What an interesting week of leading young people out of darkness to light at the Liberty & Entrepreneurship Camp 2011. We were expecting 40 students but 32 regulars turned-out. Most of them were college students, teachers and youth activists. The programme kicked off at the serene Wood Industry Training Centre (WITC) in the historical town of Ejisu, near Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana the Evening of Sunday July 31, 2011. This year’s camp took an unconventional route since we couldn’t raise funds to pay for teachers to travel from Europe and the USA as in the past. We resorted to video conferencing via Skype. It worked perfectly, as our teachers will attest, with the exception of a little technical hitch on August 4 due to internet connection, all was well.
SUNDAY JULY 31
Registration of participants started at 4:00 PM GMT and at 6:30 PM the camp took off with the screening of the documentary ‘Call of the Entrepreneur’. It was followed by a stimulating discussion which saw diverse views from participants on the risk entrepreneurs take to solve mankind’s problems. When I mentioned that entrepreneurship is about looking for problems and finding solutions for profit, Kwaku Adusei, a participant, intelligently observed that in that case Africa is indeed the richest place on earth since there are so many problems strewn around. I responded that that is the reason why they should open their eyes wide, looking around them and creating jobs for themselves instead of chasing the non-existing and unsustainable bureaucratic jobs.
MONDAY AUGUST 1st
We began the next day with a powerful presentation on ‘Introduction to Libertarianism’ by AYPC Board Member and Web Master Michael W. Dean, a film maker from Wyoming, USA. After his presentation he gave participants the opportunity to ask questions. He was bombarded with brilliant questions. He said that my students are very opened minded and bright.
Yagub Rahimov founder of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) Netherlands took it from there with, ‘What it takes to be an Entrepreneur’. His presentation offered participants very vital tools for creating their own businesses, where to start, how to sustain it and make profit. A successful entrepreneur himself, he brought entrepreneurship to life in his out of this world lecture. He interacted with students after his presentation in a question and answer session and offered participants links for further opportunities and research.
Good old Noel ‘Wulirider’ Berge from Carolina was next, a man with tremendous knowledge of Ghana as he has worked here on 3 different occasions. During his first time here with the US Peace Corp in the Late 1970s and early 80s, even commodities like soap and food were being rationed. The acute shortage of goods came about because of the price controls the then Flt. Lieutenant Jerry Rawslings’ military government had put into place. He took students through ‘Business Planning I’. What was so amazing about his lecture was the fact that it was interspersed with libertarian ideas to help plan and execute their business, and stay away from government as best as they could. He had a concise way of giving business and freedom tools to students. His focus was not only on how to plan and implement for profit business however for non-profit libertarian projects. He offered online assignments and quizzes to students to execute.
After this lecture students broke into their various groups to work on their collective business plans and actions. The Evening was a ‘John Stossel’s Night’ as we screened so many Stossel’s Videos with a discussion after each one. There was an intense debate, especially over Private or Public Roads and Foreign Aid. It was good news, as one of our goals was to get these young minds to start discussing ideas avidly.
TUESDAY AUGUST 2
The day started well with a Lecture on Basic Austrian Economic Principles. It was presented by a deep-throat libertarian and a Washington DC based TV reporter, Neema Vedadi who energised the students with ideas coming from the Austrian school. Students easily identified with what he was presenting, especially when it came to competition. They were of the view that they wouldn’t own mobile phones today if the telecom market wasn’t liberalised years back. They cited the examples of the shoddy services Ghanaians have to live with from the monopolistic Ghana Water Company and Electricity Company of Ghana.
We then showed the documentary, ‘The Ultimate Resources,’ which was also followed by discussions. After that AYPC President, Afrikanus Kofi Akosah (Yours sincerely) did a presentation on Free Market Environmentalism. Students discovered the reason why our forests are dwindling as our wildlife is also becoming extinct. In Ghana, when you own a land and there’s a tree on it or a river flowing through it, it doesn’t belong to you but the state. Land owners therefore sit and watch as trees are being fallen indiscriminately and water bodies being polluted with the connivance of government foreign officials. The Game keepers are now poachers whilst the Forest Guards have turned into illegal chain saw operators. The rational of this lecture was to aid students in the discovery of the alternative; preservation of the environment either through privatization or communalization.
This was followed with group sessions to allow students to work on their various business and action plans. Noel ‘Wulirider’ Berge continued his presentation with ‘Business Planning II’. He assessed and offered students advice on the assignment he gave them the previous day and topped it off with an interpretation of their various scores on the World Shortest Political Quiz. In fact, this allowed students to know their political believes and philosophies. Prior to that many student didn’t know where they stood in the political arena.
Pete Eyre came with a presentation on the ‘Rule of Law and development. He captured how rule of law underpins prosperity.” Impartial adjudication of cases and the enforcement of contracts encourage hard work and higher production”, he noted.
Yagub Rahimov did a presentation in which students had much interest and were looking forward to. It was on, ‘Earning Money Online and Can Social Media Earn You Money? Most of them were on social media networks and never knew it was a source of business opportunity.
