NABCO & YOUSTART; Same Policy, Different Names and Same Results

NABCO or YouStart, history, they say, repeats itself. However, critically analyzing history, it would be safe to say that history does not repeat itself but men do. Predicting the future is a difficult task, one that is hinged on probability. Great philosophers and scientists have various theories on probability and have advanced arguments to support unpredictable reality whereas others do not believe in unpredictability.

Albert Einstein, the great scientist, was noted for not believing in the inherent unpredictability of the world. According to Einstein, ‘God does not play dice’. Yet, we act out Einstein’s sanity whenever we play dice: we do the same thing – thus, rolling the dice – and anticipate different results. 

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

The doctrine of determinism postulates that by having full access to reality, the results of our actions can be predicted. The doctrine of determinism has been propagated by philosopher Baruch Spinoza, whom Einstein holds in great repute. We need to venture back into history to get a better perspective on predictability. Is it insane to play dice? The affirmative would mean that playing dice is a very common form of madness. Perhaps, policymakers and politicians have engaged in Einstein’s parable of quantum insanity for years. Just like men, not history, repeats themselves, it suffices to say that policymakers repeat the same policy under different brand names and anticipant different results.

In recent times, policies/programs have been launched to solve the rising youth unemployment. These policies/programs are not limited to National Youth Employment Program, Youth Enterprise Support, Youth Employment Agency, National Entrepreneurship Innovation Plan, Nation Builders Corps, and now, YouStart. The discussion would focus on NABCO and YouStart, this is because NABCO is a recently ended program whereas YouStart is a successor policy with the same objective to address youth unemployment. Are NABCO and YouStart the same policy with different names? Can we ascertain whether or not these flagship policies have some ink of insanity?

In order not to put the future in doubt, it is important to venture back in history – NABCO – for perspective to predict the results of the future – YouStart. The period between 2017 and 2018 was the launch of Nation Builders Corps as a three-year transitional job opportunity with a target to employ 100,000 graduates to support the execution of critical public services including agriculture, education, health, governance, revenue mobilization, and technological areas. In effect, NABCO was to employ graduates within its 7 modules – Educate Ghana, Heal Ghana, Feed Ghana, Revenue Ghana, Digitize Ghana, Civic Ghana, and Enterprise Ghana – which were slated to end in 2021. The goal of NABCO was to improve government service delivery, provide transitional jobs, and train graduates to be entrepreneurs.

The NABCO beneficiaries were made aware of receiving GH700 ($87.5) as a monthly allowance for the three-year engagement. However, the government allocated $100 million as funds for the NABCO program. The Executive Director of the Institute for Liberty & Policy Innovation, Peter Bismark, revealed that the allocated funds would only last for six (6) months and the government would need $200 million yearly for the NABCO. Surprisingly, initial spending on the program went into workshops and training of District Chief Executives which cost $30 million. Months into the program, NABCO personnel who sang praise to the government for such an initiative would embark on demonstrations over unpaid monthly allowances. In a news report, the NABCO Trainee Association of Ghana made calls for seven (7) months of unpaid arrears. It is important that jobs must create wealth, however, NABCO clearly is not a job that can help create wealth. At least, NABCO personnel could manage and plan with their meager allowance but this did not happen since the allowance could not be paid regularly. Some have to resort to borrowing with the hope of receiving an allowance in the future. The graduates enrolled in the program were frustrated so much that some had to quit NABCO entirely.

NABCO was a promising youth employment program with no clear-cut exiting plan at the end of the three years. The reported gains of the program were at the Revenue Ghana module as personnel aided to increase revenue mobilization. Even so, NABCO personnel at the Revenue Ghana module could not gain permanent employment. It is not far to conclude that NABCO was a vote-buying employment scheme since the program was launched for political expedience with no exit plan from the beginning. According to the President of IMANI Africa, Franklin Cudjoe, over two billion cedis have been wasted in NABCO with no results.

Currently, the wondering NABCO personnel and unemployed youths are being promised another employment scheme called YouStart to unleash entrepreneurship. The government wants to use the YouStart as a vehicle to provide funding and technical support for youth-led businesses under various categories/modules. This initiative has the same concept as the Enterprise Ghana module under NABCO where youth-led businesses were given funds and technical support.

This is not the first government program that has aimed at giving funds to youth-led businesses such as Youth Enterprise Support (YES), and National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) followed the same policy rationale with different names. This follows the argument in the scholarly work on Assessing the Sustainability and Effect of Graduate Unemployment Interventions on the Economic Growth of Ghanawhich was published in 2020 that government employment inventions have the same policy rationale under different names, yet it does not impact the economic growth of the country. In effect, most youth employment programs outline the same activity – funding youth-led businesses – with no results or better outcomes to show.

The historical adventure of government-led youth employment programs at least gives us a better understanding of what to expect from future policies with the same rationale. Having full access to the plight and frustration of NABCO personnel, we can predict YouStart outcomes following the doctrine of determinism. Unless a different approach is used then, the ink of sanity would evident as we cannot do the same thing and expect a different outcome. To put it simply, both NABCO and YouStart have the same policy rationale – thus solving youth unemployment – with the same approach under different names hence we can only expect the same results.

Article by

Nathaniel Dwamena

Nathaniel is a free-market policy analyst and president of the YAFO Institute. He engages in activities that promote civil liberty and economic freedom in Ghana. He was part of the team consulted by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ Ghana) to undertake a study on business red tape in Ghana. He has a background in law, geography, and economics.

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