Teresa the Seamstress


Teresa is a young lady who works in Lawra. She was awarded a grant by ATE to develop her seamstress business in a steel container unit on one of the main roads in the town.


She qualified as a seamstress two years ago and now has four apprentices working for her – she is now referred to as a Master. It was interesting to learn about the system of apprentices in Ghana. If a person wants to become an apprentice they have to pay the Master a fee, and in exchange for their training they work for free. This training can take three years, and it is normal practice for the apprentice to leave and start their own business as soon as they qualify. I asked Teresa how many apprentices she would take on – I was told she would take on as many as wanted to become an apprentice. There is an obvious income opportunity for the Master through the apprentice system, however there must be a limit to the capacity of the local market for seamstress businesses.


Although there are issues that would need to be agreed in relation to the sharing of income from a business, I struggled to understand why a Master would not seek to retain the services of some-one they had invested three years of their time in training. It was explained to me that there are cultural issues to do with rights of income from a business that prevent Masters from continuing to work with their qualified apprentices.


I do wonder whether a group of well trained individuals could work together to “scale-up” their business to a level that could then start exporting out of Lawra, thereby drawing external income into the local economy.

Written by Stephen Hodgson on his return to Lawra in February 2017.