In the Evening we watched and discussed June Arunga’s, ‘Africa: Who is to be blamed’. This documentary featured Ghana’s Former President for almost 20 years Jerry John Rawlings. It generated a heated argument, as some students vehemently disagreed with his assertions. Some were of the view that the documentary glorifies the former coup maker who was responsible for the death of their relatives.
I drew student’s attention to the fact that we must not re-open old wounds in the interest of stability.
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 3
Neema Vedadi continued his lectures with ‘Ideas of Bastiat, Hayek, M. Friedman and Ayn Rand’. This lecture particularly facilitated students with knowledge of some of the leading philosophers of our cherish philosophy of a free society. As usual he was burning with ideas and charisma.
Jordan Jetson came along with a lecture on ‘Property and Contemporary Language’ and lucidly explained how property is the foundation of wealth creation. He espoused Property Rights as the key to eradicating poverty and mentioned the absence of titles in Africa as the cause of most conflicts and food insecurity.
Stephanie Yeboah Mensah, a 26 year old woman with a first degree in Renewable Natural Resource, shared her success story. She decided to go into entrepreneurship instead of seeking government employment, and therefore started the first internet cafe in her district of 220,000 people. Her presentation, dubbed ‘The success Story of a Young Entrepreneur’, was very touching. He recounted how she started with a few computers with low specs and unreliable ISP, however today her Cafe boasts of the fastest ISP with webcams, and high speed PCs. When asked whether she’s afraid of competitors who are coming into the market, she answered in the negative and said, “They’re a challenge for me to improve on my services”.
Business Management I was the next lecture and it was presented by the avuncular Noel ‘Wulirider Berge. Once again he didn’t present on how to manage for profit projects alone, but also non-profit projects. He gave students a lot of web based tools to assist them in planning and managing their businesses.
Keith Hamburger of Colorado Spring gave a nice presentation on Trust Networks and how entrepreneurs could make good use of it. He mentioned how he and some friends have been sending me money to give to some Liberian Refugees here in Ghana. Some people they trust know me even though we haven’t met before.
The ‘Wealth of Nations was the documentary for Wednesday evening.
THURSDAY AUGUST 4
Veteran Professor King Schoolland kicked the day off with a defence of capitalism. His lecture was titled, ‘Morality and Ethics of Capitalism. When he asked the students whether any of them believe in political promises it was interesting to note that no student raised his/her hand. It was a very insightful lecture, but before the students could ask questions the internet went down. He sent a message asking students to send their questions through email.
Immediately after the first lecture students broke into groups to finalize their business plans which were to be presented the next day.
Harry Felker of the Individual Sovereign University then made a presentation on the University and the courses they offer. He urged students to sign up for their courses as technology has now demystified borders.
Noel ‘Wulirider’ concluded his lectures with Business Management II. He gave students a list of websites where they could get on-line jobs. He asked students to send him their individual business plans for long term mentoring. As I write this blog he has started working with some students on their various individual action plans, both for profit and not profit.
Rui Nobre Pinheiro from Portugal ended the day with ‘Introduction to Project Management and Entrepreneurship’. This was vital since students could use the knowledge acquired in their various projects. Rui also taught Project Management for profit and non-profit.
Our last evening saw us screening another June Arunga’s documentary, ‘The Devil’s Footpath’. Students were horrified about the atrocities African leaders have committed across the continent. During the post screening discussion one student noted, “I now understand why Egyptians took to the streets till they toppled the ruling regime”.
FRIDAY AUGUST 5
The final morning was the presentation of the work of various groups. After each group leader finished, there were peer reviews as students questioned the rationale behind the style used to develop their various projects. Then we presented certificates from the Individual Sovereign University to all participants.
Every student took home a copy of The Law: A Classic Blue Print of a Just Society, Fundamentals of Economics, Essays on Political Economy, Road to Prosperity, Highlights of the Index of Economic Freedom and copies of all my articles published locally and outside. This was made possible by the kind support of the Foundation for Economic Education, Heritage Foundation and CATO Institute.
Our greatest appreciation to the Individual Sovereign university, the International Society of Individual Liberty, Keith Hamburger, Jim Davidson, MamaLiberty Callaway, Michael Dean, George Donnolly, Louis James (Lobo Tigre), Jim Elwood, Stacy Litz, Bridgette Wagner, Lane Raper, Harry Felker, Tone Penly, Jo Deutch, Danny wright, Michael Robinson, Donald Watson, Andrea Rich of John Stossel Videos and so many people who donated money and materials towards this project. We can’t say thank you enough to our kind teachers who spent their time and resources to share their knowledge with the future leaders of Africa.
This camp made it apparent to us that we can do a lot with our limited resources to spread liberty in Africa with the assistance of technology. With a PC connected to the internet and a projector we could get resource persons everywhere in the world to teach young people and others. We are therefore taking this opportunity to ask friends of liberty out there to donate to us a redundant projector to assist us in spreading liberty in Africa.
With the success of this camp we will be organising two camps in a year. The next camp will be from January 8-13, 2012. We are therefore appealing to the liberty family to assist with funds, teachers and materials to make it a shining success.
Afrikanus Kofi Akosah, President