intervention, led to empowerment of the MSE owners and has also empowered women more than men.
The study recommended that the government of Ghana, IFAD and AfDB should endeavour to continue this programme and work towards ensuring its sustainability.
Keywords: Micro and small enterprises, Business Development Services, Rural livelihood, Empowerment