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He said: “How do we add value to our agricultural products and by getting our young people to believe in agriculture, so that through entrepreneurship they can make a decent living? The Shonghai Centre has trained our youths and we have learned that a good number of the youths who come from The Gambia have done better than a lot of others from sister countries. That was very impressive for us. We are challenged with employment and idleness in our youths but we believe if we are able to replicate the centre here, we can turn all of those unemployed youths into job creators and this issue of ‘back-way’ to Europe and other unpleasant scenarios will be a thing of the past”.

Jammeh was speaking at the UN House in Bakau, Cape Point, at the conclusion of a scoping mission the government invited as a follow-up on the development of a project component which seeks to replicate the Shonghai Integrated Development Centre Model in The Gambia. 

The Youth and Sports Minister added: “This is why, again, the UNDP out of its generosity and its drive to complement efforts of the government’s development drive, has sponsored the visit of Father Godfrey Nzamujo (the head of Shonghai Centre) to come here on a scoping mission. He went round the country to see selected sites including Nyanibere, Chamen in North Bank, Sapu in CRR and Kanilai for him to advise us on which of these sites we can start with. So we are all here to see how we can join resources to implement whatever Father Nzamujo will recommend for us to do.”

Father Nzamujo, the founder and director of the Shonghai Centre revealed: “Shonghai is an innovating institution. It is not just the usual training centre. Shonghai seeks first of all to look at the major challenges of our development, the triple challenge of youth unemployment, poverty in terms of food security, in terms of quality of life, in terms of health and then, environmental degradation. These are some of the major challenges today. 

“Most governments I see now, like the government of The Gambia, are talking about how to address these challenges today, to develop what I called broad-based inclusive economic development.  Unfortunately, most of the solutions today are what I may describe as a systematic therapy. So Shonghai seeks to go straight because our problems are systemic challenges. Unless we develop a comprehensive systemic approach, we will make the matter worse.” 

Godfrey Nzamujo, a Catholic priest from the Dominican Congregation set up The Songhai Centre in 1985. Originally from Nigeria, he went to the US in 1970, studied computer science and graduated with  degrees in microbiology and chemistry. He became a professor of electronics and computer science in California. In 1983, the famine in Ethiopia challenged Nzamujo’s outlook on development and he decided to return to Benin, where he established an agriculture and livestock centre that later became a network for multiple possibilities and Songhai Centre was born, with a team of young people taken out of school who started managing over ten hectares of land made available by the Benin government in Porto-Novo.


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